Search

Central Park monument lies forgotten and defaced

PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 October 2017

The Girls' Life Brigade memorial stone in Central Park, Dagenham. Picture: Michael Foley

The Girls' Life Brigade memorial stone in Central Park, Dagenham. Picture: Michael Foley

Archant

There is a small stone in Central Park close to the entrance from the car park in Wood Lane.

The Girls' Life Brigade memorial stone in Central Park, Dagenham. Picture: Michael Foley The Girls' Life Brigade memorial stone in Central Park, Dagenham. Picture: Michael Foley

It looks an insignificant small item that could be part of an old wall or the base of something that used to stand there.

I remember the stone being used as a step to climb onto ponies that were used for rides up and down the pathway next to the stone in the Dagenham Town Shows of the late 1960s.

It is only when you get close to the stone that you see there are words engraved on it. The words say, “These birch trees were planted on 29th February 1964 to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Dagenham and District Battalion of the Girls.”

The words don’t quite make sense because the last two words have been almost obliterated either by time or wear as they are so close to the ground.

The silver birch trees in Central Park, Dagenham. Picture: Michael Foley The silver birch trees in Central Park, Dagenham. Picture: Michael Foley

The words have also been partly covered by the use of blue paint that has been sprayed on the front of the stone.

It took some research to find what the missing words were. There was a faint trace of the last word which looked like “brigade”.

This proved to be correct as the missing words were “Life Brigade”. I wasn’t sure what the Girls’ Life Brigade was but as the stone commemorated something in 1943 I suspected that it had a military basis. I found out, however, that in 1943 – which was 21 years before the memorial was erected at Upney Baptist Church – a group of the Girls’ Life Brigade was formed.

It began life in August 1943 but there was an enrolment ceremony in September which was celebrated by other companies of the Girls’ Life Brigade which composed the Dagenham battalion of the Girls’ Life Brigade.

The organisation had been in existence in England since the early 20th century but it seems that the Dagenham battalion was formed in 1943, although there may have been some separate smaller units of this before that date.

The year 1964 was to be a turning point in the organisation. The Girls’ Life Brigade in England amalgamated with the Girls’ Guildry of Scotland and the Girls’ Brigade of Ireland to form the Girls’ Brigade. It seems then that the monument in Central Park not only commemorated the anniversary of the Dagenham battalion, but also marked the end of the Girls’ Life Brigade.

The ceremony to erect the stone was mentioned in the Dagenham Post of March 4, 1964; in fact it made the front page with a photograph of the ceremony. Unfortunately there wasn’t much information to go with the photograph. All I found out was that the weather was gloomy and that the Dagenham and District battalion of the Girls’ Life Brigade were enjoying themselves, although I thought they had become the Girls’ Brigade by this time.

One of the silver birch trees planted to accompany the memorial was planted by staff sargent Joyce Nevill of the Guides.

Because of the gloomy weather, she was being sheltered by the Rev J J Brown, who was holding an umbrella over her head. The report didn’t say how many trees were planted but there are three silver birch trees towards the left of the stone.

It seems quite sad that an event such as this which was commemorated with a monument and the planting of trees should be forgotten and vandalised. Perhaps this story may make people stop and take some notice of the small stone that is so easily ignored by those using the park today.

michael-foley-history-writer.co.uk.

2 comments

  • Micheal Foley, I found your article very interesting on the monument in Central park. Girls life Brigade became The Girls’ Brigade and is 125 years old next year. The girls brigade is very much alive and an International organisation. The very good news is it’s still alive in Barking, Dagenham & Havering. I am the Distrct Team Leader and if you would like to know any more feel free to contact me. You mention Upney Baptist church in your article and there is still a Girls Brigade company running there 1st Upney. None of us were aware of the stone in the park so thank you for bringing this to light. We still have a few retired officers that were in the Girls life brigade before becoming leaders in the Girls brigade. I even have an old girls life brigade colour in a cupboard. Perhaps we could put a memorial stone next to the old one as part of our 125 year celebrations!

    Report this comment

    Aitch68

    Wednesday, November 8, 2017

  • Micheal Foley, I found your article very interesting on the monument in Central park. Girls life Brigade became The Girls’ Brigade and is 125 years old next year. The girls brigade is very much alive and an International organisation. The very good news is it’s still alive in Barking, Dagenham & Havering. I am the Distrct Team Leader and if you would like to know any more feel free to contact me. You mention Upney Baptist church in your article and there is still a Girls Brigade company running there 1st Upney. None of us were aware of the stone in the park so thank you for bringing this to light. We still have a few retired officers that were in the Girls life brigade before becoming leaders in the Girls brigade. I even have an old girls life brigade colour in a cupboard. Perhaps we could put a memorial stone next to the old one as part of our 125 year celebrations!

    Report this comment

    Aitch68

    Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Latest Barking and Dagenham News Stories

08:00

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Post readers this week.

Yesterday, 15:00

If you’re planning to visit loved ones over the Christmas period, you might want to think twice about using public transport.

Yesterday, 10:00

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our three-minute Met Office video forecast.

Yesterday, 09:00

Barking and Dagenham College are gearing up to represent the borough in a televised London-wide float parade on New Year’s Day.

Fri, 17:35

A Dagenham-based charity has been holding parties this week for elderly residents over the festive period.

Fri, 15:58

A Dagenham teenager has been jailed for a brutal stabbing that led his 18-year-old victim to lose his leg and suffer horrific injuries.

Fri, 15:44

The grandfather of a three-year-old girl from Barking thought to have been abducted by her mother has made an appeal for help in finding her.

Fri, 15:41

A new not-for-profit company jointly owned by local schools and the council has appointed a chief executive.

PROMOTED CONTENT

The festive season is a hectic time for many, with frenzied dashes to the shops for groceries and gifts, and parties to arrange and attend.

You don’t have to make the trek to the North Pole to get into the Christmas spirit this year.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Barking and Dagenham Post
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now