Visitors were waiting for the Heritage Centre to open its doors at 10am on Saturday 3 November with people continuing to arrive for the unveiling of Gainsborough’s new War Memorial to all of the 566 men who gave their lives in WW1. Family members of the fallen watched as local historian and author, Peter Bradshaw unveiled the War Memorial with many visitors paying their respects. The morning also included the launch of Peter Bradshaw’s final book in the series of ‘Gainsborough’s War Story’ with funds raised going to the Friends of the General Cemetery. Over the years, the group have maintained and raised funds for new headstones for Gainsborough’s local war heroes buried in the Gainsborough cemetery.
Photos below show the unveiling of the WW1 memorial at the Heritage Centre courtesy of Paul Kemp.
Peter Bradshaw’s speech shared information about the research and stories of the men who were killed in the Great War including Rifleman Archibald Frank Hewitt whose relatives came to pay their respects. Mr Bradshaw said, ‘I was pleased and proud to be asked to unveil this War Memorial that will be a permanent fixture in the Heritage Centre for people to see for years to come. Thanks to the support of Sue Edlington and the Gainsborough Heritage Centre, the stories of all of these men have been recorded in my books and on this new War Memorial.’
Peter Bradshaw and Sue Edlington pictured above with photo courtesy of Paul Kemp.
Chairman of the Gainsborough Heritage Association, Andrew Birkitt said, ‘On Saturday 3 November, we were so pleased to see so many people visit and take part in the commemorations. A big thank you to everyone who has supported this fantastic project over the years. The memorial is the first in the town that records all of the names of our brave soldiers who were killed in WW1. We welcome the community to visit the Heritage Centre and see the War Memorial for yourself.’
Peter’s book focuses on the main events of 1918 including the Spring Offensive when Germany made huge advances and many local soldiers were killed, wounded or captured and includes the final 100 days that culminated in the Armistice on 11 November 1918.
In addition, the book also covers the home front and Gainsborough’s munitions workers and the building of the “National Shell Filling Factory” at Thonock which filled naval mines with 1,000 lbs of TNT. The women workers there were praised for their bravery in undertaking such dangerous work. The factory remained in operation until mid-1920 decommissioning munitions which almost ended in disaster in 1923 when a huge explosion injured seven men and a larger explosion was prevented just in time when a fire was extinguished which was threatening to spread to a large store of explosives.
Chapters include letters written home to Gainsborough from three local men, Private Sidney Vickers MM, Corporal Frank Haggett and pictured below Rifleman Archibald Frank Hewitt. He took part in the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 and his experiences resulted in him being hospitalised suffering from trench fever. He is one of twenty New Zealand soldiers from the 4th Battalion killed on 5 April 1918. His full story and other images can be found in Peter’s new book.
The book has an updated Gainsborough Roll of Honour listing the 566 men who died, and it includes photographs of many of these soldiers and is available for purchase at the Gainsborough Heritage Centre shop. If you would like to take the opportunity to visit the graves in the Gainsborough Cemetery, the Gainsborough Cemetery chapel will be open from 10am till 3pm on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 November. There will be an exhibition of photographs and information relating to the soldiers who were killed in the Great War and Peter Bradshaw, Sue Edlington and Paul Kemp will be available to answer any questions.
At 8.30pm on Saturday 3 November another World War One Memorial was unveiled at the Melrose Social Club. The memorial was originally unveiled in 1921 by Major Marshall and has now returned to the building it was originally made for. The memorial contains the names of thirty members and sons of members of the Gainsborough Constitutional Club who died in the war. The Melrose Social Club was bought by its members some years ago and no longer has any political affiliation, but it was agreed that the plaque can be re-erected to mark the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI.
The memorial was saved and has been part of the collection of the Gainsborough and District Heritage Association for many years. Andrew Birkitt, Chairman of the Heritage Association said, ‘The plaques have been at the Centre almost as long as we have been running, so nearly 25 years, they were discovered in the cellar of the main club on Heaton Street. They have since been displayed on many an occasion throughout various exhibitions. It seems only fitting in this anniversary year that the plaque be re-erected in one of the clubs that the men and their families attended, so they may continue to be remembered as they deserve.’
Susan Holmes pictured alongside the War Memorial below is the Great Granddaughter of L Cpl E Button whose name is shown on the memorial plaque. Pictures courtesy of Rosemary Speck and Andrew Birkitt.
For further details about the War Memorials or books then please contact the Heritage Centre by email on [email protected] or call 01427 610526.