Commemorative events that caught the imagination

Commemorating the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War in the Calder Valley
Commemorating the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War in the Calder Valley

One subject which drew people’s interest in the Calder Valley during 2014 was the marking of the centenary of the outbreak of the First

World War.

It caught the imagination, as people researched relatives who had fought in the conflict, and the subject found its way into many events.

A number of councils and chapels compiled rolls of those who had fought, and come November, with events on both Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day itself, in churches, schools, community groups and other organisations as well as civic commemorations, attendances were the best for years as people got together to pay their respects.

Some projects which demonstrated the occasion’s importance to the valley communities included the following.

In Luddenden Foot, the Luddenden WW1 Commemoration Project, began Th e Hero from our Home, a new community history project which aims to find either a family member who is still living locally or a current Luddenden resident to remember each one of the 45 First World War servicemen who are commemorated on the Luddenden and Midgley War Memorial.

They began with Private Thomas Greenwood, Luddenden’s first fatality during the First World War, who was commemorated on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in a special ceremony in his home village, exactly a century after he was killed in action.

His great-niece Gillian Holt of Midgley, a ceramicist whose family history of war and remembrance provides the inspiration for her pottery, laid a poppy cross in his memory at the Luddenden and Midgley War Memorial.

In Hebden Bridge the imagination was certainly caught by Loss Is Eternal, the sand sculpture by Jamie Wardley from Sand in Your Eye.

Illustrating that the grief and loss caused by war does not go away, the sculpture originally showed a young widow’s grief, depicting her receiving news that her husband has been killed in the Great War.

Jamie, in addition to repairing it on one occasion following some vandalism damage, returned twice to age the statue before the wilder elements of autumn eventually claimed it.

At the other end of the valley, two major events marked the centenary.

In August, the Todmorden Pals, modern-day volunteers, got together to recreate their forbears march to muster. Back in 1914 they were the town’s Territorial Army volunteers and they were summoned to Rochdale just days after the conflict broke out.

The 2014 volunteers, including some civilians and volunteers dressed as Great War nurses, made the march in torrential rain, though the sun came out when they were given a cvic reception at Rochdale Town Hall as the event became a major Lancashire Fusiliers commemmoration event.

In their First World War uniforms, the volunteers also guested at several other events involving the Fusiliers, including one at Manchester Cathedral.

The modern-day Fusiliers band supported the other major event in Todmorden.

Todmorden Civic Society had fundraised to fund sculptor Nick Roberson to replicate the two Gilbert Bayes statues which once stood in the Garden of Remembrance at Centre Vale Park, Todmorden.

The originals were stolen in the mid 1990s and were a real loss to the town, sculpted as they were by an artist who had strong family links with Todmorden, and a bumper crowd turned out to attend the parade, unveiling and rededication event.