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Peace Celebrations, 1919

Today marks one hundred years since 11 November 1918, since the armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany at Compiègne, France, marking the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front. Today we therefore remember all the local men and women who contributed to the war effort, both at home and overseas. This includes the 4272 people who gave their lives in the course of this conflict as well as the many more who were involved.

In common with many Councils across the land, local Councils, including Wolverhampton, Bilston and Heath Town, were keen to remember the local people who contributed. Mainly this consisted of lists of local men who had fallen, and they relied on grieving family members to provide them with the details.

Following the war, Wolverhampton Council set up the War Memorial Committee, which included such eminent local people as Mayor Thomas A. Henn, Charles T. Mander, Samuel Wells Page, and Alderman A. Baldwin Bantock, and even included Emma Sproson. Local organisations including trade unions, factories, sports and social clubs and local churches, were asked to provide representatives to sit on the Committee, so that the resultant memorial would truly reflect the desires of the people of Wolverhampton.

war memorial sketchSuggestions were gathered concerning what sort of permanent memorial would be appropriate. The most popular suggestion, and therefore the original plan, was a public Memorial Hall, to serve as a place for concerts and meetings, on the site of the Retail Market, now St Peter’s Square. This would have been roughly located where the Civic Centre is now. The aim was to have a Cenotaph attached to the Memorial Hall.

However, the Committee were unable to raise the necessary subscription funds, so had to scale their plans down to just building a Cenotaph. The preferred location for this was in West Park, until it was decided to locate it outside St Peter’s Church.

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Photograph of unveiling ceremony by Claude Eisenhofer

Following a competition, a design by architect G. H. T. Robinson was chosen, and the memorial was unveiled on 2 November 1922 by Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Doveton Sturdee, Bart. It does not include any of the names of the fallen, as the Roll of Remembrance was still being compiled at the time.

Both Bilston and Heath Town Councils also erected civic memorials locally. In addition to the main War Memorial, many other local churches, works and factories, and sports clubs and societies, compiled and erected their own memorials to local men who had given their lives in the course of this conflict. Doug Lewis’s “Wolverhampton War Memorials” site includes details of many of these, including the names listed on them.

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From the programme for the Unveiling of the War Memorial, 2 Nov 1922