A CAMPAIGN for a new war memorial in Bicester to honour those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice is gathering pace.
The Bicester and District Branch of the Royal British Legion says the current memorial is “not fit for purpose” and should be replaced with a more accessible tribute.
The Legion has teamed up with members of Bicester Local History Society to get the ball rolling and plan to set up a committee to oversee the project.
The five-year campaign will be in two parts.
Firstly the current war memorial in St Edburg’s churchyard will be refurbished in time to mark the Centenary of the start of the First World War.
Secondly a new memorial will be created, which will include of the names of those from Bicester who have paid the ultimate price in conflicts around the globe.
David Crabbe, branch secretary of Bicester and Launton RBL, said: “The one we have is in a poor state of repair and doesn’t have any names on the memorial. Names are all on plaques around the church, and it’s not accessible to the population at large – they just don’t know where it is.”
One idea is to create a memorial wall and small garden with seating area for people to sit peacefully and reflect.
At the moment, a cross in St Edburg’s churchyard is the focus for the town’s Remembrance Day service, and about 50 names of those who fell in the First and Second World Wars are on a stone plaque in the porch of the church.
But there is nowhere to commemorate those who died in more recent conflicts such as Afghanistan.
Mr Crabbe said: “I think each town should have a place where those who want to pay their respects can, and everyone knows where it is and what its’s for. We are a garrison town and it’s poignant to the area as we have had guys injured and sadly killed in recent years.”
The first stage of the project, which is the brainchild of RBL member Paul Gamble, will be to form a committee and interested parties are being urged to get in touch.
Costs are yet to be worked out and the once the committee is formed they hope to apply for grants, including cash from a new £6m Heritage Lottery Fund pot for communities to mark the First World War centenary.
Bob Hessian, of Bicester Local History Society, lobbied councillors last Wednesday to back a memorial campaign.
He is also keen to get schools and other organisations involved in marking the centenary and finding out more about Bicester’s role in the First World War.
Bicester Town Council said is supported proposals to refurbish the current memorial, but said a debate would need to take place about relocating the war memorial.
Anyone interested in joining the committee can contact Mr Hessain on 01869 350662 or Mr Crabbe on 01869 249303.
RECENT CASUALTIES OF WAR
BICESTER’S 23 Pioneer Regiment has lost three men during the conflict in Afghanistan.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Charles Wood, 34, from Middlesbrough was caught in a blast from an IED (improvised explosive device) as he led the clearance of a route through the Khushdal Kalay area of the Helmand River Valley in December 2010.
Last May, Corporal Andrew Roberts, 32, and Private Ratu Silibaravi – based at St David’s Barracks, near Bicester – died when a mortar shell exploded inside their forward operating base in Helmand province.