War Memorials Trust
 

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Milton School Plaque

Town or City: Sittingbourne
County: Kent
Country: England
WMT Reference Number: WM1932

Value of grant: £540.00
Type of memorial: Non-Freestanding
Type of work:
Grant scheme: Small Grants Scheme
Year: 2006

UKNIWM reference number: 000000

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In the early 1990s in Sittingbourne a row of trees, planted in memory of each local man killed during the First World War, was threatened with being destroyed by plans to build a supermarket on the site. A local woman battled with local authorities to have the Avenue of Remembrance preserved for posterity. She formed a campaigning group 'Save Our Living Memorial' to fight for the preservation of the trees but, after years, had to acknowledge defeat and watch them being cut down. They were, however, replaced with younger versions when the road was widened and at the foot of each tree is still a plaque with the name and regiment of each soldier.

Milton School war memorial plaque © Milton School Old Boys Memorial Fund, 2006/7Fifteen or so years later her son, a local historian in Milton Regis (a suburb of Sittingbourne), was looking into the history of a 14 year old who had lied about his age on his application for the Forces telling them he was 19. The lad was 6ft tall so the recruiting sergeant accepted his word. Almost a month later he contracted tetanus when he cut his finger on a knife while helping fix a fellow soldier’s shoulder badges and died before he was sent to France. He was given a full military funeral and was buried in Canterbury cemetery. He was a former pupil of Milton Butts School which had a memorial board containing 72 names of the war dead.

But the memorial appeared to be lost. Several appeals were made to find it when someone came forward to say it was in the Court Hall Museum in Milton Regis. It had been stored there for many years after being rescued by the school caretaker from a skip during building works to the school.

The board was broken and rotting away with woodworm and damp. The names and detail had almost all vanished except for two painted flags and the words “In grateful memory to the old boys”. It is believed that the board had been taken down in the 1960’s and spent 45 years in a cupboard deteriorating to such an extent that most of the names had disappeared. The local historian was determined to get it restored and embarked on raising the more than £1,000 needed. War Memorials Trust offered, through its Small Grants Scheme, the sum of £540.Milton School war memorial plaque © Milton School Old Boys Memorial Fund, 2006/7

The beautifully refurbished teak board with gold lettering was re-instated in the school, now called Milton Court School, at a ceremony in October 2007 attended by the current pupils and people from the town. Two brothers were invited to see their uncle’s name on the board. The uncle was just 22 when he was killed in action in 1917, the report of his death said “He was in an empty gun pit when a stray shell entered from the front and killed him instantaneously”. He was one of five brothers sent to war; two were lost.

During the ceremony the school children were told the story behind the memorial and why it was important to remember the names. The children from the school laid a poppy by the board and read out all the names of those who had died.

War Memorials Trust is pleased to have been involved with this project as the recent conservation works have not only ensured that the war memorial has been repaired but that it was also returned to its original location where it can now be accessed for commemoration purposes.

This article first appeared in War Memorials Trust Bulletin number 38. Information for this article was also obtained from articles published in local press. THe article was written by Martin Shorthouse.

Further information

War Memorials Trust reference WM1932
UK National Inventory of War Memorials:

If you have a concern about this memorial please contact the Trust on conservation@warmemorials.org

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