By Paul Draper, for Fairlight History Group and the War Memorial Steering Group
Fairlight does not have a complete War Memorial where we can meet and hold ceremonies to commemorate our victims of World War 1 and World War 2. The present situation is incomplete, inaccurate and bitty. Yes, we have three plaques inside St. Andrew’s Church, two Commonwealth War Graves Commission stones in the graveyard and a large stone in the Catholic Burial Ground, but even together they do not record the full list of our victims. We think that the time has come for Fairlight to put the record straight.
Readers of Fairlight News will remember that in 2018 I prepared a full story covering our existing memorials, written in four parts. (See Fairlight History Group’s website at www.fairlighthistory.co.uk if you no longer have your magazine.) Because of the connections between our two Parishes, I wrote about both Fairlight and Pett together and whilst researching the stories I discovered that both Parishes had many missing names. In the case of Pett, it was possible to prepare an additional plaque to the missing ten men to supplement the existing memorial and this was unveiled at a special ceremony on 11th November 2018. The situation was different for Fairlight and we were unable to organise matters in time.
In late 2019 we started investigating the possibility of rectifying the Fairlight situation and a small steering group was set up to oversee the process. It comprised representatives from Fairlight Parish Council, Fairlight Parochial Church Council, the Royal British Legion and Fairlight History Group, all endorsed by Fairlight Parish Council. We made rapid progress but then sadly the Covid 19 situation developed and the project had to take a back seat.
At the same time we had decided it would be fitting if a small additional plaque were to be placed in our Village Hall to commemorate all those people who had made contributions to the WW2 war effort. This was completed and installed by VE Day, 8th May 2020, the 75th anniversary of the ending of hostilities in Europe. Sadly, all the planned formalities surrounding the unveiling had to be cancelled, but when you finally get back into the Village Hall you can see it there in the Small Hall.
The New VE Day Plaque installed in the Small Village Hall
The existing plaques remember nineteen men who lost their lives in WW1 and four from WW2. Additionally there is a family plaque for 2nd Lt Samuel Hubert Alston Turner, a member of the influential local family, the Martineaus, after whom Martineau Lane is named. Our investigations have shown that another ten names could have been included for WW1 and another thirteen, including three civilians for WW2. The steering group has checked the cases for all of these people and agreed that the new complete memorial should include their names.
The existing WW1 plaque remembering nineteen men and the family plaque of 2nd Lt. Hubert Samuel Alston Turner of the Martineau family.
The steering group has considered the options for where in the Parish of Fairlight the new memorial should be located and has concluded that the best situation will be to place it near St. Andrew’s, on the land immediately outside the graveyard. This will give clear accessibility on special occasions and make it available to all, throughout the year. The picture below gives a sense of what is intended. The impression is necessarily approximate because it all depends on the exact stone we are able to acquire.
An impression of the proposed new memorial in situ.
We were unable to complete this project last year because of the pandemic but this year we aim to have matters complete in time for Remembrance Day in November. There is still a lot to do but the Parish Council has endorsed the proposals of the steering group which has prepared a plan of action to achieve the project. We need to have final permission from the church authorities and also from Rother District Council. Hopefully, by the time you read this, we will have found an architect or draughtsman, drawn up professional plans and submitted them to the previously mentioned authorities.
Clearly, the project will need financing and unfortunately there is no national fund to pick up the cost which is expected to be around £7000. Fairlight Parish Council has so far supported the project by covering the cost of the planning applications and previously they paid for the plaque commemorating the 75th anniversary of VE Day. But for the balance we will be launching a public fund-raising campaign in addition to seeking grants and donations from interested parties, associated organisations and, finally, from the people of Fairlight.
In the summer, on the weekend of 10th/11th July, in conjunction with the 2021 Fairlight Open Gardens event, there will be a comprehensive fund-raising exhibition in the Village Hall of Fairlight in the two World Wars, including details of all the people to be commemorated on the new memorial. In that connection, if you know of a family member, colleague or friend who you believe should be included, please urgently contact us with the details.
Finally, we hope you will all agree that it is our duty to honour and respect all of those men and women of Fairlight, service personnel and civilians, who gave their lives in those conflicts and that, however belatedly, it is now within our power to set the record straight in perpetuity.
By Paul Draper