Rainham War Memorials for the Fallen 1914-1918

Several war memorials took form in Rainham soon after the ending of the Great War in 1918 to remember those men who had fought and died in the conflict.

A public meeting chaired by Dr Penfold held in the church hall in January 1919 discussed a permanent war memorial for Rainham. George Quinnell from Broad Walk offered some land next to the Free Library for the construction of this. Suggestions included cottage homes, a cottage hospital, an extension to the library, baths, a public hall, a stained glass window, a memorial tablet in the church and an illuminated church clock tower. Eventually the committee decided on a monumental cross with the names of fallen Rainham men inscribed on it. The committee proposed to have it erected outside the church wall facing Station Road.Rainham War Memorials for the Fallen 1914-1918

After preparation of the ground for the proposed war memorial in November, the dedication and unveiling of the monument went ahead on Sunday December 12th 1920. The memorial cross, a replica of the Cross of Iona from the Isle of Iona in Scotland made of Cornish granite stood 18½ feet in height with 100 names of fallen Rainham servicemen inscribed on it.

The dedication service was supposed to have taken place outside but because of freezing conditions and snow most of it took take place in St Margaret’s church. About 1,000 people packed into the church for the service conducted by Reverend Tamplin then Dr Penfold, chairman of the parish council, read out the names of the fallen soldiers and sailors. After this boy buglers from the Royal Engineers played the Last Post. Finally, Major-General Thuillier, General officer commanding the Thames and Medway area gave a speech.

After the service about 2,000 people gathered at the memorial and watched as Major-General Thuillier pulled the cord which caused the Union Jack enveloping the cross to fall away. Relatives placed floral tributes at the base of the memorial as they remembered the dead. Finally, the hoisting of the Union Jack from a half mast position on the church tower and the ringing of the church bells ended the event. An annual remembrance service and laying of wreaths at the memorial has taken place every year since the construction of the memorial.

Rainham Congregational Church decided to have a war memorial in the form of a tablet placed on the church wall with names of soldiers and sailors inscribed on it. To do this they needed to raise up to £150 which they succeeded in doing and the tablet was placed on the church wall at a special service in August 1920. With 15 names inscribed on a brass tablet mounted on teak wood by courtesy of the Admiralty, a special` service conducted by Reverend E Scott-Wilkinson in front of about 100 people took place on Sunday February 13th 1921 and the tablet unveiled. Silent prayers followed the unveiling and the service ended with the playing of the National Anthem. When the church closed the memorial tablet was removed and its whereabouts became unclear.

British Standard Cement Works situated in Lower Rainham also remembered the war dead with a wooden panel inscribed with 14 names of former workers who died in the Great War. It originally hung on the gatekeeper’s bungalow at the main entrance to the cement works but when the works closed down the company gave it to Gravesham Council who placed it in the New Tavern Fort Storage Centre in Gravesend. ‘Friends of Berengrave’ later brought it back to Rainham and had it hung in the visitor centre in Riverside Country Park, Lower Rainham, close to its original location. The mayors of Gravesham unveiled the memorial in the presence of relatives of the war dead on August 18th 2008 and it’s now on permanent display. 

David Wood.

 

 

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