Pride as our borough remembered fallen on Great War centenary
THOUSANDS of Stopfordians marched up Wellington Road to Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery on Remembrance Sunday, marking one century since the end of hostilities in the Great War.
I was proud to be among hundreds in the lantern parade, which assembled in front of the neo-classical facade to hear the Mayor commemorate the sacrifice made by young men and women, and see the beacon lit by their descendants.
The spectacle was both moving and eerie, with the silhouettes of soldiers on the steps. There are nearly 3,000 names from that conflict inscribed in stone throughout the borough.
Had those heroes all marched briskly past in single file they would have stretched from Heaton Norris to Great Moor along the A6, and taken at least half an hour to pass the Mayor.
No-one realised what price was to be paid when Britain entered the first great European war since Napoleon. But in Stockport by 1918 we did know the awful price, and paid a generous public subscription for one of the very few war memorials in the form of an art gallery, as well as a temple of peace to the fallen.
Part of the £24,000 cost included £2,100 for a statue of Britannia in white marble, holding a sword of victory and a laurel wreath to crown a naked kneeling youth representing the fallen, whose feet rest on a serpent crushed beneath a shield, chiselled by the famous sculptor Gilbert Ledward. In the hall of remembrance you are also walking on French and Belgian marble.
The grade two star building was opened in 1925 by Prince Henry, son of King George V, watched by hundreds of veterans of the conflict. I remember some of those men and women as old people – a nurse who had been in Russia and saw Rasputin, the bearded magician who hung around the Czar. I also interviewed a soldier torpedoed off Gallipoli and rescued from the sea by a mate who could swim, another who had been captured in the German offensive of 1918, survived a prison camp and came back to Stockport to serve in the Borough Police.
There are so many stories and it’s important that youngsters learn what their relatives did to help preserve the country they loved. »»Please try to support heritage and remember that Stockport Heritage Magazine and other publications can be bought from St Mary’s Heritage Centre, Market Place, also stockport heritagemagazine.co.uk
●»Silhouettes of soldiers on the steps of the War Memorial Art Gallery at the beacon lighting
●»The lantern parade started from Stockport Market Place
●»A lone soldier stands guard over the memorial at Heaton Moor