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In memory of the 28……
It is my firm belief that the civilians who died in Kenilworth should have their names displayed on a public memorial in the same manner as fallen servicemen. Such a memorial was planned by the KenilworthUrban District Council in the early post war years; a plaque was made with the intention of it one day being incorporated in a re-built Abbey End. The plaque has resided “temporarily” in the Cemetery Chapel since 1954.
It is equally important that the two victims of the land mine who were never identified should be remembered. They lie together in an unmarked grave, V 1630, near the Cemetery Chapel. Clearly, the provision of a small headstone with a suitable inscription is long overdue.
22nd February 1952
22nd January 1954
Kenilworth Weekly News reports of that week's Kenilworth Urban District Council meeting. The minutes confirming the accuracy of the reporting (below) are in the County Records Office. It is thought that the plaque was never attached to the clock tower.
"The plaque containing the names of civilians who lost their lives through enemy action in Kenilworth during the last war is now ready for erection. The committee are in favour of the suggestion now put forward that the plaque shall be erected on the clock tower for the time being and that plans for the development of The Square, provision shall be made for its erection in a suitable position”.
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On Thursday 18th November, the writer asked the following question at the Kenilworth Town Council meeting:
“Further to my email circulated to all councillors two weeks ago concerning Kenilworth's civilian deaths in World War 2, are the Council prepared to look into the following oversights as it is now 70 years after the event?
Firstly; The plaque dating from 1950 recording the names of the 26 civilians known to have died in Kenilworth in WW2 now hanging in the Cemetery Chapel, was intended by the KUDC to be part of a memorial at a rebuilt Abbey End.
Secondly; The existing plaque on the memorial cairn at Abbey End is both misleading and inaccurate and should be replaced.
Thirdly; The grave of the two unknown civilians who lie buried together in Kenilworth's cemetery should be marked.
And finally, why is the 70th anniversary of the landmine explosion and the deaths of 26 people, the most catastrophic event in living memory, not being marked in any way?”
Following responses by Councillors Blacklock, Bunker, Coker and Illingworth, it was voted unanimously that the matter would be discussed at the next meeting of the General Services Committee on January 20th 2011.
This is how the Town Council meeting was reported in the Kenilworth Weekly News on November 26th 2010:
Included is a photgraph taken on Monday 22nd November. As far as I am aware, it was the first time the memorial plaque, albeit only a photograph, has been at its rightful place.
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I susbsequently submitted the following letter to the Kenilworth Weekly News, it was published on 3rd December:
"May I through your letters columns, clarify one or two aspects of my views regarding the Abbey End civilian memorial cairn, and respond to the comments of Councillor Coker as reported in the KWN.
I have not suggested the replacement of the cairn, only the misleading plaque upon it.
Councillor Coker has claimed alterations could “devalue the work (and) would be very disrespectful” to those responsible for its construction. However, since the cairn was originally built, it has been completely dismantled and re-erected in both a different form and location; I have not heard it claimed those actions were disrespectful so surely my suggestions also could not be claimed as such. In fact, I have nothing but praise for those responsible for the long-overdue original building of the cairn, without their efforts there would be no memorial at all.
The plaque with the names of civilians who died is the original Abbey End memorial. It was paid for by people who knew some of the victims, it was intended to be displayed at a re-built Abbey End and predates the cairn by 40 years. It is also locked away where no one can see it. Surely, if any aspect of this can be called ‘lacking respect’, then it is the omission of this plaque on the memorial cairn.
It is gratifying that the 70th anniversary of the landmine explosion, and the deaths of two other civilians in Kenilworth, did not pass unmarked. I, for one, would like to thank George Illingworth for ensuring the 28 civilians who died in Kenilworth were included in the Remembrance Day service at the war memorial, an occasion normally reserved for fallen servicemen.
The floral wreath provided by Andy Jones and the girls at Castle Flowers, not forgetting the roses from the Women’s Institute, were marvellous gestures to mark the 70th anniversary. However, I think it rather sad that successive Town Councils, year on year, fail to mark the town centre being ripped apart with the loss of 26 lives; an annual, simple floral tribute is surely not amiss, nor beyond our funds at their disposal."
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On Saturday 5th February 2011, I received the following letter from the Town Clerk, dated the previous day:
"Thank you for your questions in respect of the World War Two Civilian Deaths in Kenilworth, which you will recall was deferred from the Town Council held on 18 November 2010 to the General Services Committee for further consideration and discussion.
Following a full debate it was recommended that;
a) The plaque hanging in the Cemetery Chapel recording the names of the 26 civilians known to have died in Kenilworth in WW2, should not be removed from the Chapel in order that it be kept in safekeeping and good condition.
b) The wording of the plaque on the Abbey End Cairn should not be altered in any way, however Members agreed this could be revisited following the proposed redevelopment at Abbey End South.
c) The marking of the grave of the unknown civilians who are buried in Kenilworth Cemetery be fully supported and recommended to the District Council in conjunction with the Cemetery Friends.
Whilst, it was the consensus that the good intentions of our predecessors should be respected, Councillor Mrs Cain expressed her appreciation of the questions and requested that you be thanked and advised of the outcome."
My reply by letter, dated 10th February and addressed to the Town Clerk, was as follows:
"Thank you for forwarding to me the decisions taken by the General Services Committee with respect to the questions I raised regarding Kenilworth’s wartime civilian deaths. I would be most grateful if you could in turn circulate this response as appropriate.
a) The decision not to move the plaque containing the 26 known names of the civilians from the Cemetery Chapel to its rightful and intended location at Abbey End is disappointing, if not unexpected.
b) I am grateful that correcting the misleading and inaccurate wording of the existing plaque displayed on the stone cairn is to be reconsidered if or when the southern part of Abbey End is redeveloped. As this memorial will be in place presumably for centuries, it is vital that the events of that night are recorded accurately.
I further suggest that at the same time consideration should be given to installing a new plaque displaying the names of the civilians who died in Kenilworth due to the conflict.
c) I am particularly pleased that the oversight in not marking the grave of the two unknown souls is to be corrected. I am in contact with Pam Chilvers and hope to be directly involved in any way I can.
d) I was disappointed that my fourth question does not appear to have been discussed:
“And finally, why is the 70th anniversary of the landmine explosion and the deaths of 26 people, the most catastrophic event in living memory, not being marked in any way?”
This I assumed would also have led to a discussion as to how to mark the anniversary on an annual basis in the future. I believe that a simple floral tribute from the Town Council on behalf of its townsfolk would not be difficult to arrange, nor costly.
Due to the apparent oversight of this question not being discussed, perhaps it could be raised at the next General Services Committee meeting.
Despite the outcome, from my point of view, being ‘mixed’, I am extremely grateful to the Committee for the time spent on considering my questions, and look forward to receiving the results of any further discussions."
I received the following repsonse, dated 28th April 2011:
"At the General Service Committee held on 31 March 2011, members acknowledged your letter thanking the Committee for their response but expressing disappointment that your fourth point, the anniversary of the landmine explosion at Abbey End was not marked in any way, had not been discussed.
The Chair advised that this question had been fully addressed at the previous meeting and the consensus was that the Stone Cairn in Abbey End is a most worthy memorial to all who died on that tragic day and their families were at liberty to continue to leave tributes as they so wished.
Councillor Mrs Blacklock informed Members that informal discussions between yourself and Reverend Awre were on-going in respect of holding a small service later in the year and they looked forward to being advised of the outcome of these talks in due course."
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Sadly, on this occasion there was no positive outcome, but please see the '75th Anniversary'
For a further update, see also "Two Unknown Souls" under "Memorials".