The Blackpool WW1 Memorial

Blackpool WW1 Memorial

 

When the Imperial Yeomanry 23rd Co., into which the men of the Duke’s Lancaster had been formed, left for the Boer War from Blackpool on Feb 14 1900, the streets were covered in snow, and there was a biting, westerly wind blowing. But the men were in good spirits. In the contingent were four Blackpool men. The men mustered at Raikes Hall and then marched to North Station to entrain. The Boer war was a remote war fought by trained regular soldiers and volunteers. The war didn’t affect every household in the town.

In contrast, during WW1, seven thousand men from the town attested. Conscription had been introduced in 1916. The women were mobilised too, into medicine, transport, munitions and any job that was left vacant by the drain of men. Depending on circumstances, many mothers were able to prove they could keep a household going without a man having to be the wage earner. From the number of men and women that were involved, there were very few households in the town that were left unaffected. The boy and girl next door went to war. Everybody knew someone who was involved. WW1 was a war that was also fought at home.

When WW1 was over, Blackpool, like all districts, towns and cities, was moved to construct a lasting memorial to those who lost their lives in the military conflict. WW1 was all about who could slaughter who first and, as a consequence, claim the victory. The men and women involved were either lucky or unlucky; they either survived or died. Those that died were often better off than those who survived. These survivors were the millions of civilians who suffered because of their loss, and had to continue their own lives. The outpouring of emotion and the thankfulness for the cessation of hostilities evolved into the erection of monuments to the dead. (The Armistice had been signed but the seeds of a more permanent war were sown in the Middle East at the time – a soldier, a Rossall School VC, (for instance) dying for ‘King and Country’ fighting ‘insurgents’ at Basra in 1920).

In 1919 a temporary monument was in place, before a grander scheme was proposed.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10211459664036543&set=gm.1913549155453133&type=3    David Wall; pic of the original war memorial.

https://www.facebook.com/BlackpoolMemories/photos/a.155211754616253.36730.155205697950192/901332276670860/?type=3

By October 1920, the General Purposes Committee had approved the recommendations of the War Memorial sub-Committee, and sites were given consideration, the three proposed sites were the sunken gardens (North shore), the proposed new park (Stanley Park) and the Princess Parade. Eventually the site agreed upon was the Princess parade, opened as recently as 1912 in a flamboyant and royal ceremony, though had servicemen not objected to, and eventually overturned a decision by the Council to place the monument in the ‘new park’, that’s where it would be today.

By 1921 the work to construct the memorial had been awarded to Mr Ernest Prestwich M.A. A.R.I. of Bradshawgate Chambers, Leigh and who was chosen out of sixty applicants. The cenotaph was to be erected in Princess Parade at a cost of £15,000 (monies to be ‘defrayed’ from the profits of the munitions works in the town). It would be an obelisk, 90 foot high and would be a representation of Cleopatra’s Needle, though taller than it by 5 feet. It would have a lion at each corner and sculptured panels on each side at the base. These would represent, respectively sacrifice, courage, endurance and grief. The names of the dead would be engraved on bronze plates placed on two large stones at the base to represent the stones of the graves in France. On the east and west fronts would be carved laurel wreaths with the Blackpool coat of arms. It was proposed that the construction of the monument would provide work for the unemployed.

In December 1921 the plans were displayed at the Central Library for public consumption because the sentiment was very public, not a person being unaffected by the consequences of the War. At this time it was agreed that the stone should be Denby Dale white, (later changed to Cornish granite).

It was unveiled on 10/11/1923 in a ceremony where 10,000 people were in attendance. Brigadier-General Topping, the town’s ‘distinguished soldier freeman’ unveiled the monument. The two base stones were unveiled by the mothers of the two Victoria Cross recipients, Mrs Boughey and Mrs Smith respectively.

Prior to the unveiling, a guard of honour of the Royal Field Artillery (Major Read) accompanied General Topping from the town hall to the cenotaph where they were complemented by a contingent of the Yeomanry (Captain Percival). Earlier in the afternoon a procession of military and other units under Mr HE Derham (Chief Constable) congregated at the Central Pier from where they had marched to the cenotaph. The large crowd had taken up every vantage point after all the temporary seating around the monument had been filled.

The vicar of Blackpool (Rev Little) began the service with a hymn, and the Blackpool Lifeboat Band provided the music. After the hymn, general Topping unveiled the monument and, when the Last Post was sounded, a reverent minute’s silence was observed by all assembled. At the Mayor’s request, the two base stones on which the bronze roll of honours were secured, were uncovered by Mrs Boughey and Mrs Smith. The monument was then dedicated by the vicar,  ‘….to the memory of the men and women of Blackpool who laid down their lives… in the Great War’. The ceremony ended with the singing of ‘Abide with Me’ and then wreaths and floral tributes were laid by many of the assembled company, turning the monument into a flourishing mass of bright colour.

Even in 1930 the annual event was described as ‘The sound of the sea and the sighing of the wind sounded as a benediction around the Blackpool Cenotaph today, when 10,000 people paid a silent tribute in memory of the glorious dead.’ The silence was ‘broken only by the sound of the waves’. Blackpool became a dead town as offices, shops and transport all respectfully observed the silence. Old who were ‘too old to forget’ and young who were ‘too young to remember’ gathered together each wearing a red poppy of Flanders.

 

Information gathered from contemporary newspaper reports via findmypast.

Acknowledements; David Wall facebook post, Blackpool and Fylde Coast Past Present and Future.

Anthony Cutler  facebook post, History of Blackpool. Blackpool Memories (blackpoolpostcards.co.uk)

 

Links;

http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/565

https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/121900

Biogs of both Blackpol VC’s in my blog here;-

The Blackpool VC’s