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War memorials taken for granted but a constant reminder of sacrifice

PUBLISHED: 13:00 07 October 2017

The war memorial in Barking Park. Picture: Michael Foley

The war memorial in Barking Park. Picture: Michael Foley

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Historian and author Michael Foley charts the rise of war memorials in the wake of the First World War and how the different types of tributes to our war heroes came about.

Memorial to Kenneth George in St Margaret's Church. Picture: Michael Foley Memorial to Kenneth George in St Margaret's Church. Picture: Michael Foley

It seems that every town and village in the country has something in common.

They are of course war memorials. They seem to have been around so long and are so taken for granted now that they could have been there forever.

That’s not the case though as the war memorials that are today so common were erected after the First World War.

Before this there were a few memorials to certain regiments or even statues to commemorate individuals, usually high-ranking officers.

Barking's war memorial photographed before the Second World War. Picture: Michael Foley Barking's war memorial photographed before the Second World War. Picture: Michael Foley

Many of these were erected by the government to celebrate specific victories. The enlisted men in the ranks were not mentioned anywhere which perhaps reflected the view of those responsible for erecting the memorials that did exist.

This changed after the war because there were so many people affected by the loss of so many men. In some places where the pals battalions were raised almost the entire male populations of some villages and streets were killed.

It is no surprise then that the need to commemorate and remember these heroes became so strong in the years after the war.

The type of memorial varied greatly in different towns. There were memorial halls built in some places while in others church gates were used.

Memorial to the Barking company of the Essex Regiment, First World War, in St Margaret's Church, Barking. Picture: Michael Foley Memorial to the Barking company of the Essex Regiment, First World War, in St Margaret's Church, Barking. Picture: Michael Foley

Although most memorials seem to have been designed in stone, some were plain while others had elaborate statues included in the design.

In many cases the money raised to pay for the memorials came from public subscription or from the local councils or charities.

Dagenham is unusual in that the small war memorial that stands on the corner of Church Elm Lane and Heathway does not have the names of the men from Dagenham who fell in both world wars on it.

Even the men who died in the war and are buried in local cemeteries such as at Eastbrook End are not named on any memorial.

This is not the case in Barking but of course after the First World War, when memorials were erected, Barking and Dagenham were still separate towns.

Although there is a memorial from the First World War in Rippleside Cemetery, the main one is situated in Barking Park.

It commemorates those who fell in both wars and the fallen are named on it. It was erected in 1919, designed by C J Dawson, who was also responsible for designing much of Barking Park.

The names were engraved on stone plaques but within a few years they were illegible and had to be re-engraved and the memorial rededicated in 1922.

There were of course some families, perhaps those who were better off than others, who managed to erect their own personal memorials.

These were usually placed in the church where the family worshipped. St Margaret’s in Barking has some fine examples of this which not only name the person but give details of their service such as the one to Kenneth George.

There is also a memorial to the members of the Barking company of the Essex Regiment. This includes a list of the fallen of the territorials who were called up to fight in the war and never came back. They make fascinating reading and add to the interest of anyone planning a visit to the church.

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

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