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New war memorial wall dedicated at Sheerness


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Crowds turned out to mark the dedication of Sheppey's new memorial wall and to rededicate the Sheerness war memorial which celebrates its 100th anniversary this month.

The new wall of gleaming white Portland Stone contains 988 names of the fallen.

Colours lowered for a two minutes silence at the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
Colours lowered for a two minutes silence at the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
The Rev Colin Johnson led the dedication ceremony for the new memorial wall at Sheerness war memorial on Sunday
The Rev Colin Johnson led the dedication ceremony for the new memorial wall at Sheerness war memorial on Sunday

The existing cenotaph in Bridge Road, topped by a statue of liberty and specially cleaned for the day, already featured 347 names, marking a total of 1,335 lives lost from the Isle of Sheppey during two world wars and other conflicts.

Retired priest the Rev Colin Johnson, the Royal British Legion's padre on the Island, led the service on Sunday . He said: "We need to remember that our Island has played a major part in the efforts of the three branches of the armed services."

He highlighted the Royal Navy which was based at Sheerness Royal Naval Dockyard, the British Army garrisoned around the town and the Royal Air Force which had one of its first bases at Eastchurch, the cradle of British aviation.

Members of the military and the Island's cadet units marched to the memorial led by the Sheppey St John Ambulance band.

For many, thoughts of another war were not far away. Mr Johnson said in his address: "At this time, we particularly remember the people of the Ukraine."

The Sheppey St John Ambulance Band leading the parade at the dedication ceremony for the new memorial wall at Sheerness war memorial on Sunday
The Sheppey St John Ambulance Band leading the parade at the dedication ceremony for the new memorial wall at Sheerness war memorial on Sunday
Sheppey Sea Cadets on parade for the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
Sheppey Sea Cadets on parade for the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
Crowds at the unveiling of the Sheerness war memorial in 1922. Picture: Martin and Rosemary Hawkins Collection
Crowds at the unveiling of the Sheerness war memorial in 1922. Picture: Martin and Rosemary Hawkins Collection

The ceremony was considerably more restrained from when the memorial was first unveiled in 1922. Then, crowds swarmed across the road and some even shinned up telegraph poles to get a better view.

Raymond Nicholls, 77, travelled from Salisbury with his wife Sarah for the service and remarked on the difference. "I was a little disappointed with the size of the crowd," he admitted. "I was expecting it to be much bigger."

He was born on Sheppey and returned to view his great uncle's name EH Runham on the new wall. His grandmother's brother had been delivering messages in the First World War when both he and his horse were blown up.

Swale and county councillor Cameron Beart also tracked down a long-lost relative. His great uncle Percy Albert Beart died when his RAF helicopter crashed into a lighthouse in Scotland on December 15, 1955.

The day was down to Peter MacDonald, 81,who had fought hard for the 'missing names' project.

Peter MacDonald, left, at the dedication ceremony for the new memorial wall at Sheerness war memorial on Sunday
Peter MacDonald, left, at the dedication ceremony for the new memorial wall at Sheerness war memorial on Sunday
Raymond Nicholls, 77, travelled from Salisbury for the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness. His great uncle's name, Ernest Runham is on the monument
Raymond Nicholls, 77, travelled from Salisbury for the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness. His great uncle's name, Ernest Runham is on the monument
Cllr Cameron Beart points out the name of his great uncle Percy Albert Beart, who died in 1955 when his helicopter crashed in Scotland, at the dedication ceremony for the new memorial wall at Sheerness war memorial on Sunday
Cllr Cameron Beart points out the name of his great uncle Percy Albert Beart, who died in 1955 when his helicopter crashed in Scotland, at the dedication ceremony for the new memorial wall at Sheerness war memorial on Sunday

The member of Sheerness Town Council and Swale council, recalled: "It has been 12 years in the making. It started when Sidney Pepper wrote to the Sheerness Times Guardian complaining that not everyone from Sheppey who died in the two world wars had their names on the memorial."

Cllr MacDonald and his late wife Loreley set about piecing the names together.

Cllr MacDonald, from Chequers Road, Minster, said: "We thought we'd only have enough for a few extra plaques. Instead, we ended up with 988. Taken with the names already on the war memorial, we now have 1,335. That's an awful lot for a little island like Sheppey."

The 10m-long wall, which stands 2m high, has cost £126,000. It is made from 30 tonnes of engraved blocks of Portland Stone. The name of Danny Holkham from Eastchurch who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 is also included.

The Sheppey War Memorial Trust raised money from Sheerness Town Council, Swale council, Queenborough Town Council, Queenborough Fisheries Trust and Peel Ports.

People inspect the names after the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
People inspect the names after the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
Quiet thoughts at the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
Quiet thoughts at the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent Paul Auston lays the first wreath on behalf of the Queen at the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent Paul Auston lays the first wreath on behalf of the Queen at the dedication of the new memorial wall in Sheerness
The Sheerness war memorial and new memorial wall. Picture: John Nurden (56247680)
The Sheerness war memorial and new memorial wall. Picture: John Nurden (56247680)

Cllr MacDonald said: “It is something of real quality for the Island. Sheppey needed an uplift.”

After the exortation, the Last Post, two-minutes silence at 11am and Revielle played by a lone bugler, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent Paul Auston laid a wreath on behalf of the Queen, followed by others from the armed services, embassies, cadets and other Island organisations.

Community radio station Sheppey FM provided the PA.

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