Cheltenham War Memorial

Unveiling the war memorial

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.”   –  Robert Laurence Binyon, 1914

11th November 1918 is a date that has gone down in history; marking the cessation of fighting and leading to the end of the First World War. The Armistice agreement was signed at Compiègne in Northern France, between the Allied forces and Germany. When the fighting was over many British troops began to be bought home to be reunited with their loved ones. The walk home from Cheltenham railway station marked the transition back into civilian life for many returning servicemen. For others it would be several months or even years before they were demobilised and allowed to return home.

In order to commemorate the lives lost during the 1914-1918 war, Cheltenham Town Council commissioned Messrs R L Boulton & Sons to create a memorial that would enable the people of Cheltenham to remember the bravery of the 1284 Cheltonian men that gave their lives for their country.

A temporary memorial statue of an angel had been placed outside the Municipal Offices for people to leave floral tributes by and several memorial ideas were submitted and publish in the local papers before the final design was agreed upon. The sculpting and stone masonry company then set to work; creating a monument that honoured the memory of the fallen servicemen.

On October 1st 1921 a commemorative ceremony was held by Cheltenham Town Council and was attended by ex-servicemen, headed by the Band of the First Gloucester’s; children who had lost either a father or brother in the War; invited dignitaries; and paying guests.

The memorial was revealed by General Sir Robert Fanshawe, Commander of the old 48th Division (South Midlands) a Division in which many of the local men had served. Since the unveiling, the names of other local servicemen have been added to the memorial, including servicemen from the Second World War, the Korean War and the Falklands Conflict.

As the World War One centenary commemorations draw ever closer, Cheltenham Borough Council have committed themselves to restoring the memorial back to its original glory. These actions have included adding six new names of those lost in the First World War, who were omitted from the original roll of honour in 1921. These additional names included Elizabeth Roberts, the only woman from Cheltenham to be commemorated.

Supported by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the War Memorials Trust, an extensive restoration was completed in September 2016. This included cleaning and repainting some of the names that had become hard to read. Replacement lamps have been installed to match the original design and an interpretation board with information about the memorial has also been installed.

By Claudia Dunn (University of Gloucestershire Student)

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