For a number of years, it had troubled me as to why there was no War Memorial in Montgomery honouring the town's fallen servicemen we remember by name each year on or around 11th November.
On 15th November 2010 with the annual RBL poppy campaign behind us, Trefor Pugh and I met for a debrief on the Service of Remembrance held the weekend before when I put forward an idea that had been at the back of my mind for a while, to build a War Memorial to honour the town's Fallen.
Since its dedication in 1953 the annual Service of Remembrance had always been held at the existing Memorial Garden known as The Pound, when 28 names of Montgomery’s servicemen who had died in two World Wars were once more solemnly read out. The names were listed on a single sheet of paper in no apparent order, without mention of rank or regiment and with no distinction to indicate which wars were involved.
Montgomery born and old soldier, Trefor (ex Royal Welsh) was immediately for the idea. Speaking subsequently with other members of Montgomery's Royal British Legion I could find no immediate explanation for the absence of either a town War Memorial or Roll of Honour. The situation seemed to contradict the feelings of many in Montgomery, particularly relatives of the Fallen but also the town's ex-servicemen, their families and members of the community who would gather faithfully each year to partake in the act of remembrance.
It has been estimated there are over 100,000 war memorials throughout the UK, which in addition to stone, concrete, bronze, and alloy memorials, there are also plaques on walls, inscribed windows and books of remembrance. Practically every village, town and city in the UK has a war memorial around which people gather to remember their servicemen who died in the service of their country.
But not all villages. A 'Thankful Village' was a name given to a community from which all their men returned safely from the two World Wars. It is reported there are just 14 such parishes in England and Wales. There are none in Scotland or Ireland.
It was clear Montgomery did not fall in the category of a Thankful Village. Determined to remedy the anomaly and armed with no more than a 'back of an envelope' sketch, a proposal was put to the Town Council for the creation of a Garden of Remembrance that would have as a focal point a free standing War Memorial.
The memorial would display a Roll of Honour listing each of the town's fallen servicemen and importantly their rank and regiment. If at all possible, the date for completion would be Aug 2014 to commemorate the start of WW1.
The idea was met with interest, subject to a detailed budget being presented for approval by the Town Council. It was made clear there was no money available for the project.
By the following Council meeting a prepared budget outlining anticipated costs was presented. On the firm understanding that funds would have to be raised by public donation the project finally won approval. A dedicated group led by Paul Hodgson with the unfaltering support of Philip Humphreys (architect), Cllr Mike Mills (Mayor) and Cllr Cerys Thomas set about the task of raising funds, submitting plans and drawings and liaising with the various public bodies that would be involved.
Materials were sourced, further and more detailed designs for the garden, monument and Roll of Honour were prepared and the exhaustive task of tracing names and each man's individual service history commenced.
In addition, a scope of work was carefully drawn up, competitive estimates sought and best prices negotiated. Nigel Price Groundworks & Landscaping Ltd won the main contract on cost value, enthusiasm and proven ability. Nigel Lloyd fabricated, painted and fitted the ironwork on site and Dave Phillips undertook the electrical services. With commendable generosity, each contractor donated either additional time, effort and/or materials free to the project.
And not least, a lot of people donated their time, their money, their effort and enthusiasm which was all freely given. All this, together with those occasional cups of tea and cakes plus many, many other aspects of genuine support enabled us to see the project through to a successful conclusion, within budget and on time for the Service of Dedication on 6th September 2014.
This was Montgomery at its best in many more ways than one might imagine. It was the town's big hearted and warm community that got behind the project lifting it from what felt initially to be a wholly speculative idea through to physical reality.
Groups of volunteers of all ages turned up as requested to engage in the heavy work of clearing the site, then again later to plant yew hedging and the school's flower bed (the stone circular bed), watering plants through the summer and weeding the site to ensure a perfect result in time for the Service of Dedication.
Not only were there a great many personal donations of money, gifts and materials, there were many who promised support and effort in its many forms. These promises were all delivered and the project completed within original budget and on time.
It would not be possible here to mention individually all those who so kindly donated their time and energy or who made donations, as many did so wishing to remain anonymous.
However, I am able to say that the first funds received were those generously gifted to the project by local families donating collections from two family funerals. Family funerals of old soldiers.
Boosted by this initial support, fund raising commenced in earnest with people making personal donations, putting on events and garden openings. Donations were received from Montgomery's local businesses, the Montgomery Show committee, Civic Society, Newtown Round Table and later generous grants from both the Town Council and Heritage Lottery Fund.
Research into the lives of the men who appear on the memorial was undertaken by Ned Hayes, Paul Hodgson, Cerys Thomas & Keith Thompson
Sheila Blockley, the Burd family, David Crowe, Phyllis Edwards, Betty Evans, Edward Francis, Stephen Hayes, Paul Hodgson, Ted Bowen-Jones, Wendy Jones, Glyn Pennie, Venice Pugh, Christine Robinson, Iris Robinson, Frances Ward, Drs Ann and John Welton (on behalf of the Old Bell Museum) and Isabel Whitticase.
Montgomery Cubs (planting)
Chris Boundy, Peter Goodchild, Toby Hodgson, Ed Humphries, Mike Mills, John Sewell, Keith Thompson, Bunners Store and Montgomery School (the exhibition) and many other individuals who gave their time, efforts and money to see this project reach fruition.