Statues replaced in military fashion

The sun was shining on the Garden of Remembrance as crowds gathered to watch the unveiling of two new statues.

They were carved to replace the Gilbert Bayes originals which were stolen almost two decades ago.

The statues, named “The Lamp of Memory” and “The Shield of Honour” were rededicated following a full military parade, led by the Lancashire Fusiliers Fife and Drum band.

The commemoration parade, including representatives from the Royal Lancashire Fusiliers, the Fusiliers Association, local Royal British Legion branches, cadets from the army, navy and air force service branches, former service personnel and the Todmorden Pals group, made its journey through the town.

Crowds gathered to welcome the parade and listen to the moving rededication service, attended by several members of the Bayes family.

The project to replace the Grade II listed statues was undertaken by the Todmorden Civic Society, under the direction of Paul Clarke - a former soldier in the Royal Artillery.

Speaking after the service, Paul said: “It’s quite emotional as we’ve waited four years for this project to come to fruition. They have brought some context back in to the Garden of Remembrance and they will be there for this year’s remembrance service.

“War memorials aren’t for glorifying the dead, they remember those who lost their lives- whether they volunteered or were forced to fight through conscription.”

The statues were three years in the making and were carved by Nick Roberson, a member of The Master Carvers Association.

Further works to the memorial, including structural repairs to the stone steps at the rear of the garden and re-pointing of the memorial wall were carried out by Calderdale Council’s specialist contractors Bullen Conservation,

Darren Midgley, current Civic Society Chairman, added: “It’s fantastic, it’s the culmination of four years of hard work.

“I’ve thought about this day quite a lot and I never realised how it would go.

“I’m glad people have come out to see what we have been talking about.”

The service was made all the more poignant, as the date was chosen to mark the day immediately before the death of the first Todmorden soldier to be killed in the Great War.

Private Willie Nelson, of Walsden, served in the British Expeditionary Force and was sent to France and died in action at Lorges on October 13, 1914.

Darren Widdup, of the Todmorden branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “The service was really well supported, with people from far and wide coming out.

“Its been a great day and a good way to commemorate those who fell so that we can live the life we have now.”

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker congratulated those involved in making the project a success.

“It’s something that everyone can be immensely proud of,” he said.