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TUNBRIDGE WELLS WAR MEMORIAL

World War 1 & 2 - Detailed information
Compiled and copyright ©
Edward James Gilbert (Thunder Bay, Canada) 2012

The memorial stands in front of the Town Hall/Library, Mount Pleasant, Tunbridge Wells. It tales the form of a low wall surrounding a central memorial with the figure of a soldier holding a rifle mounted on a plinth. The names of the dead from World War 1, 764 names, are set in plaques around the wall. The memorial was unveiled and dedicated 11th February 1923; the sculptor was Mr Stanley Nicholson Babb. Further details about this memorial appear on this page but if you wish to access the names of the fallen without reading the details then click here.

From old postcards

OUR GLORIOUS DEAD
1914-1918
HONOUR GRATITUDE
PRAISE
1939-1945

Design and Construction

In 1921 The Tunbridge Wells Borough Council decided to commemorate those who fell during the First World War by having a memorial designed and constructed in the town. The site they chose was on Mount Pleasent Road in front of the town hall just down the road from the Opera House. Newspaper articles of May 30,1921 describe Councils intention to have a monument built and various examples of other monuments and proposed designs were put forward requesting suggestions. Afterwards Council requested any architects with an interest in designing the monument to submit their proposals for consideration and many architects did so. In the end the contract for the monument was awarded to architect Stanley Nicholson Babb (1874-1957) who's accepted design consisted of a stone plinth upon which was mounted a bronze statue of a WW1 soldier carrying a rifle with an inscription placed on the plinth. Extending from its central position in the overall monument was a back wall upon which the bronze plaques bearing the names of the fallen from WW 1 were mounted with a left and right wing of stone extending out towards the sidewalk. The topography of the ground was such that an cut in the embankment, which extended upwards from the back of the sidewalk toward the grounds of the town hall, was necessary and apart from serving the purpose of providing a wall to mount the plaques on served also as a retaining wall to hold back the earth in the embankment. Early postcard views of Mount Pleasent Road give a good view of how the monument looked at the time of its construction. Construction of the monument was completed in time for an unveiling ceremony that was held February 11,1923.

Initially the bronze plaques were all located on the back wall but later one more plaque was mounted on the right wing of the memorial wall to accommodate a plaque bearing the names of additional men who died during the First War. After the Second World War additional plaques were made for the men who died during that war, which were mounted on the left wing of the memorial wall in 1946 and additional wording was added to the plinth pertaining to WW 2. After 1946 additinal bronze plaques, bearing the name of a single man only, were added from time to time with the last one being added in 2005.

The Unveiling Ceremony

The memorial was unveiled by Colonel Viscount Hardinge February 11,1923 at a large ceremony arranged for the occasion and the Guard of Honour was provided by the 4th Battalion,The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment.From the roof of a house in Calverley Parade, buglers sounded the Last Post and Reveille. A newspaper article pertaining to the ceremony gives the following; "The arrangements for the event entailed no little labour upon Mr. W.F. Bellamy,the Deputy Town Clerk, and his staff to whom great credit is due,whilst the police supervision was ably carrried out by the Chief Constable (Capt. S.A.Hector),assisted by Inspector Guy Carlton.During the ceremony the members of the St. John Ambulance Brigade had a busy time,quite a number in the crowd being overcome,and having to receive treatment". Accompanying this information was a list of the men being remembered.The memorial was festooned with flowers and wreaths with the floral tributes having been arranged by the Boy Scouts. The event was attended by over 1,000 people from the town and surrounding area. There was a religious component to the ceremony and images of the event clearly show the presence of a large assembledge of choir boys in white.

Many photographs were taken at the time of the ceremony but perhaps the most lasting images were those taken by well known Tunbridge Wells photographer and postcard printer and publisher Harold Hawtrey Camburn (1876-1956) who produced at least two postcard views of the event. Harold Camburn was born at Sutton Surrey but in the late 1800's moved to Tunbridge Wells and established a photographic business and for a time was a partner with photographer Percy Squire Lankester at the Great Hall Studios. Later, on his own ,he operated from premises 1919 to 1923 at 19 Grove Hill Road and it was while there that he took the photographs of the war memorial. After that time he had premises at 80 St John's Rd until he retired in 1951 and moved to Portsmouth, Hampshire where he died in the 3rd quarter of 1956. Harold himself had served in WW1 as an Air Mechanic 2nd Class in the Aegean with the Royal Naval Air Service from 1917 until the end of 1919.

