Granite memorial obelisk marking the First World War Indian Army Convalescent Depot at Barton on Sea, unveiled 1917.
Reasons for Designation
The memorial obelisk marking the Barton on Sea Indian Army Convalescent Depot, which stands on Barton Court Avenue, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as an eloquent witness to the impact of world events on the community of Barton on Sea, and the sacrifices made by Commonwealth troops in the First World War.
* a simple yet poignant memorial obelisk in the Classical style, including inscriptions in both English and Urdu.
The aftermath of the First World War saw the biggest single wave of public commemoration ever with tens of thousands of memorials erected across England. This was the result of both the huge impact on communities of the loss of three quarters of a million British lives, and also the official policy of not repatriating the dead which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss. However, this trend had its roots not in the wake of the war but in the midst of the conflict.
As the war progressed and the number of casualties increased, memorials were already being built to remember the dead and those still serving on the battlefields abroad. These took the form of private memorials to family members but also a growing number were being erected by, or on behalf of, local communities. The earliest known example of a community memorial is thought to be the War Memorial in Rawtenstall Cemetery, Lancashire (Grade II). Erected in September 1915 at the instigation of Councillor Carrie Whitehead, the intention is clearly inscribed on the memorial for it to act as “some comfort to those who lost men very dear to them.” Another form of early First World War community memorial was the street shrine. This practice originated in the East End of London, but was soon adopted in other towns to commemorate those from a particular street. In some instances these shrines also included relatives from other streets, while some covered whole districts. Surviving examples include those in Eton Street (erected October 1916) and Sharp Street (erected May 1917) in Kingston upon Hull. The erection of memorials in the midst of the conflict was considered controversial by some but by 1917 the desire among communities for some form of commemoration was clear.
Whilst some villages and towns began to mark the service of military personnel overseas, the impact of the war on the ‘Home Front’ was also being felt. Not only were training facilities and military manufacturing expanding, but also medical facilities to treat sick and wounded soldiers had to grow. The number of existing hospital beds became insufficient for the large number of casualties requiring treatment in the UK. As a temporary measure the War Office sought to use some Poor Law Infirmaries to assist with the situation, and other depots making use of convenient large buildings were opened.
A convalescent hospital Depot for troops was opened at Barton on Sea in 1914. Soldiers sick and injured during the fighting in the European theatres of conflict, and recuperating in England, could be cared for by a small medical team in the healthy seaside location. First, the sea-front hotel Barton Court was adapted into Barton Convalescent Camp; then the Grand Marine Hotel was commandeered to cope with the growing numbers of casualties; finally, a temporary hutted camp was added in the hotel grounds and on adjacent land.
Initially only British troops had been admitted, but it was not long before Indian soldiers (on service in the trenches in France and Flanders) were being treated at the Depot, and it became known as the Indian Army Convalescent Home. More than 1 million servicemen of the Indian Army served overseas during the First World War, of whom around 74,000 died. Some 25,000 sick soldiers were posted to Barton on Sea to recover, benefitting not only from the medical facilities and sea air, but also the YMCA theatre and other facilities at the extensive camp. By mid-1917 the complex was no longer being used to treat the Indian troops as their regiments had been posted from European to more distant theatres of conflict.
Desiring to commemorate the Depot and its soldiers, the medical staff subscribed to a memorial fund and the obelisk, marking the Indian Army Convalescent Home, was unveiled on 10 July 1917 by Lt-Col J Chaytor White IMS CMC. Chaytor White had been Commandant of the Depot. The memorial was built by Mr H Drew.
MATERIALS: granite, metal lettering.
DESCRIPTION: the memorial stands at the southern end of Barton Court Avenue, immediately to the north of the position of Barton Court and the Depot buildings. The tall granite obelisk, square on plan, is rough-hewn. It rises from a plain block of stone surmounting the pedestal: the pedestal stands on a two-stepped base.
The principal dedicatory inscription in rendered on the pedestal in English and Urdu. On the north face this reads THIS MEMORIAL/ IS ERECTED TO COMMEMORATE/ THE ESTABLISHMENT AT/ BARTON ON SEA IN 1914/ OF THE CONVALESCENT DEPOT FOR/ INDIAN TROOPS WHO FOUGHT IN/ EUROPE DURING THE GREAT WAR/ AND WAS SUBSCRIBED FOR BY/ MEMBERS OF THE STAFF. The dedication, in Urdu, is repeated on the east face. The names of the Commandant and Assistant Commandant are recorded on a third face.