RICHARD Benefer treated fellow ramblers to a walk around some of Leek’s most famous war memorials prior to the group’s AGM.
We started at Haregate Community Centre and our first stop was at the Ball Haye memorial. The structure forms a gated arch leading to the Ball Haye Green playground and park. The sandstone arch is inscribed “Pro Patria”, (For Country). On either side of the arch are bronze plaques with the names of 23 men who lost their lives in the tragic carnage of the 1914–1918 war and 163 who fought and survived the war.
Our second stop was at All Saints church in Compton. The memorial is a small plinth on which stands a wooden carving of the crucified Jesus. The stone plinth is inscribed with the names of parishioners who died in the two World Wars.
We then crossed the main road and entered Leek’s main cemetery. Richard showed us the grave of Ted Hassall, the Chocolate Soldier, so called because of a relationship he established with a girl who sent a bar of chocolate to the trenches to support the troops.
Richard has investigated the story and has written a book (available, he assured us, from all good booksellers).
We then visited the grave of the Nicholson family who gave the memorial at the end of Derby Street to remember their son who perished in WW1. The Nicholson family moved from Leek and the grave is rarely visited.
We then walked to the Nicholson War Memorial. Sir Arthur Nicholson and his wife Lady Marianne Nicholson presented the memorial to the town in memory of their son Lieutenant Basil Lee Nicholson (who was killed in action at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915, at the age of 24) and all the other local men who died fighting in the First World War.
The tower stands 93 feet high and dominates the east end of Derby Street. One’s eye is drawn to the clock face mounted in the Portland stone. We were privileged to enter the tower as Richard is a volunteer guide and he showed us the clock mechanism which drives and synchronises the four clock faces.
As we approach the hundredth anniversary of the end to the devastating conflict, we read the inscriptions on the Monument and thought about the 535 men and women commemorated and sacrificed in two dreadful wars.
We returned to Haregate for our refreshments and AGM.