'But I can't read it': War memorial restored after child's remark
A project in a Shropshire parish that was sparked by an overheard comment by a little girl at a Remembrance service has ensured that the names of its fallen heroes of two world wars will live on, 100 years after the conflict.
"But I can't read it. The writing's too faint," the girl was heard to say at the November 2014 event around the war memorial at Myddle, where time and erosion had taken its toll on the names of the fallen recorded on the stone monument.
That remark – the identity of the little girl is unknown – led to a four-part project which has seen the memorial restored and will shortly be completed with the addition of eight names which were discovered to be missing from the memorial, but are to be recorded on a new plaque in the church.
Other strands have included recreating the village's Book of Remembrance, based on the original which had lain largely undisturbed for almost a century.
"The book had been beautifully illuminated but was incomplete, and so we recreated it and embellished it with full obituaries of all the soldiers who died. A copy of this Book of Remembrance is now placed in each of the two churches in the parish," said Bob Jeffrey, who chairs Myddle's War Memorial Restoration Committee.
One of the last parts of the project has been producing a book, called The Men Of Myddle Parish In The Great War, 1914-1918.
The book tells the stories of the local men who fought and died, drawing on sources including parish and regimental records, contemporary articles and obituaries, and also the war diaries of two units in which some of the men served - the 6th Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps.
"The book describes the experiences of these very brave men, based on the war diaries of two of the regiments involved. Nowhere will you find the war described more graphically," he said.
The installation of the plaque recording the names of the eight local men who were for some reason left of the war memorial will conclude the project, and has raised the question of why they were missed off in the first place.
"We had to ask ourselves a question - are we right to appear to be correcting, at 100 years distance, the work of people who were very serious about their job, and where their knowledge of the situation was better than ours?" said Mr Jeffrey.
They had been reluctant to conclude that the names had been overlooked, and it was more likely they had not been included on the memorial for a reason.
Mr Jeffrey thinks a possible explanation is that if families were no longer living in the parish at the time the memorial was done, the names of their loved ones were not included.
"We discovered eight men whose names had not been recorded on the stone memorial, so we created a plaque in their memory."
The group had discussed whether the war memorial should be altered, and on the seven-strong committee, three were for, and three against, so Mr Jeffrey's vote against changing the memorial was decisive.
"It was on the basis that our knowledge was not likely to be as good as their knowledge at the time, and also for a practical reason, in that it would be very difficult to put eight extra names on - there's a limitation of space."
The brass plaque is ready and will shortly be put on a lintel of a window in the church, concluding the project, for which money was raised by various events and through a public appeal.
The war memorial records 27 names from the Great War and two from the Second World War. Its restoration cost around £2,800 and the plaque around £300.
Copies of the book, which costs £6.50, are available from Mr Jeffrey at firstname.lastname@example.org