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  • Writer's pictureHenley - Lest we forget

Lord-Lieutenant Unveils Great War Memorial

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

Article coutesy of Henley Herald | pictures by Dave Murray and Jenni

A very fitting, lasting memorial to 310 Henley serviceman who lost their lives in WW1 was unveiled on Friday at Townlands Memorial Hospital by Oxfordshire’s Lord-Lieutenant Tim Stevenson after four years of research by Mike & Lesley Willougby from the Henley Lest We Forget project in time for the WW1 Armistice centenary.

Reverend Duncan Carter conducted the service and opened by saying “On behalf of Henley-on-Thames WW1 Remembrance Association, I would like to welcome you here for what is for us an unexpected but delightful culmination of our project, Lest We Forget. Thanks to generosity of the Amber Infrastructure we have been able create this memorial plaque, to commemorate the 310 men of Henley who gave their lives during and as a direct result of the First World War. Special thanks should also go to NHS Property Services for their permission to place this memorial here and for the renaming of the hospital last year in such a fitting way. Thank you to all the guests for coming on this special occasion.  You have all played your part in remembering these names that we see on our Town Hall frontage but until 5 or 6 yeas ago were almost unknown. It is lovely to be able to say we now know the stories of these men who are named and they were each some mother’s son.”

The ‘Great War Memorial’ measures approximately 2.30m x 70cm and is made with a brass coloured Dibond material with the names of the 310 men printed on a clear uv stable polycarbonate surrounded by a beautiful natural oak frame. It stands approximately 70cm high so it’s accessible to wheelchairs and is sited at the rear in the south east corner of the hospital grounds on the lawn directly adjacent to the paved area. The plaque has been made by Street Furnishings of Wargrave, Chissock Woodcraft of Hare Hatch and Purdy Gates of Woodcote. The new memorial contains the names of all of the men of Henley who died in WW1 including 100 who were not included on any original local memorial before 2014 when new plaques were installed at the Town Hall, St Mary’s and Trinity Churches, and 13 more who have been discovered since.

Lord-Lieutenant Stevenson said, “What a privilege to be here in Henley on this wonderful morning on such a special occasion. It was 4 years ago that Mike Willoughby presented me with this such a wonderful copy of his record which he entitled, “Bringing Them Home“. Mike’s work and the team that have supported him in researching and pulling together this remarkable book is part of a wave of effort in Oxfordshire and around the country to bring back to the forefront the memory of those who died in the deadliest conflict that probably human kind has ever seen.”

“It matters, I think a great deal, that many people around the country have worked for the last 4 years as we remember WW1 to be bring back to the surface again the nature of that terrible conflict.   Through the re-examining the memorials and making sure that all those who died are properly and adequately reflected in the lists and as much as possible can be known about them.  That all enabling us when we remember the armistice day in nine days time to do so with a real understanding of why we have these memorials and what they are for.  Our generations and the generations that follow us need to understand and need to remember the unending damage to lives and successive generations for families who are bereaved by conflict. That is why the work that has been done in Henley through the splendid Lest We Forget project is so important. Not only because of the research of those who died but also because it inevitably involved so many people across all the Henley communities and especially the involvement of young people in the project and telling them about the results of the project so that they can have an understanding of the memorialisation of the 310 individuals has meant to their families.”

The Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadet, Sergeant Adam Tobin read “For the Fallen” by Binyon which was followed by a minute’s silence during which Mike Willoughy laid a wreath.  Trumpeter, Marilyn Elliott then played the Reveille and afterwards Cadet Sergeant Tobin read “When you go Home” by John Maxwell Edmunds.

Michael Willoughby laying a reef on the new memorial

Afterwards Mike Willoughby said, “It was the most amazing culmination of a 10 year project to be present when the Lord-Lieutenant Sir Tim Stevenson unveiled our “Great War Memorial” in the grounds of Townlands Memorial Hospital, to honour all of the men of Henley who died in and as a direct result of WW1.  NHS Property Services (NHSPS) have been amazing and Phillip Montague of NHSPS and Stephanie Greenwood of Townlands have helped me to a degree above the call of duty, for which I thank them. I was delighted that Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak was well enough to attend as it was he who introduced me to Mike Leto and Ben Tanner of Amber Infrastructure who’s company financed the memorial. Sir Tim and his Cadet Sergeant Adam Tobin, plus our trumpeter Marilyn Elliott added an incredible gravitas to the occasion. Adam’s reading of the “Exhortation” was his first duty as the Lord-Lieutenant’s cadet, which he carried off admirably. I would also like to thank Reverend Duncan Carter for speaking initially on my behalf and for performing the service, plus all of the guests who were individually invited as a thank you for the help and support that they had given the project.  I must not forget to thank my wife, Lesley for all her help and support throughout the project, our daughter Jenni and ace photographer Dave Murray for taking photos.  Thank you too to Lorraine and Hot Gossip for their first class catering for the reception afterwards for the guests.”

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