Fourteen forgotten First World War heroes have finally had their names added to a war memorial in Middlewich, thanks to campaign led by a lorry driver and an ex-headteacher.
For a variety of reasons, the names of fourteen soldiers were not featured, and have remained missing from the Middlewich memorial for more than a century.
Official guidance states that if they died after the war but before 1921 from their war injuries, they should be included on memorials.
In some cases the deceased men had moved away from Middlewich to work in other areas across the north west or across Britain. Some even moved abroad.
Their identities were uncovered when former Middlewich School headteacher Philip Andrews and lorry driver Geoff Page, also from Middlewich, began investigating the history of serving and fallen Middlewich men as part of a Middlewich Town Council initiative back in 2013.
Geoff, who is president of the Middlewich Royal British Legion, and Phillip undertook extensive research over the course of five years on the missing names of the deceased and investigated their occupations and locations of work.
Geoff was able to travel to France, Belgium and Italy, visiting cemeteries and memorials including the British fallen.
In all, he placed 137 crosses from Middlewich residents on each grave and memorial.
He also documented names and recorded any duplicate or missing information relating to the fallen heroes. It’s believed his records are now fully accurate and complete.
Between now and the beginning of November, there will be an intense ‘repair programme’ in Middlewich to ensure that the memorial is restored to look like new and for names to be visible when visitors pay their respects.
The work being undertaken includes treating the sandstone, brick and plinths to ensure the memorial looks clean, well maintained and is easy to read.
The memorials will receive a face-lift as a result of a partnership between Cheshire East Council, Middlewich Town Council and Middlewich Heritage Trust.
Prior to this, extensive work has also been undertaken in Alderley Edge, Crewe, Knutsford and Macclesfield.
The Middlewich project will be completed in time for the Remembrance Day, on Sunday 11th November 2018.
The final Cheshire East Reflects commemoration events will take place during Armistice weekend in November, and will be free to attend.
Entitled ‘When the Light Goes Out’, the events will commemorate the First World War through memories, performance and sound.
The first will be held in Crewe town centre on Saturday 10th November and will focus on the survivors of the war.
It will include a parade inspired by Crewe’s 1918 Tank Week – part of a fundraising campaign led by the government, which saw tanks touring England’s towns and cities – and a street concert featuring music from bands and choirs from across Cheshire East.
The second event will take place on Sunday 11th November at Tatton Park, and will be based on the theme of ‘the fallen’.
It will feature a piece of projection work created and inspired by archive and community-sourced footage and stories about the war, a promenade performance and the launch of a newly-commissioned choral piece.
During a formal ceremony to mark the end of the First World War, a commemorative flame which has been burning at Tatton Park since 2014 will be extinguished.
Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “This is an important part of our history that had been omitted.
“Those 14 fallen soldiers were brave men and I am so pleased their bravery to defend our country is now formally recognised and now etched in the memorial for everyone to see.
“Since May, the cleaning up and repairs programme has made such a difference to the appearance to the war memorials across Cheshire East.
“In addition, the Cheshire East Reflects programme, which was launched back in the summer of 2014, has been a thought-provoking programme of work that has paid tribute to the tremendous courage and sacrifice of Cheshire’s soldiers.”
Cllr Bailey added: “I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the upgrading and repairing of the war memorials, as well as those who have helped with the programme of activities we have in the pipeline for residents to attend later this year.”
Kerry Kirwan, heritage development officer, at Middlewich Town Council, said: “Thank you to Geoff Page and Philip Andrews for their research on Middlewich soldiers in the Great War during our Middlewich Reflects programme.
“It is an honour to finally have all fallen soldiers represented on the Middlewich Memorial.”
For further details about the programme of events and information about how you can get involved, visit the Cheshire Reflects website at: www.cheshireeastreflects.com.
The names of the 14 soldiers:
Walter W. Ormond Brooks
Russell Thomas Hatton
James Henry Kirk