The Strange Case of the Bin-Like War Memorial

A Devizes resident, Simon Frankland on a Sunday stroll with his dog, stops to take a snap of an odd concrete rectangle on the grass verge of London Road, opposite the Aster Group building. Posting it to Facebook group, The Devizes Issue caused something of a mysterious stir, because while it rather resembles one of those seventies litter bins, Mr Frankland pointed out it is not, rather it is a YMCA war memorial, dedicating a long-lost garden to the fallen; who knew?

Some did it seems, after publishing this, so please read on to the updated section at the end, where some assumptions I gave are corrected, but the saga continues as more information about it is speculated on social media. The plot thickens, but the one thing we’re certain of it is not a bin, so don’t use it as one!

Begging for some to throw toys from their prams that it is disrespectful to use it as a bin, which by the paper and bottles wedged into it, and doggy poo bags surrounding it, appears it has been for some time, it must be said, you cannot blame folk because, left to the powers of nature, it does look uncannily like a bin, especially if passing by it on a dark winter evening, hurrying on a busy main road. Even those, apparently responsible for its upkeep, Bishop’s Cannings Parish Council, agree it does.

But if it was clearly marked and renovated, yes, of course, it would be disrespectful. There appears to be some markings engraved on the stone, but it is so worn they are near illegible and undefinable. Curiously, despite its rudimentary rectangular design, the reason it has been left to dilapidation, is its very being, and the location of its being.

I’m not here to point the blame at anyone, as it seems it has been understandably overlooked. Though it is based in Devizes, Town Councillor Iain Wallis believes it is the jurisdiction of the Bishop’s Cannings Parish Council, as his area stops at St James Church. Though the parish council admits while it is their responsibility, they appear equally unaware of it as others, and they think the design of it certainly lies with Devizes Town Council.

An antiquated boundary, an unfortunate bad design, premonition of a council litter bin thirty years prior, are likely the reason for it being overlooked and misused; a monument discounted through being on the borderline, near gardens of the barracks long closed down; you can’t stop the hands of time, but we can realise and respond accordingly to correct it.

As a consequence of me bringing the post to the attention of Bishop’s Cannings Parish Council, an email and a photo has been sent to the chair and clerk, and a parish councillor replied, “no doubts it will get sorted, as we have the RBL Seend Secretary as one of our Parish Councillors.”

Seems failproof, but I’m certain if it doesn’t happen through official procedures, our fabulous and trusty CUDS will be on the mission, as someone pointed out, they could just put a flower bed around it. It wouldn’t cost a fortune to make it identifiable, and then if someone still drops a doggie poo bag by it, Facebook police are rightful to have pop!

All’s well that ends well; i figured. We hope it will at least be renovated so it is clear what it is, and hopefully it’s meaning will be restored. Much as some whinge about social media, the power of such a post has to be admired, on a Sunday too; good job Simon!

Important update: contrary to my original assumptions about the monument, I’ve kindly heard from John Merritt, who has opened a Pandora’s box, by explaining it was placed as a result of the efforts of former Mayor of Devizes, Jim Thorpe, and was “unveilled” on 15th of August 2015.

Others have speculated it was merely moved at that point, from Hopton Estate outside the old Kennet Council offices to where it is now, so furthermore, it could actually be the responsibility of Wiltshire Council, or even the defunct Kennet Council, which may explain why it has been left to dilapidate.

Yet John’s revelation explained its existence, it perplexed me even more as to why it was designed to resemble a bin. Asking for it really.

John’s answer was simple and direct, “because nobody cares,” and he shared a letter he personally penned to the Gazette and Herald at the time, expressing dissatisfaction that despite Jim’s sterling efforts to get the stone to prominence, this particular ceremony was not intended to mark VJ Day. Along with traffic in Marlborough not being stopped for the occasion, John added, “contributes to the feelings of those who served in the Far East campaign that they are still the Forgotten Army.” A letter you really need to read to fully comprehend.

I apologise for my assumptions on this issue, and hope it did not offend. I can see this becoming “the war memorial bin saga,” but in light of this update, I’d argue all the more reason to at least renovate it so it is clearly not used for litter.

Personally, you know, I have a tin; that’s my war memorial. I take it out every Remembrance Day and browse through the keepsakes my Nan handed down to me. There’s photos, medels, letters from the war office, a notebook of my grandad’s movements with entries which alarmingly gets vauger as time goes on, and a Christmas dinner flyer 1947, signed on the reverse by all his fellow soldiers. It also interests my children too, who I’ll try my upmost to recite the stories he told me. For me, that’s my stone, and it would never be used as a bin.


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