Lest we forget…

LEST we forget: The Oldham War Memorial, outside Oldham Parish Church, honours more than 2,000 local fallen heroes

As regular readers of my blog will be aware I’m currently away enjoying a family holiday.

However, inbetween London and Ireland, I had an opportunity to visit Oldham Cenotaph to check on the troublesome pages in the book of remembrance which have begun to get stuck. This changes page each day showing the names of those who lost their lives during the war, and family members travel from some distance to see the names of their loved ones on display.

So this week I’d like to highlight the good work Oldham Council does to look after our 16 War Memorials across the Borough.

This is an issue that is very close to my heart – not only as a keen local historian and councillor but also as a resident. I’m sure many of you, who may or may not have lost loved ones in conflict, are also proud of these Civic treasures.

As chair of the Failsworth War Memorial Steering Group we raised a substantial amount of money to renovate the memorial gardens on Oldham Road. It now looks fantastic and lets everyone know that people respect those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

I also think it is vitally important that young people growing up in an increasingly ‘consumer society’ understand the social history of our Borough. Far too much is taken for granted by far too many people. Perhaps a little reflection by all of us at times will go a long way to improving our Borough in many ways.

I digress though… As a Council we do an outstanding job looking after our war memorials.

It is a year round job clearing up litter, planting bulbs, carrying out repairs and removing moss, vandalism and weeds – not just something we carry out in the run up to Remembrance Day in November.

That is why as a Council we are committed to securing the long-term future of these memorials for generations to come.

We have already cleaned up, amongst others, the Memorial Gardens, Manchester Road, Failsworth, Royton Park and the South African War Memorial in Shaw Memorial Gardens and in the coming months we will ensure all the war memorials are maintained to the high standards expected by the public.

I met with representatives from our armed forces ex-service personnel who are keen to see Oldham cenotaph returned to its glory. It needs a fair amount of work to repair the mechanism inside and to make the whole structure watertight.

There are also other sites – such as Pots and Pans and Bardsley – which need improving. As a council we already spend in the region of £100,000 a year on maintenance of war memorial grounds and I am pleased to announce that ahead of November’s Remembrance Sunday services we will be allocating a further £50,000 for improvements in district memorials. We will also use the time to begin on Oldham after November (it’s a big job and we have to make provision for the book of remembrance to be moved during the work).

I’m sure anyone who attends any of the services held at the various memorials will agree with my sentiments.

Last but not least, with the dust beginning to settle following the civil disturbances across the country, the focus is rightly on those towns and cities recovering and getting back to normality.

Without wishing to jinx matters here I will say how proud I was that Oldham escaped disturbances. We never truly let our guard down, and you wouldn’t forgive us if we did, but now and again it is worth saying to Government – look at Oldham for the right reasons.

I know many of you, like me, are on holiday so I hope you enjoy the rest of your break. I return back in Oldham next week and its straight back to it – see you then.

Thanks for listening

Jim

2 thoughts on “Lest we forget…

  1. “As a council we already spend in the region of £100,000 a year on maintenance of war memorial grounds and I am pleased to announce that ahead of November’s Remembrance Sunday services we will be allocating a further £50,000 for improvements to district memorials.”

    Small change indeed when one considers the enormous sacrifices made in a succession of costly and bloody campaigns – for costly (in more than just monetary terms) and bloody they certainly are.

    For myself, and speaking personally, the individual testimonies of those men, women and children directly affected by human conflict, collectively form an authoritative narrative in which the unexpurgated and deeply uncomfortable truth of war is laid bare.

    Anne Frank, arguably one of the most powerful voices and witnesses to the unsentimental reality of war, made the following sage and poignant diary entry:

    Wednesday, 3 May 1944

    “As you can no doubt imagine, we often say in despair, ‘What’s the point of the war? Why, oh, why can’t people live together peacefully? Why all this destruction?’

    “The question is understandable, but so far no one has come up with a satisfactory answer. Why is England manufacturing bigger and better aeroplanes and bombs and at the same time churning out new houses for reconstruction? Why are millions spent on the war each day, while not a penny is available for medical science, artists or the poor? Why do people have to starve when mountains of food are rotting away in other parts of the world? Oh, why are people so crazy?

    “I don’t believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago! There’s a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged, and everything that has been carefully built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and destroyed, only to start all over again!”

    The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank, Penguin Books, 2008

    “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” – George Santayana

  2. What about the Hollinwood War Memorial? We had to fight for years to have the names obliterated by weather damage to be restored. Thanks to our local Councillors, both Labour and Lib-Dem, the necissary work, together with the new flag pole, has been completed but it took a long time.

    RESPONSE: Thanks for the contribution. The Hollinwood Memorial is maintained by the church, hence not being on our list. The upgrade was supported by the council through the District Partnership.

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