 

 

 

 

Listed by British Heritage

On June 9,2011 British Heritage gave the monument a Grade II listing (#1401309).The reasons given for its designation were

  • Historic Interest; as a permanent testament to the sacrafice made by this community in the First and Second World Wars,it is of strong historic and cultrual significance both at a local and a national level.
  • Artistic Interest; the bronze sculpture by Stanley Nicholson Babb is a powerful and expressive piece of work
  • Group Value; although the memorial pre-dates the civic complex, these listed buildings provide a handsome and fitting setting for the memorial

Today the memorial stands in front of the Tunbridge Wells listed divic complex, which was built in 1939.The site of the complex was previosuly occupied by Calverley Parade and Calverley Terrace,part of the Calverley Estate designed by the architect Decimus Burton in the early 19th century.The retaining wall into which the memorial is set is a remnant of this earlier scheme, and contributes to its strong setting.

The description of monument by British Heritage is given as follows' "Materials: Stone wall with bronze figure and plaques. Set within a low retaining wall facing out towards Mount Pleasant, and in front of the tunbridge Wells Civic Complex, which includes the town hall and the public library and museum, the memorial takes the form of a smooth-faced stone wall, set back approximately 1.5 metres from the pavement edge, with retaining wings. To the centre of the wall is a raised plinth omn which stands a bronze figure of a soldierm fully equipped for combat, his rifle with bayonet lowered and held in both hands across his body. The soldier's helmet is at his feet.The following inscription is spelt-out in bronze letters on the plinth; OUR GLORIOUS DEAD/1914-1918/HONOUR GRATITUDE/PRAISE/ 1939-1945. A laurel wreath is carved in relief below. The wall is lined with bronze palques bearing the Roll of Honour. One each of the flanking wings is a bronze lamp with a laurel carved beneath.

Links below connect to details about each person named on the plaques of the memorial. Initially there were 766 men listed on the plaques unveiled in 1923 and then a further 35 men were added on a separate plaque in 1946 for the First World War. There are in total 801 names on the plaques.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS WAR MEMORIAL 1939-1945

Of the names that appear on the memorial for World War 2 most appeared on the plaques installed in 1946 but additional names were added on individual name plates affixed to the monument after the initial set of plaques were installed. The last name added to the monument was in 2005 bringing the total to 170 listed.

The names on the plaques were assembled by Tunbridge Wells Council (City Clerks Office) as a result of an advertising campaign conducted by way of posters and newspaper advertisements requesting the submission of names and other details of any individuals who it was believed by relatives of the fallen should be remembered on the memorial plaques. As the response from the public was disappointing a series of advertisements were made in the Kent and Sussex Courier throughout the summer of 1946.Councils plea stated "In spite of every effort to secure the town's c0-operation in the matter of compiling a complete list of those who lost their lives during the war, the Tunbridge Wells Council has met with only a meagre response"...."Please forward them (the names) as soon as possible to the Town Clerk..". There are as usual, many individuals who's names were eligle for inclusion on the memorial plaques but unfortunately many names were not submitted by relatives and therefore are absent from the memorial. A committee, consisting of town Councillors was formed in 1946 to co-ordinate the collection of names and reviewing same before formally accepting the submissions.

As was common practice, there were no formal criteria established with respect to the selection of names for inclusion on the memorial. All names were those submitted by relatives. The main criteria used were that the individuals had lived in the Borough and the general practice was that the individual be listed on only one memorial. As military historians have found, these practices were not always adhered to and most, if not all memorials, are not entirely accurate as they were not run or coordinated by the War Office. Discrepancies and errors are therefore quite common.

When the War Memorial was designed and constructed in 1923 there was sufficient space on it for the inclusion of plaques for those who fell in WW2 without having to make changes to the structure of the monument. Constructed as it was with a back wall and two wings there was sufficient space on the left wing for the inclusion of the WW2 plaques. The tribute to the fallen was altered on the base of the statue to make reference to 1939-1945 as can be seen from the photograph(s).

Reference has been made, at least in some cases, to the names of the fallen appearing in either books of remembrance or on plaques displayed at various schools and churches in Tunbridge Wells. A complete list of these plaque/book tributes has not been provided here by the researcher. However, The Tunbridge Wells Museum has in its collection an unorganized file of research material compiled by Richard Gosling within which is information about the school/church tributes. For those interested in this subject matter, a trip to the museum would be beneficial.

