The original tablets suffered from exposure to the elements, vandalism and deterioration caused by the mounting in their setting and location in which they had stood since November 1976. It became more and more apparent that if nothing were done there was a real risk that part of Wickford’s heritage would be lost, and with it the last remaining parts of the Nurses Home.
However, in 2004 early explorative talks commenced with Basildon District Council which met with a positive response and a general agreement that something needed to be done. As such the Wickford War Memorial Association (WWMA) was founded as an umbrella organisation that could liaise with all interested parties, from council to family members of those recorded, to try and ensure the project gained momentum and finally provide the town with a memorial it could be proud of.
As part of this Steve Newman of the WWMA wrote and produced the book ‘Wickford Heroes’ that told the stories behind the names on the memorial, to be sold to raise funds for the new memorial. This went alongside plans to try and do much more within the park than just restore the memorial, but sadly the lottery grant to enable all of the desired works to be completed was turned down.
However, despite this setback, the project was broken down into smaller sections and more relevant funding sources were sought. A memorial was designed, having completed many public surveys about what would be appropriate, free of charge by Oscar nominated Art Designer Alan Tompkins and the design met with universal approval in model form. A quote of £70,000 was the figure that was needed to be raised to make the plans become a reality.
Funding was sought from a number of locations and in 2010 the numbers started to add up to show that finally the project would get the green light. The main sponsors were The Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust, The Essex Environment Agency, The Wickford War Memorial Association, Basildon District Council and Essex County Council, without whom it would never have happened.
Throughout the summer of 2011 the original plaques were removed from the hideous mounts and carefully cleaned and restored. Building work started in the Autumn and all was ready for the unveiling ceremony that took place on November 4, 2011.
The memorial was unveiled by the now Lord Lieutenant of Essex, Lord Petre, who is also patron of the WWMA. Nearly 150 people attended, including many family members of those recorded, dignitaries and a representative from Zonebeke, in Belgium, part of the Ypres Salient battlefield where many of the Wickford men still lie to this day, many still lost in the fields where they perished.
The memorial itself also included many ‘new’ names of those that had connections to the town but had never been included for a variety of reasons (see part 1) and the project went for ‘inclusion rather than exclusion’ of those with a tenable link to the town. A new parade ground was added which is marked out with the foot print of the old Nurses Home, highlighted in darker brick work giving a link back to the lost memorial.
In early 2012 a ‘Heroes Arboretum’ of trees was added, recording all the Theatres of Operations where Wickford men were killed, being planted over the site where previously the memorial had stood.
Finally Wickford has a war memorial it can be proud of, but still the work goes on to improve other parts of the park that relate to its heritage as a war memorial park, which can be followed at the website www.wickfordmemorial.com