Wiltshire's Newest War Memorial
As the centenary of the start of the First World War approaches in 2014 many villages and small communities are considering ways to commemorate the occasion. What better way than to erect a War Memorial in a place where, to date, there has not been one in existence...
The memorial in situ. After this photograph was taken
it was covered over to await the forthcoming unveiling ceremony
That is exactly what is happening at Stanton St. Quintin near Chippenham in Wiltshire. This is a fairly small village, population recorded as 693 in 2001, with a church known to have existed since the 12th century, dedicated to St. Giles. The ‘new’ burial site was opened in 1898 and this is to be the location of the new war memorial. The burial site can be found against the dry stone wall which forms the boundary with the school. The village suffered five casualties in the First World War and two in the second; their names and regiments are to be carved on the stone memorial. The villagers have conducted their own research to verify details using sources which include archives at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, published material such as Richard Broadhead’s book on Chippenham Soldiers and the National Archives at Kew. Local information and knowledge has also played its part.
The archives at the History Centre can provide background information for the fallen soldiers. The Parish Registers record the baptisms of Arthur Edward Allsopp in May 1887, Ernest Edwin Buoy in October 1890, Albert Edward Millard in May 1890 and Arthur Thomas in April 1895. The internment of the ashes of Peter John Alers Hankey in October 1945 are also shown in the burial register. The 1911 census tells us that Henry John Whale, the fifth World War I casualty, was then working as a carter on a farm and living with his parents, John and Fanny and his older brother William. Harry, as he was known, died in Belgium as a result of mortar fire in April 1917 and his parents had a piece inserted in the local paper in 1918 in memory of him.
The memorial itself is produced from Portland stone, the preferred stone of choice for all British war graves and monuments, and carved by local stonemasons, Bloomfield Masons of Trowbridge. The craft of the mason has played an important role in the working life of Wiltshire people; the county has quarried local stone and trained masons to work it for centuries and this new monument is a perfect example of the stonemasons’ craft.
Wiltshire stonemasons at work
Once the design of the monument, presented by the masons, was agreed by the Parish Council and funding was achieved by village contributions and donations, work could proceed. The required stone was ordered and cut into blocks to correspond with each section. The work was carried out entirely by hand with traditional masons’ tools, beginning with the four stones that make up the square plinth, each with a panel surrounded by a bead moulding. The front panel displays the names, hand carved with a tungsten tipped chisel and mallet. This plinth is then capped with an ogee cornice with a simple poppy on each side. A Celtic cross completes the design with a laurel wreath at the base and the arms of the cross include the text ‘Lest we forget’.
Excavation and preparation of the site took place, involving a sound foundation topped with cotswold slabs to form the protective base. The memorial was erected on top of this base in sections and fixed together with a traditional masons mortar of crushed Portland stone dust and Portland cement and reinforced with stainless steel cramps and ties. It stands approximately 2m high.
Work in progress
The village had a total of 43 men serving in the First World War, but it is worth remembering that the war efforts continued at home as well.
A large number of Stanton women washed 150 garments per week supporting the contribution made by the Chippenham branch of the Red Cross. By the Second World War the Air Ministry had built the nearby aerodrome known as RAF Hullavington and many of the airfield buildings were in the Stanton St. Quintin parish. There was a hostel at Stanton Court for 100 WAAFs and 550 servicemen were based on the station itself. Local people also served both at home and abroad; 18 in the armed forces, 32 in the Home Guard, 7 in the ARP and 8 at the local First Aid Post. The local Women’s Institute preserved 248lbs of jams and pickles and 416 extra acres of local grassland had been ploughed to help food production by 1943.
The unveiling of the memorial is set to coincide with the marking of this year's Armistice.
The memorial is a fitting tribute to the local casualties of both World Wars, reflecting both the masons craft using traditional techniques and the spirit of the community in their efforts to make sure that the fallen are remembered. The script speaks for itself.
Local Studies Assistant