Images and information about the cemeteries and memorials given for the following men/women as well as images of the headstones can be obtained from the website of the War Grave Photographic Project. Some images are subject to copyright however much information can be downloaded online and images ordered from the webmaster with a small donation.

Images of the fallen can be obtained in some cases from various genealogy websites such as Ancestry. UK and there are some military history websites that have images of certain men/women who served in the war who may be on the following list. There is usually a fee charged for the images on some websites but there is no charge for the images if you are a subscriber to a genealogy website.

The Fallen

The memorial, because of its size has been split into alphabetical sections. World War 1 and World War 2 names are listed separately and within these groupings the names are listed in alphabetical sections.

EXPLANATORY NOTES ABOUT THE LIST

1) The first entry on each line, consisting of the persons initials and surname, are as shown on the memorial plaques. In some cases the initials and surnames do not coincide with the name and these are notated. These discrepancies are due mainly to errors or omissions on the plaques made at the time of casting or are attributed to incorrect information provided to Council by family members. The names given in brackets are based on military or other reliable records.

2) The order in which the names are listed on the plaques are in alphabetical order and the two plaques have been merged into one list in alphabetical order. The list was initially compiled from the Roll of Honour as published in the Kent and Sussex Courier in 1923 which was not entirely in correct alphabetical order. Any errors in information on the Roll of Honour have been corrected in the above lists.

3) All of the names on the second plaque appear together with the main plaque without indication. The original plaques of 1923 were not recast to add names or make corrections.

4) The only names appearing on the plaques are those supplied by family members of the deceased. Many men who fell in the war with connections to Tunbridge Wells and who would have been eligible for inclusion on the plaques are not listed as family members did not submit their names.

5) The information on the lists was compiled from a review of Military records of each man; newspaper records; photographs and onsite inspection of the war memorial plaques; and genealogy records.

6) Sources of information used for research were provided by members of The Great War Forum, the Tunbridge Wells Reference Library, The Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, the online records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Ancestry.UK as well as other reliable websites. All information was cross checked for accuracy.

7) Information for some men on the list has not been provided or is incomplete due to incorrect information on the plaque which prevented positive identification of the individual or the military records no longer exist due to many records being destroyed or damaged by bombing during the war. Also in some cases certain listings have been labeled ‘No further information currently available’ and little or no information supplied by the researcher. This is due to the fact that there can be several men with the same initials and last name and unless a positive connection of the individual with Tunbridge Wells could be determined then the entry was designated ‘no further information available’ to avoid mistaken identification being accepted as fact.

8) There are a large number of men listed on the memorial who died October 28, 1915 during the Hythe disaster. All of these men are also listed on the H.M.S. Hythe Memorial Plaque which had been unveiled by Sir David Solomans on Saturday October 28, 1916 and was originally erected in the former Southborough Drill Hall at Speldhurst Rd., Southborough, Tunbridge Wells. This plaque is now located in St. Matthew's parish church on Gordon Rd., High Brooms, Tunbridge Wells.

9) Many of the men listed on the Tunbridge Wells Memorial can be found on various plaques in Tunbridge Wells which are on display at various schools (such as Skinners) and churches in the town. Anyone researching a particular man should contact the school/church for names of those recorded. In some cases photographs of the plaque can be obtained. We have attempted to record all of the memorials and church, school plaques each person is recorded on.

10) Although it was the intention that a person be recorded on only one memorial many examples can be found where an individual on the Tunbridge Wells Memorial is also recorded on other memorials and in books of remembrance located in towns other than Tunbridge Wells. Anyone researching a particular man should consult records of other localities where the person or his family lived. Many of the men listed on the Tunbridge Wells Memorial can more locally be also found on the Southborough War Memorial. Other war memorials in the area should also be checked. We have attempted to identify in this account those individuals also recorded on the Southborough Memorial as well as the Speldhurst Memorial at St Mary's Church given the large number of men with connections to Speldhurst.

11) There are a large number of men who died in the war with connections to Tunbridge Wells who are not listed on the Tunbridge Wells Memorial Plaques. For information on those individuals we would recommend checking the websites of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the War Graves Photographic Project. In additon to the information provided on those sites about the individual himself, images of the headstone for the man can be obtained from the site of the War Graves Photographic Project site.

12) For those interested in details of the men recorded on the Soughborough Memorial I would recommend the self published book "Southborough War Memorial" by Judith Johnson of 2009 and updated 2012. Infomation about purchasing this book is available online.

World War 1

World War 2

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Last updated 9 January, 2014

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