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Royal British Legion commemorative bricks at Tenterden war memorial row

By Rachael Woods

A row has broken out within the ranks of the Royal British Legion over commemorative bricks placed at Tenterden war memorial.

The names of men and women, who spent their lives serving the Royal British Legion (RBL), have been inscribed in bricks leading up to the memorial.

It was the idea of Neil Beaven chairman of the Tenterden branch of the RBL, who was inspired to carry out the project following a visit to the Walk of Legends in Twickenham.

Memorial bricks dedicated to Royal British Legion volunteers
Memorial bricks dedicated to Royal British Legion volunteers

The public walkway is divided into quadrants with a famous England player named in the centre stone with bricks commemorating individuals surrounding it.

Mr Beaven said: “I saw names inscribed in stone on a visit to Twickenham and I thought it was something we could do at the RBL.”

But the bricks, which were dedicated in June, have provoked protest, as some RBL members believe that the project dishonours those who died for their country and whose names are carved into the war memorial.

In a letter to the Kentish Express newspaper, Gerald Coombe, condemned the project as a "serious error of judgement and sensitivity".

He wrote: “I assume that those named [in the bricks] served in the armed forces and then died many years later from natural causes, as did many hundreds of thousands of other men and women.

“That they should be commemorated within the confines of a memorial dedicated exclusively to the memory of those killed or who died whilst serving on active service in the armed forces seems to me outrageous.”

Mr Beaven confirmed he had received a letter of protest from another member at the branch meeting in July and that the subject would be discussed in the September meeting.

Tenterden Royal British Legion chairman Neil Beaven
Tenterden Royal British Legion chairman Neil Beaven

Defending the scheme, he said: “The idea came about as we had a lot of requests for benches to remember fathers and grandfathers who had served.

"We couldn’t accommodate them all, otherwise we would have had a forest of benches, so I thought about putting in the bricks.

“The bricks are not on the war memorial – they are on the path leading up to it.

“Relatives were overjoyed at the ceremony when the bricks were unveiled and said what a wonderful thing it was. We didn’t put them in to dishonour anyone.”

Fifteen named contrasting red bricks have been created and inset at the memorial, along with a bench.

The path where the bricks are installed belongs to Tenterden Town Council and town clerk Phil Burgess said the council was happy to honour the RBL’s request and would always follow the organisation’s lead, unless there were exceptional circumstances.

Mr Burgess said that the bricks were set in compacted sand and were not permanent and he was aware of suggestions for an alternative memorial at Tenterden Millennium Garden.

He added that the issue of the suitability of the bricks was an "internal matter" for the RBL to resolve.

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