History Group Talk October 2014

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The meeting had a very interesting talk by Dr Todd Gray on the subject of Remembrance and War Memorials of Devon.

Todd said that in recent years due to the centenary of WW1 a great number of artefacts have been found in cupboards, drawers and attics relating to that period of our history. In the County of Devon alone some ten thousand men and a few women lost their lives fighting for King and Country. We must not forget the many who died after the war was over, from their injuries. When these people came home many had lost limbs and they suffered great trauma, this all took its toll on these men in the following years. Many did not wish to talk about what they had witnessed - this was history that really hurt. Come 1919 and thoughts about how the past was to be remembered. Two thousand and more memorials of one kind and another were created. Discussions and decisions ultimately made, involved a lot of controversy. How should the sacrifice of these brave individuals be remembered? Should they build meeting places, village halls, bus shelters, gardens, playing fields all these options were considered and the decisions often caused conflict between those trying to do something for their community. Often the squire, vicar, wealthy landowners - those with the money - felt that they should have the say. Local people however were not going to be browbeaten they had their say too !
The national government decided that cities should have a tank as a thank you for their war efforts, towns had a gun carriage, small places had a shell and the one at Widecombe is we believe the only one still in existence in Devon. Those that did not agree caused vandalism at some of these sites. It is a fact that many of those that did survive were taken for scrap metal during WW2 to be melted down and used for armaments. (Recycling ?).
Then there was controversy about the names on the memorials. Some men’s names appear on more than one. Localities claimed them as from where they lived, others where they worked before the war, others claimed them from where they were born and so on. Should the names on the memorials be alphabetical order or should they be in order of rank? The arguments were considerable.
If there was to be a memorial the style was another debate. An obelisk, cross, statue, or even a compilation of the afore mentioned? Looking at the memorials as they stand today it can be seen the wide variety that finally were decided upon.
Whatever was decided we must today see that they are maintained in good condition as a tribute to those brave heroes of a bygone era. They fought for King and Country and their dignity should not be forgotten. Their sacrifice allows us to live the life we do today, as a result of their actions yesterday. We must not take everything for granted. They did not want to fight - it was their duty and they must not be forgotten.


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