Sidmouth War Memorial had two unveilings

Sidmouth celebrated 90th anniversary of war memorial this month, but could it be the 91st?

ON Sunday, February 20, 1921, a memorial to the fallen from the First World War, was unveiled and dedicated at Sidmouth Parish Church.

The Sidmouth Observer recorded at the time: “Sunday opened with a brilliant sun, shining from a blue sky scattered with light, fleecy clouds.

“Birds sang their songs in the tree-tops and everywhere the birth of new life was apparent.

“It was a morning of joy – all living things felt it, but in many hearts the ache of bereavement was stirred and thoughts turned to a monument which stood in the Parish Churchyard and to why it stood there, covered with the Union Jack.

“This monument was placed in the shadow of the church tower in front of the South Door and it was erected as a Memorial to the men and one woman, of Sidmouth, who gave their lives in the Great War of 1914-1919.

“In the afternoon it was to be unveiled by distinguished representatives of the Navy and Army, together with two tablets placed inside the church, bearing the names of those who had died in the service of their country – a balance sheet showing the real cost of the war.

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“Towards 3pm large crowds assembled in Church Street to witness the unveiling and dedication ceremony. Soon that street was entirely packed, a vast sea of faces all turned towards one spot. Inside an enclosure around the memorial; formed by the Comrades of the Great War, the Boy Scouts, the Church Lads’ Brigade Cadets and Girl Guides, stood relatives of the fallen, representatives of the organisations of ex-service men, members and officials of the Urban District Council, and members of various juvenile associations.

After the dedication of the tablets in the church, the procession of clergy, choir and the naval and military representatives proceeded to the Cross and the ceremony of unveiling and dedication was performed.

“While this was proceeding, the vast crowd stood silent, listening to the sacred exhortations with a sincere attention – and so through the service till the strains of the National Anthem rose upon the air.

Then, in one long unending procession, people crowded about the Cross to look upon the floral tokens which had been placed at its base, from a little bunch of primroses to the well-fashioned wreath.”

The report continues with a list of those in the procession and the contents of an address to those assembled by Rear Admiral Mauric Woollcombe CB. It also lists the names and tributes of the fallen.

On Armistice Day in Sidmouth 1920, a similar ceremony was being watched by crowds near the Three Cornered Plot.

An Ellis photograph of this occasion, reproduced in Around Sidmouth, compiled by Les Berry and Gerald Gosling, has the caption: “Armistice Day, Sidmouth 1920. This was almost certainly combined with the unveiling of the war memorial, which later moved to the parish church.”

It also notes the lack of any development in the area.

So it seems Sidmouth’s war memorial had two unveilings and two homes.