On the War Memorial Trail
PUBLISHED: 10:25 03 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:13 20 February 2013
Howard Franklin goes on a journey of remembrance around Shropshire
November is the month of falling leaves, chill winds and silent reflection, as we remember those brave men and women who fought for our freedom, especially in two World Wars and continuing conflicts.
Around the county town of Shrewsbury stand numerous memorials commemorating the fallen heroes of past and more recent wars and two of them are particularly familiar to townspeople and visitors to The Quarry.
Close to Quarry Lodge stands the imposing Portland stone, neo-classical open rotunda, designed by George Hubbard in 1922, which houses the bronze statue of The Archangel Michael. This memorial is for the fallen heroes of The Great War 1914-1918 the Second World War, 1939-1945.
This imposing figure, depicting The Commander of the Army of God, stands on a richly embellished mosiaic floor depicting the County and Regimental Arms, and the Arms of the six original boroughs of Shropshire.
Nearby, on St Chads Terrace, stands a statue of a soldier, with his rifle reversed, standing on a square pedestal with a portrait of Queen Victoria in relief and a carved badge of the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry, remembering those who lost their lives in the Boer War.
In Shropshire we have, over the decades, gone to great lengths to ensure our war dead are never forgotten, erecting memorials in all forms.
Very few of our villages were able to welcome home all their young men from the World Wars of the last century; even in tiny parishes you will find memorial plaques to testify how even the smallest rural settlement was touched by loss.
There are unusual and imaginative memorials - the stone cider press which forms part of Monkhoptons memorial; an aeroplane propeller crafted into a cross at Alberbury church; while at Jackfield a footbridge across the Severn serves as their memorial to the dead of the World Wars. A steam train on the Severn Valley Railway at Bridgnorth is dedicated to the British railwaymen who gave their lives in the Second World War.
Many of our churches have old wooden crosses. On a recent visit to St. Laurences Parish church in Ludlow I noticed three of them in the main porch. These crosses were made by French carpenters to mark the last resting place of those who fell in France. They had a metal tag to show the name and rank of the deceased and were later sent home to families in Britain, who often preferred they be housed in their local church.
At the Church of the Holy Spirit in Harlescott, Shrewsbury, sits a memorial behind the altar which includes the names of civilians Jessie Broxton, Margaret Meredith and John Meredith, all killed when a German bomb destroyed their home in September 1940.
In the old Royal Salop Infirmary, now the Parade Shopping Centre, in Shrewsbury there is a plaque near to the main entrance to the memory of Katherine Mary Harley. She came from the village of Condover and, as the memorial states, gave gallant service for many years on behalf of women and children in the Great War. She was a nurse who was killed by a shell at Monastir on 7th March 1917, while assisting the Serbians.
The principal war memorial in Market Drayton is a polished stone cross, but in the towns St Marys Parish Church there is a fascinating collection of memorials. Right of the Sanctuary are memorials to John Aleric Everard Upton, killed at the Battle of the Somme, and Charles Egerton Hugh Harding, killed in France in 1917. The church also houses an historic marble plaque commemorating Charles Henry Lycett Warren, killed during the Indian Mutiny. The Chapel of the Resurrection at St Marys is dedicated to a long list of Market Drayton men who lost their lives for King and Country in the First World War.
Walking on the Stiperstones in the tiny valley called Mytton Dingle, I discovered an interesting memorial to five airmen who were killed when their Whitley Bomber crashed into the hillside on February 15th 1944. The plaque requests the reader: remember them as you walk these hills - amid this stunningly beautiful setting it is a stark reminder of the harshness of war.
Wellington, Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale all have wonderful war memorials. but a particularly special tribute is found inside Coalbrookdale parish church. Sarah Barker, a 1930s Shropshire poet, is responsible for the wonderful tribute To the Immortal Memory of the Warriors of the K.S.L.I., which reads:
She also wrote these words on Dawleys memorial:Perhaps you may be inspired to search out your local Shropshire memorials to the fallen, and visit your nearby parish churches to discover their memorial plaques. The wonderful website www.shropshirewarmemorials.co.uk is a great starting point. It was set up to serve as a permanent digital memorial to the countys fallen, and includes details of every known memorial and, where possible, the names of all those remembered.
November is a month when we must quietly remember, and wear our Poppies, because they are symbols of love and respect for those who fought valiantly for our freedom.