HAVE you ever considered the problems encountered to get a new war memorial erected on your local village green? Two years ago I never thought for one moment how difficult it would be,” Keith Brooks from Horspath told me.

Now he has washed his hands of the whole project: “It has got to the point where it is perfectly clear that the council has no intention of doing what the residents want, let alone what I would like. It’s rather sad after all that our veterans went through and did for the village community and the country. Therefore I want nothing more to do with the war memorial,’ he wrote me last week.

What’s gone wrong? Well, from the point of view of Keith Brooks he has been overwhelmed by inertia.

Two years ago he asked Horspath Parish Council to erect a permanent stone war memorial. “My idea is for a permanent war memorial on the village green for everyone to see and respect every day of the year especially the kids. It would not only remember those killed in battle but those who returned and not only from WW1 and WW2 but all conflicts (Korea, the Falklands, Afghanistan).

It must be simple and maintenance-ree and last for hundreds of years to come, which is why I suggested a solid block of stone. My plan would cost about £4,250 for the stone and then the cost of a concrete base, and considering what these people went through fighting for our freedom £4,000 or £5,000 is nothing. Besides I offered to pay for it myself out of my old-age-pension payments.

“In those two years the only thing the parish council has done positively towards this project is to organise a questionnaire asking ‘Do you support the proposal to erect a stone war memorial in the Green?’ I’ve seen the questionnaire and results data from 130 replies received up until midnight on Sunday 31st May, 2015 -- 96 people were in favour, 32 were opposed. That’s a fairly decisive result of three to one in favour.”

One of the reasons Keith Brooks feels so strongly about this project is because his grandfather, Sergeant Major Edward Brooks from the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry was awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. The citation tells an incredible story: “This Warrant Officer, while taking part in a raid on the enemy’s trenches, saw that the front wave was checked by an enemy machine gun at close quarters. On his own initiative, and regardless of personal danger, he rushed forward from the second wave with the object of capturing the gun, killing one of the gunners with his revolver and bayoneting another. The remainder of the gun’s crew then made off, leaving the gun in his possession.

“Company Sergeant Major Brooks then turned the machine gun on to the retreating enemy after which he carried it back to our lines.

“By his courage and initiative he undoubtedly prevented many casualties, and greatly added to the success of the operation.”

There is more recent history associated with the war memorial. For Remembrance Sunday in 2014, Keith Brooks constructed a memorial in his garage with a roll of honour for the fallen. The parish council ordered him not to proceed. The parish clerk wrote a stiff note: “I must point out that any unauthorised memorial that is placed in the village or on the village green will be removed.”

The council went on to raise health and safety concerns: “Granting permission for something of which we have no knowledge, nor plans, nor indeed have been advised of the location could be considered negligent if a small child were to play on this and be injured. For that considered reason alone, permission is denied and Mr Brooks will be held responsible for any claims arising from his actions and for the cost of removing the item.”

Finally the council got out their big gun. “Should you proceed, it will be reported to the police as an offence under the 1869 Inclosure Act.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Company Sargeant Major Edward Brooks

Mr Brooks reacted with incredulity: “There are very often cars parked on the green, posters advertising boot sales and banners with birthday messages, all without council permission and nothing is said. But for one very important event in the year the councillors make all this fuss.”

The project is still in limbo, even after the village questionnaire showing three-to-one support. A sub-committee has been set up and has been told they must ask the school, the church, the residents, the Friends of Horspath and the WI even though Horspath does not have a WI.

Keith Brooks had a robust response: “What is the point in asking all these people again when they have already been asked in the questionnaire or is this just another way of delaying the project hoping people will just forget about it?

“Although I will remain on the parish council, I will no longer waste my time being involved with the sub-committee and I will do it my way and if you have a problem with that – tough. You can always take me to court.”

Watch this space.