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Remembering Passchendaele: War Memorials Listed

  • Historic England marks 100 years since the Battle of Passchendaele began with 13 new and upgraded war memorial listings
  • Also known as the 3rd Battle of Ypres, this was the main British offensive of 1917 and took place on the much fought-over Ypres Salient. The ferocity and horror of the battle is encapsulated in Siegfried Sassoon’s famous line “I died in hell - They called it Passchendaele”
  • Memorials at home mark the unique stories and terrible consequences for communities across England after the massive losses

Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry Memorial, Castle Canyke Road, Bodmin, Cornwall has been upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*
Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry Memorial, Castle Canyke Road, Bodmin, Cornwall has been upgraded from Grade II to Grade II* © Historic England Archive DP196388

As descendants of those who fought at the Third Battle of Ypres travel to Belgium to commemorate the Centenary of Passchendaele, Historic England looks to the memorials at home which mark the ultimate sacrifice made by so many men 100 years ago.

13 war memorials across England have been listed or upgraded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing at Historic England, said: “Passchendaele was a truly grim affair, waged over three muddy, bloody months. It succeeded in wearing down the Germans and taking pressure off the French, but at a high cost in lives. These newly listed and upgraded memorials are just some of the tributes to the losses of so many.”

Guildford War Memorial, Garden of Remembrance, Guildford Castle, Surrey has been listed at Grade II today
Guildford War Memorial, Garden of Remembrance, Guildford Castle, Surrey has been listed at Grade II today © Historic England Archive DP182722

Colliery owner who survived the Somme and Messines, died at Passchendaele saying goodbye to friends

Among the 5 newly listed and 8 upgraded memorials is the cross in Hamsterley village, County Durham (listed today at Grade II) which marks especially the death of Major Arthur T Watson whose family ran the nearby colliery. Watson had always wanted to be a soldier, but was initially thwarted because of the loss of his right eye in a shooting accident in Britain. He was badly wounded at the Battle of the Somme but recovered and returned to France in June 1917 and fought at the Battle of Messines. Eight weeks later, Watson died during the Battle of Passchendaele.

Watson had been given a transfer back home, but decided to say goodbye to his friends before he left. As he picked up a bundle of the soldiers’ letters to take back with him, an enemy shell exploded nearby and he was mortally injured. He was buried at La Clytte Military Cemetery, Belgium, but remembered at home with an inscription on the memorial reading: “The workmen of this Village wish to place on record their sorrow at the loss of their friend and Employer whose memory they will hold in affection for all time.”

Rugby star and war hero

Another new listing is the memorial to Edgar Roberts Mobbs (listed today at Grade II*) in Northampton - a rare example of a public war memorial dedicated to an individual.

Mobbs was a celebrated English rugby international who captained the Northampton Rugby union side in 1907-1913. When war broke out, the 32 year old Mobbs was refused a commission on age grounds. Undeterred and using his huge popularity and charisma, he raised his own ‘Sportsman’s Battalion’ of 264 sportsmen (Mobbs’ Own) in the Northamptonshire Regiment.

He fought at the Battles of Loos, Somme, Arras and Messines and was killed in action on 31 July, the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele. His body was never found.

Edgar Mobbs War Memorial, Garden of Remembrance, Kettering Road, Northampton has been listed Grade II*
Edgar Mobbs War Memorial, Garden of Remembrance, Kettering Road, Northampton has been listed Grade II* © Historic England Archive DP217171

Park landscaped as a memorial garden by ex-servicemen

Not all memorials are in the form of cenotaphs or soldiers in bronze: a park landscaped as a memorial garden by ex-servicemen is among the new listings.

Rickerby Park in Carlisle, Cumbria (listed today at Grade II) was laid out around 1835 but acquired as a public park by the people of Carlisle and altered in 1920-22 as a memorial to their dead. Unemployed ex-servicemen were employed to carry out the work; perhaps as a chance to honour comrades who had not returned home. At the centre of the park is the Cumberland and Westmorland War Memorial, a large stone cenotaph (today upgraded to II* ), a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by over 10,000 men of the Border Regiment, the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry Cavalry, and the Cumberland Artillery, who died engagements in the war, including at Passchendaele.

“The Finest Monument which can be erected to the brave dead is one which will benefit the living.”

Taking this to heart, Lancastrians decided on a novel way to pay testament to the sacrifice made by members of the local community; they built a memorial village to provide accommodation and employment for disabled veterans, primarily those who had served with the city's local regiment (the King's Own Royal Lancasters). Westfield Memorial Village in Lancaster was formally opened by General Haig on 24 November 1924 and still operates as a charity and home for ex-servicemen to this day.

A more traditional form of sculptural war memorial (today upgraded to II* ) was designed to be central to the village, with streets radiating out from it. Jennie Delahunt, a local school art teacher, designed and made the memorial which shows a soldier helping a fellow soldier in need, a poignant reflection of the purpose of the village.

The War Memorial in Westfield Memorial Village, Lancaster has been ugraded from Grade II to Grade II*
The War Memorial in Westfield Memorial Village, Lancaster has been ugraded from Grade II to Grade II* © Historic England Archive DP156627

All newly listed memorials:

Newly upgraded memorials:

Re-listed memorial

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