Crofton Park War Memorial
“The Glory of England”
Article from The Kentish Mercury, June 4, 1920
In the presence of a large gathering – which included Churchpeople, Nonconformists, ex-sailors and soldiers, and boy scouts – General Sir Ian Hamilton, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., D.S.O., unveiled on Saturday afternoon a Celtic cross (an exact copy of the ancient cross of St. Columb, Cornwall) which has been erected in the grounds of St. Hilda’s Church, Crofton Park, as a memorial of the 144 men and one nursing sister (Miss Rosabelle Stanley) from the parish who laid lown their lives in the war. The cross which is of Cornish granite, is 14 ft in height, and the cost, upwards of £350, has been subscribed by the relatives of the fallen and other residents in Crofton Park. The names of those who made the supreme sacrifice are carved, together with an inscription, on the base of the cross.
Sir Ian Hamilton was received with a gaurd of honour furnished by the 1st (St. Hilda’s) Crofton Park Troop of Scouts and the church-wardens (Messrs. B. Ingram and F. H. Pascoe), a general salute being sounded by trumpeters of the Army Ordnance Corps. In the procession from the vestry, the Vicar (the Rev. A. Shirley) walked first, followed by the augmented choir. General Ian Hamilton, the Bishop of Woolwich (in cope and mitre), two former Vicars, the Revs. Courtenay Weeks and C. T. Waring (Vicar of St. Philips, Sydenham), the Rev. Bruce Walker (curate), and two former curates, the Revs. S. W. A. Collins and S. Luscombe. There were also present in the enclosure the Mayor of Lewisham (Councillor Harry Chiesman, J.P., M.B.E.), and the following members of the Lewisham Borough Council:- Councillors Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Cockerton, Garside, White, May, Elkerton and Marsh. Grouped in front of the Memorial were a number of children, the names of whose fathers and relatives are inscribed thereon.
The opening hymn was “O God our help in ages past,” and the Bishop having blessed the people, Mr. R. J. Mines (hon. sec. of the memorial fund) read the names of the fallen. Under the direction of Mr. A. E. Perry, F.R.C.O. (organist and choirmaster of the church), the choir lead the singing of Arkwright’s “O valiant hearts,” and the Rev. Courtenay Weeks read a lesson from Wisdom, first chapter, eighth verse (“The souls of the righteous are in the Hand of God”), which was followed by the antiphon “Give rest O Lord to Thy servants and Thy saints” and the 121st Psalm (“I will lift up mine eyes”). The Vicar recited the opening sentences of the “Burial Service” after the General Sir Ian Hamilton gave the address.
The General said that those boys – they were most of them very young – in whose remembrance a memorial was now to be unveiled, were just their own boys. There was nothing about them to mark them out from their fellows in offices, workshops, factories. They were not a caste apart, soldiers by profession or soldiers of fortune. They were workers, shielded always, as was the British tradition, from the miseries of war by a Regular Army. So it came that in the early summer of 1914 those whose names were inscribed on the memorial were absorbed in their own affairs; educating themselves at school for their career, or already earning their living. No scene more peaceful could be imagined than that through which suddenly there sounded an alarm; a call which rang through the quiet countryside and stilled the bustle of the town – “The Enemy!” How it had all happened no one exactly knew, but there the emeny stood at the gate; howitzers, machine guns, high explosives; war-trained straining at the leash after a hundred years of conscription. So what did these boys do – hands that had never held a sword, minds that had never dream of war? Why, they downed their tools, books or pens and picked up their rifles. Their fathers and mothers were cut up; there was a girl, perhaps through whose soul there passed a chill and deadly fear; but, on the whole, there was no fuss; quite simply they went; no grand send-off or cheering crowd, because everyone that worthy of the name of Britain was doing the same; it seemed the natural, the only thing to be done. This manner of the going of our young men to war would be accounted for ever and ever the chief glory of England and Scotland; at the same time, an explanation and a justification of the magnificence of the British Empire. He was about to unvail the names of men in the day were free; not the record of registered numbers who got orders to take the field and mechanically obeyed. They were live, free men of Crofton Park and they went on their own. Five million volunteers – that was what no historian would be able to understand. That was what no foreigner could understand now – no, not one of them. Voluntaryism – freedom – for they were twins – formed the finest foundation for a great Empire. They understood why they went, for they were their own boys; they loved them and through love they understood. He was not worthy to unveil the memorial, but some of them present thought him worthy and wrote as follows: “Please Sir Ian, do come if you can. We are only a working class district, and have no influence, but we did love our boys and want to honour their memory as much as we possibly can.” “So,” concluded the galiant General, “I unveil this Celtic Cross, more glorious as a record of our race than marble Kings and Queens, or even than the Abbey that holds them.”
The Bishop then dedicated the memorial, and the impressive service terminated with the National Anthem and the “Last Post” and “Reveille” sounded by the trumpeters.
The cross, designed by Messrs. F. H. Greenaway and J. E. Newberry, the architects of the church, was prepared and built by Mr. W. Richards, monumental sculptor, of Brockley Road. The Vicar was chairman of the memorial committee, who comprised: Mr. R. J. Mines, hon. secretary; Messrs. B. Ingram Bryant and F. H. Pascoe, hon. treasurers; Messrs. E. Lester, G. A. Westlake, T. Sherborne, C. H. Johnson, and F. W. Lee, Mrs. Harrop, Mrs, Midgley, and the Misses J. Hoge, M. Mergan and O. W. Brooker, committee.
Special services of thanksgiving were held all day on Sunday, the Vicar preaching in the morning and the Rev. W. Bruce Walker in the evening. A combined service for the young people of the church was held at the cross in the afternoon, the Vicar officiating.