Saturday’s unveiling of a new war memorial at Whitby’s Dock End highlighted the sense of reverence still afforded the memory of the region’s fallen.
Dignitaries, politicians, servicemen - both former and current - and members of the general public gathered around as the stone plinth was unveiled.
Is there ever a stronger sense of community than when we gather together to remember those who gave up their lives, to protect ours?
Prior to this weekend, Whitby’s lack of a public war memorial had been met with surprise, disbelief, and often outrage. Yet elsewhere in the district sit memorials of all shapes and sizes, whether it’s the delicate plinth at Lythe’s Church of St Oswald or the stone crucifix bearing Christ’s image at St Hedda’s in Egton Bridge.
Dock End’s minimalist stone obelisk stands in contrast to some of the more intricate designs seen elsewhere in the region, perhaps none more individual than Hinderwell’s cenotaph-inspired memorial.
Like many others, the £404 cost of the monument was covered by public subscription. It was built in 1921 and, even following the horrors of the European War just two years before, there was still a sense among the community that it had to be better than the memorial at Staithes.
“These were men from local families who died and never came back home,” said Anthea Ellis, who helps maintain the monument. “We owe it to those men that we remember them and look after the monument that was put up in their memory.”
Included in the Hinderwell memorial is the unusual addition of a clock. Before its construction, the only clock in the village was in the Post Office. However, when this was closed, villagers were damaging the post office’s window sill by clambering on it to get a look at the clock. A 2010 restoration of the clock found in to be in a remarkably well-preserved condition.
Elsewhere, memorials occupy the walls inside churches or village halls, such as the plaque at Fryup that carries just two names, those of Sapper William Burns and Private John Flintoft, or the wooden memorial boards at St Mary’s in Whitby, unusual because the lists do not discriminate between men and women.
At Ruswarp’s Church of St Bartholomew, a bullet-pierced crucifix sits above the 1914-1919 tablet. It was picked up by a British soldier on the battlefield at Ypres and was presented to the church with the permission of the mayor of that town.
On some occasions, such as at Castleton, the church itself was constructed as a monument to the fallen. The Church of St Michael and St George was opened in 1926 after being consecrated by Cosmo Gordon Lord, the Archbishop of York and features the same names as those shown in the Parish Church at Danby and on Castleton War Memorial.
And it was not just churches that could be monuments, as Whitby ‘Memorial’ Hospital bears witness. Following the First World War a new hospital was built on the present hospital site at Springhill and named The War Memorial Hospital in remembrance of those who had fallen during the war.
It was officially opened by HRH Princess Mary, Viscount Lascelles, and a plaque commemorates the event.
The building was replaced by the current cottage hospital in 1970 and the original restored plaque sits beside the entrance.
Inside the hospital are two books which draw together the names of all the dead from Whitby and the surrounding villages. It was compiled by Ruth Parker, a member of the Friends of Whitby Hospital, and she said: “It’s unbelievable. It was done village by village, parish by parish, and it’s incredible and it was a really interesting journey for me. When you look at the villages and you think of the few people that lived there at the time, and how many were lost, it’s amazing.”
Another memorial book takes pride of place in Danby Church. However this one is different as below the names of each of the deceased are details from that person’s life. Details such as pre-war employment, character and cause of death offer glimspses into the lives of those unfortunate parishioners.
Fred Hodgson was one of the deceased. Born in 1899, his entry reads: “England had sons in their teens who were animated by a strong desire to ‘do their bit’ without delay. They wouldn’t be put off. This was one of them. He joined up before his eighteenth birthday... He was one of the bright and promising boys at Danby School. His service with the Expeditionary Forces was soon cut short. He died from shell gas poisoning. A star lost in the dark.”
As the memory of the conflicts they remember fade beyond living memory, the monuments that are dotted around the region, accompanied at last by Whitby’s brand new war memorial, continue to stand as proudly as they did on the day they were built.
This article was produced with the aid of Cordelia Stamp’s ‘Silent Witness: War Memorials of Whitby and District’, which costs £6.50.