First World War

Memorials to West Deeping’s servicemen

St Andrew's Church Brass Plaque 2

First World War memorial plaque: St Andrew’s Church, West Deeping

Like many villages, West Deeping’s war memorials are in the parish church – St Andrew’s. To the south of the nave, on the wall of the archway to the chancel, is a splendid brass plaque commemorating eight men of the parish “who gave their lives for their country in the Great War of 1914 -1918“. “Their name liveth for evermore”

Another memorial to the servicemen of the First World War is a manuscript vellum scroll mounted behind glass in a heavy oak frame. It lists thirty-two men by the year in which they enlisted and notes which month it was.  This used to hang on the west wall of the nave next to the opening for the tower. Since October 2017, after it had been restored, it has hung in the south aisle, not far from the brass plaque.

WW1 Service List after PB
First World War Servicemen’s list restored July 2017. Photo: Paul Bragg

Finding the history of these memorials was not as straightforward as expected – there is no record of them in either the Parish Council minutes or the Vestry minutes. It was a newspaper article dated April 1919 that reported a donation of £50 by Mr W. E. Porter (owner of West Deeping Manor between 1917 and 1923) had been made to the War Memorial Fund, bringing the total up to £90. (In 1920, £90 would have the same spending worth of about £2,600 in 2017. Source: National Archives currency converter.) “A tablet in the Parish Church, with the names inscribed of soldiers from the village who have made the supreme sacrifice, a framed Roll of Honour of all who have served, and the renovation of the reading room, are the proposals decided upon in regard to the question of a village war memorial.” It must have been discussed again and the Lincolnshire Free Press reported in August 1919 that a meeting of parishioners decided “to erect a framed list on vellum of those who had served in the forces, the number being about 30.”

“WAR MEMORIAL DEDICATED”

read the headline for a newspaper article dated March 1920, which reported on an “impressive service at West Deeping”  when the brass plaque was unveiled and dedicated by the new Bishop of Lincoln when he came to perform a confirmation ceremony.  “After the singing of a suitable hymn, the Bishop drew aside the Union Jack which had screened the memorial tablet and then read the impressive dedicatory prayer, the whole congregation standing reverently with bowed heads.” “The dedications over, Mr W Day of Market Deeping sounded the ‘Last Post’ on the bugle.  The Lord Bishop delivered an impressive address after the ceremony. He said the memory of those who had laid down their lives was enshrined in their hearts but it was well that the people of future generations should know who were the men of the village who gave their lives for the cause of justice and righteousness. They could never be sufficiently grateful to the men who by their unsurpassable gallantry, steadiness and heroism kept the dear land free from invasion and maintained its liberty. His Lordship went on to say that he had no desire to inflame any bitter feelings against Germany, but they must realise that at the back of the great war there could be no political or economic necessity but simply an evil will and purpose and it would have been a supreme disaster to the world if that evil will and purpose had prevailed and Germany had accomplished her aim. His Lordship concluded a fine address with the words “May the memory of the sacrifice made by the brave boys whose names are written on the tablet hallow and bless all your village life.”

The newspaper article goes on to say:  “An oak-framed vellum scroll, bearing the names of the men from the parish who served in the War, has been placed near the memorial in the church.”

Restoration of scroll

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WW1 Servicemen’s list in situ before removal from the west wall

The centenary of the start of the war brought several visitors to look for the names of their family. West Deeping Heritage Group began to research the names on the memorials for The Deepings Remember 1914-1918 project and the compilation of a district-wide Roll of Honour. It became an embarrassment that the scroll and its frame looked such a mess!

Due to where it was hanging, under a leak in the lead flashing between the nave and the tower, it had suffered quite a bit of damage over the years. There was an unsightly stain on the vellum, caused by damp and mould,  the wooden frame was marked with bat droppings and water stains and its metal fixings were corroding into the wall.

West Deeping Heritage Group put forward the proposal that the memorial should be restored and moved elsewhere in the church, ideally closer to the other war memorials. We needed to identify specialists qualified to carry out the restoration, obtain quotes and apply for a Diocesan faculty and find  funding.  Thanks to the efforts of Churchwarden Colin Blagrove and with the support of the Parochial Parish Council, the project became possible in Spring 2017 when a grant was approved by the War Memorials Trust.

A particularly heavy downpour of rain in December 2016 had already prompted the removal of the  manuscript from the wall,  and in order to provide an  estimate a restorer removed the backing from the oak frame to reveal the extent of the damage.

Also revealed was more information about its history.   Pencilled inscriptions were discovered on the back of the paper. It was undoubtedly the calligrapher who wrote: “Emmeline Winterton Radford for the Warham Guild, 28 Margaret Street, Oxford Circus, London W. July 24 1922.” Further research on the Warham Guild  has provided information about this association of craftspeople formed in 1912 to provide high quality Church ornaments, including vestments, altar furnishings, wood and metalwork as well as monuments and war memorials.

There was another piece of evidence on the back of the vellum : on the bottom right hand corner are the words: “Fitted and Fixed by W. Ackland. West Deeping Aug 3rd 1922.” William Ackland was the village wheelwright, carpenter, undertaker and Clerk to the Parish Council since its creation in 1919.

As the scroll was not created until July 1922 we have to conclude that either the newspaper reporter in 1920 was wrong, or that there was a previous version of the list of servicemen!

Researching West Deeping servicemen’s records

The memorials provide us with names; for those who died, we know the regiments with which they served; for those who survived we know when they enlisted. We have made contact with several descendants of people connected with West Deeping during the war years, because they were born here and went to the village school or because their families were living here, and we have photographs and more detailed information about their relatives’ service records. We have found out about several more names which ought to be recorded on the memorials – three or four more men who died were linked by birth or marriage to West Deeping and a dozen more whose baptism records or service records would have qualified them to be included in the Roll of Honour.

Online information sources like the Forces Service Records, the Medal Rolls Index,  Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the British Newspaper Archive have provided plenty of information about the regiments in which many of the men served. Village archives like the parish registers, the burial records and church newsletters can provide some of the details that help to tell their stories.  These stories are being written up for publication in West Deeping Remembers – a commemorative book to be published in 2018.

The search is still on for the human stories that enable us and future generations to understand better the impact this war had on our local community.

Page updated 25/8/2018

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