Wensum, by Jim Harding, April 26, 2016
Now and again someone will pause and read a name or three and once a year, of course, the memorial takes pride of place in the poppy-wreath laying ceremony on Remembrance Sunday.
For those brief minutes the square is packed with hundreds of onlookers, a parade led by the Town Band marches along Norwich Street and representatives from civic and military groups of all ages pay their respects by setting wreaths on the memorial steps. It’s a time-honoured ceremony distinguished as much as anything by its simplicity and the fact that it is being replicated in villages, towns and cities all across the British Isles. In 2013, just in time for the November ceremonials, five new names were added to our monument. This followed a year of extensive research led by Warrant Officer John Boisson, branch secretary of Fakenham British Legion, to track down any missing servicemen who should rightly have been commemorated. They were David Keeley [RAF], Bartram Dew[Navy], Noel Haynes[Army], William Vertigan[Army] and Derek Mack[Army]. As the existing names had become a bit difficult to distinguish due to years of wear and tear, the town council and the Legion joined forces to have the whole memorial cleaned up and all the names painted a deep black. It looked, and continues to look, so much better. So we now have 96 names of those who died in WW 1 and 29 from WW2, and the Korean War, all of whom had connections with Fakenham or its immediate environs. Inevitably since 2014, there have been regular 100th anniversaries of particular First World War battles in France with more to come right up to 2018. I’m sure it’s these centenaries which have prompted an increased respect for the humble war memorial. A national project led by Historic England – formerly English Heritage – has pledged to add 2500 war memorials to the National Heritage List for England so that they can be protected in perpetuity. We seem to have kept fairly quiet about the fact but I do know that we were Grade II listed in February 2015. This is all to the good and maybe it’s worth recalling the words which accompanied the building of the original monument here back in 1921, describing it as ‘an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community and the sacrifice it made in the conflicts of the 20th century.’
n The town council is now just one short of its full quota of sitting members after Sean Mears was co-opted at this month’s meeting. Sean is no stranger to the territory having previously served on both town and district councils and has been a supportive member of Kick Start Fakenham which has contributed to all sorts of community activities.
It was interesting to hear the comments made about filling the remaining vacancy. The matter of gender balance has been raised before but with only three women councillors in place it has recently become more of an issue. Mayor Adrian Vertigan reckoned that the council should make a stand to promote more diversity to better reflect the electorate of the town. That means, at the very least, some endeavour to encourage more women to become involved. How to achieve this might be a bit tricky. But as things stand the vacancy will be left open for a reasonable period of time in the hope that a suitable applicant will come forward.