Award for RBL branch president and beautiful new bench installed as Hillmorton war memorial turns 100

Hillmorton RBL has worked very hard over the years to ensure the area's fallen soldiers are remembered

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 5:37 pm
Branch president Larry Burke, branch chairman Kathryn Lawrence and vice-chairman John Dacombe.

Hillmorton's Royal British Legion (RBL) president Larry Burke has won an award in recognition of his efforts in helping to ensure Hillmorton's fallen are remembered.

Larry's award comes as the group marks 100 years since Hillmorton's war memorial was unveiled.

And to mark the centenary of the memorial, a beautiful new bench decorated with poppies and the words 'lest we forget' has been installed.

Branch president Larry Burke and branch chairman Kathryn Lawrence.

President Larry Burke is one of five winners in Warwickshire to have received a Centenary Award from the RBL .

He will now go to the area finals and, if successful there, the national finals.

On Saturday March 6, Hillmorton branch chairman Kathryn Lawrence, presented Larry with his badge and certificate.

Larry’s nomination stated: “An active member for 30 years, including helping organise the annual Poppy Appeal, Larry has been instrumental in developing and increasing membership with regular branch meetings and activities, including organising a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in 2019.

"Responsible for maintaining the branch’s profile in the local community he has sought to preserve the Annual Remembrance Sunday Parade and Service, actively engaging with the town’s cadet units, local youth organisations and other organisations e.g. R.A.F.A. to participate.

"Instrumental in decorating the Hillmorton War Memorial, since 2014 focusing on recent commemorations.

"In 2014 he organised a Candlelit procession and lighting of the War Memorial when the names and details of all those from Hillmorton who died were read out."

March 6 also marked the centenary of the unveiling of Hillmorton War Memorial.

And to celebrate the occasion, branch vice-chairman John Dacombe used recycled poppy wreaths to form an impressive '100' wreath, which was placed at the memorial together with information on all those whose names appear on the memorial.

Speaking about the centenary bench which has just been installed, chairman Kathryn Lawrence said: “I would like to thank Warwickshire County Councillor Yousef Dahmash for helping to fund the bench and to Rugby Borough Council for its installation.

"I hope that it will be a place for reflection in the years to come. We hope that we will be able to re-dedicate the memorial and bless the bench on the weekend of 26th /27th June to coincide with Armed Forces Day when Hillmorton Ex-Servicemen’s Club & Institute will be celebrating its centenary.”

Hillmorton's RBL and the Rugby Local History Group kindly sourced and transcribed an archived story which the Advertiser published in 1921 to mark the opening of the memorial.

In that report a characterful speech was given by Admiral Cowan, who had a distinguished military record and went on to serve in the Second World War while in his seventies - taking on a tank crew armed with just a revolver.

Below is the Advertiser's March 1921 report of the memorial's opening:

The unveiling ceremony was by Admiral Cowan, who said: “Before I unveil this memorial I would like to say what a great honour it is for me your wishing me to do so, seeing that you have soldiers of great distinction and feeling in your midst, and I am a stranger to most of you.

"The privilege of performing this ceremony, which is to perpetuate in your memory all the young men of Hillmorton who fell in this the greatest of wars, will ever be remembered by me, because although a man raised in the navy, I admire beyond words the splendid gallantry and even more the endurance of our brothers in the army, through their almost ceaseless fighting during four years of war.

"However young they have died and however fair were the prospects they had in their future life, we should envy them rather than sorrow for them, for they died in successful defence of King and Country, in the greatest and hardest fought was in all our history, and their names will live for ever.

"All our sorrow and sympathy should be with those from whose homes they came and from whose upbringing and inspiration came the spirit in which these lads went forth to fight and die as they did.

"To them is due all our sympathy, and they will live on amongst you in ever increasing honour and respect by reason of bearing the names of those who were lost.

"I would like to say to the boys of this generation growing up that they should bear in mind that there is no service so honourable as the King’s, and that though all cannot join it in peace time, there is room for everyone in war, and they should ever keep their bodies and minds fit with that in prospect for no country can live at peace which is not prepared for war.

"To the girls I would say that this - should in your lifetime if it ever happens that our country has again to fight for its life, it is in their power to fill the ranks and keep them filled by letting their men know that the love and pride they hope to win from them is dependent on how the bear themselves in the presence of the enemy.

"I will now read the names to whom this memorial is put up.

"There are 32 in number from a population of roughly 1,700 and I suppose that out of that population there would be about 300 of fighting age at the time of the war.

"Therefore, 10% have been killed in action. This is a very good record, and I should think cannot have many equals in many villages in England.”