I have mentioned Thatcham War Memorial before but have had a number of queries since that post. A short history is given in this post.
The Great War, or First World War, saw a large portion of the population of Thatcham go to war and a large number never returned. After the war ended Thatcham, as did many other places, wanted to erect a memorial to remember the fallen. Thus a memorial was erected and unveiled in The Broadway.
On the 11th November 1920 a service was held at the Parish Church. Following this, at 3pm in the Broadway, the War Memorial was unveiled by Gen E Dickson. The memorial was made from Doulting stone standing seventeen feet high and with a hexagonal base. It was designed by Sir Charles Nicholson of London.
At the same event Major C Turner unveiled a Howitzer gun and plaque. The gun had been captured by the Royal Berkshire Regiment, the regiment that Alexander Butler Turner had served in before he was killed. The inscription on this plaque read:
“German howitzer captured by 1st Battalion Royal Berks Regiment, presented to the village of Thatcham as a tribute to the memory of 2nd Lieut A B Turner, of Thatcham House, who was awarded the VC for his gallantry at Fosse, near Vermelles, on 28th September, and died of wounds received there on 1st October, 1915.”
Most resources note the War Memorial as having been repaired in 1950 and 1990. However it seems to have been repaired more than this. First the Reading Standard of 6 September 1930 has a report stating “The War Memorial at Thatcham having fallen into disrepair has been restored, mainly through the efforts of the local branch of the British Legion, and was rededicated on Sunday“. The rededication was at that time noted as being a large gathering with over 1,500 people present in the Broadway.
In 1940 the gun went for scrap metal to aid the war effort. At some point metal railings were added around the memorial and gun and photos from the 1950s appear to show the railings still present. In January 1966 the local branch of The British Legion wrote a letter to Thatcham Parish Council saying that the memorial was cracked and possibly unsafe. It was requested that it be repaired or replaced. In March 1966 Thatcham Parish Council agreed to have repairs made to the War Memorial and that if all parties were in agreement it would also be moved from the Broadway and placed at the entrance to the Memorial Playing Fields. By July the memorial had been removed and the old site in the Broadway noted to be an “Ugly Scar“.
When the memorial was erected there were 103 names on it, all of them organised by service and rank. When I started researching the names on the War Memorial there were 108 names present. One local stone mason said that the repairs done to the inscriptions in 1990 simply copied what was already there so presumably the names were added before this and also the order they are listed in were changed then as well. This is something I am still looking into.
For the 100th anniversary of the end of war, I worked with a number of others to research all the names from the First World War as well as checking to see if anyone had been missed. Indeed there were and there are now 117 names recorded on the memorial for the First World War[6, 7].
An Air Raid Shelter
As a side note during the Second World War, sometime in 1939, an air raid shelter was placed at the southern end of the Broadway, another one was placed at Turnfields. I have been told by many locals that after the war this was used to house an ambulance, I am yet to find any photographic or documentary evidence though. In March 1960 a petition was made for the removal of the shelter which was agreed. It was not until March 1961 that the shelter had been fully removed though.
As noted I am still researching the names and the memorial and the shelters, I will produce another post for any future findings.
- IWM, War Memorials Register, Thatcham, https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/7810
- Reading Standard, 6 September 1930
- Reading Evening Post, 26 January 1966
- Reading Evening Post, 23 March 1966
- Reading Evening Post, 27 July 1966
- N. Gregory & N. Young, ‘Thatcham The Great War 1914-1918‘, Thatcham: Thatcham Town Council, November 2018
- N. Gregory & N. Young, ‘A Tour of Thatcham Soldiers‘, Thatcham: Thatcham Town Council, November 2018
- P. Allen, The Book of Thatcham: A Record of a Changing Community, Halsgrove, 2006