Lest We Forget
The History of the Norman Cross Eagle
Although strictly not in the Huntingdonshire covered by these pages the Norman Cross Eagle has some significance. It is the East of Englands focal point from the Napoleonic Wars.
During the wars with France from 1793 to 1815 up to 7,000 prisoners of war mostly French, Dutch and German were held at the Norman Cross prison camp near Peterborough.
Over the 17 years during which the prison was operational 1,770 inmates died from diseases such as enteric fever, consumption, dysentery and typhus. The prison stood in the field north-east of the crossroads. The prisoners whiled away their compulsory stay by making many articles carved in bone, some extremely elaborate, of which a large collection are in Peterborough Museum, one to a large scale being a working model of the guillotine.
In 1914 the Entente Cordiale Society erected a memorial to these men in the form of a bronze eagle on top of a column It became a landmark for users of the nearby A1 Great North Road before it was vandalised in 1990 and the eagle was stolen
The Norman Cross Eagle Appeal was established to raise the £30,000 necessary to restore the memorial to these otherwise largely forgotten victims of war.
Celebrated animal sculptor Sally Arnup modelled a new eagle to be cast in bronze and placed on the original column. An historical interpretation panel is included to complement the original bronze inscription panels that are still in place at the base of the column.
The new memorial has been placed near the site of the prison at the junction of the A1 and A15 roads. It takes full account of future security and maintenance.
The Norman Cross Eagle Appeal Committee was formed by members of local and national organisations. Societies in France were actively involved to commemorate their countrymen. The appeal attracted world-wide support.
The project was honoured by His Grace the Duke of Wellington and Ms Lucinda Lambton (author and historian) becoming Patrons of the appeal.
28 May 2000