A war memorial, in the form of a “simple granite pillar”, has been installed in the town square at Bradley Stoke’s Willow Brook shopping centre.
According to a press release issued by the 1st Bradley Stoke Scout Group, the structure is intended as “a generic memorial to remember all members of our armed forces (and civilians who support them) who have died due to conflict”.
The project has been funded entirely by the Scouts and the Willow Brook Centre after efforts to attract £3,000 of public funding from South Gloucestershire Council in November last year were met with calls for “further consultation regarding the siting of the memorial”.
The Scout group’s original plans to mount black name plaques onto existing granite posts in the town centre were ridiculed in the national press last summer, because no resident of the town is known to have been killed in military action.
At a meeting in July last year, town councillors in Bradley Stoke agreed to “support the Scouts in the concept of some form of stone or memorial to remember the fallen”, but they stopped short of endorsing the town square at the Willow Brook Centre as a suitable location for it, with several members suggesting that a quieter location elsewhere in the town should be considered.
The question of location was also raised in a letter read out at the Southern Brooks Area Forum meeting last November, in which Sara Messenger, a member of the Bradley Stoke in Bloom group, described the Willow Brook Centre as “an inappropriate place for a war memorial”.
Ms Messenger’s letter continued: “How is it possible to hold a dignified Remembrance Day Service in the centre of a shopping parade? How can we give silent thanks to the 1,300,000 soldiers who gave their lives in the two world wars, so that we and others can live in peace and freedom when you have shopping trolleys barging past and shoppers shoving doughnuts into their faces while gawping at you?”
Katherine Robinson, Beaver Scout Leader, said:
“Every year Scouts are heavily involved in Remembrance ceremonies around the world and our young people learn of its significance. This new memorial can now be a focus point for observing Remembrance Sunday and ensuring each successive generation never forgets the sacrifices of others.”
“The town’s geographic landscape has many links to warfare as well as a major MOD base (Abbey Wood) nearby. This year also sees the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, making the memorial’s creation all the more relevant.”
“The town square was chosen as it provides a hard standing where a large number of people can safely gather (our Scout group alone has 200 members and Remembrance takes place in November when more rural locations are often boggy and muddy). The central location is accessible to all, has plenty of parking and is patrolled by security guards to protect the memorial from potential vandalism.”
Bradley Stoke Mayor Brian Hopkinson, speaking at the town council’s Leisure, Youth and Amenities Committee meeting on 17th February, said it was a shame the Scouts hadn’t undertaken further public consultation on the siting of the memorial, adding “at the end of the day, we [the council] have no control over it, as it has been erected on private land”.
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine. Our magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,250 homes in Bradley Stoke and Little Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising.
Postcript: The Journal invited the Scouts to provide a statement explaining why they decided not to undertake the further consultation requested by the Area Forum and why they chose to use their own funds instead of waiting to see if a public grant might be forthcoming. The following reply, from Katherine Robinson, Beaver Scout Leader, was received after our March magazine went to press:
- It was important to maintain momentum for the project and achieve a successful outcome in good time to prepare for the First World War centenary. Any further delays in additional consultations/public engagement may have jeopardised this. We had already carried out consultation/public engagement at the town festival (with c. 250 responses). To what end would we need to repeat this? We felt we had enough community support to proceed.
- The town square was used for the siting of the memorial for the reasons stated in the article.
- We had no formal necessity for “approval” from any statutory authority as this was a project between the Scout group and Willow Brook Centre.
- A grant would obviously have been fantastic but we had the financial means between us and the Willow Brook Centre to fund the project without it. As with all grant applications, the option is always there to go it alone (if financially able). When applying for a grant it is sensible to have a contingency plan for what you would do if it is unsuccessful. The self-funding option was ours and as such a unanimous agreement was made by the Scout group’s Executive Committee to financially support the project with the Willow Brook Centre, hence the decision to proceed ASAP.
Photo 1: Members of each section of the Scout group (l-r: Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers) beside the newly-installed war memorial in the town square.
Photo 2: Inscriptions on the war memorial.
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