'SOMETHING ALTOGETHER DIFFERENT'
The story of the War Memorial
Melbourn Street, Royston, Hertfordshire
As Mr Titchmarsh said, at the unveiling of the Memorial, 'It is unique.'
That Sunday afternoon in March, 1922, was cold and showery. All the same, around 3000 people came to the ceremony. One man travelled all the way from Portsmouth to be there: his son's name was inscribed on the Memorial. There was a procession, with the Royston Town Silver Prize Band providing the marching tunes; every military and civic group was represented.
The Union Jack covering the Memorial's centrepiece was released by Lieutenant- Colonel Phillips, DSO, who said: 'It is my duty today to hand over into the keeping of the town this beautiful monument. It will be looked on reverently by our children and our children's children.'
Royston War Memorial stretches 40 feet along Melbourn Street, just next to the Parish Churchyard and is set up in a break in the old Priory wall. New red brick walls (built by Royston men) curve in towards the centrepiece of the Memorial. They are topped with Portland stone, and meet at an arched recess, which is flanked by panels inscribed (by a Royston craftsman) with the names of the Royston men who died in the First World War.
The arched recess stands back 14 feet from the road. In 1922 the base of the pedestal it contains carried an inscription about the Memorial's purpose. But after 1945 this was replaced by the names of those who were killed in the Second World War.
On the pedestal is the unique feature to which Mr Titchmarsh referred. It is a smaller-than-life-size sculpture of a group of men. In the centre is a bronze sculpture, by W B Fagan, of an 'ordinary' soldier of the First World War. At his feet sits a bronze Royston Crow: the town's emblem.
Behind him, and larger than him in scale, are representatives of soldiers like him, carved in stone (by a Mr Clemons of Clapton) and drawn from British history. There is a longbowman from the battle of Agincourt (1415), and a medieval knight in armour. Next to them stands a soldier from the days of Queen Elizabeth I; behind and above is the bearded, thoughtful face of Thomas Cartwright, 'a famous Royston scholar and worthy', of whom Queen Elizabeth said 'The sun does not see a more learned man'. To their left is a Roundhead soldier who fought with Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil War of the 1640s; and, next to him, a soldier from the days of George II (who died in 1760) and another from the Duke of Wellington's army at Waterloo (1815).
So when the Lieutenant-Colonel talked of the men who had died in the First World War, represented by that bronze infantryman, the ghosts of earlier Royston men were there too, evoked in paler stone. The intention: to point to a proud tradition of fighting men. The reality, perhaps: a reminder of countless terrible deaths and wasted lives, stretching back through recorded history.
The unveiling ceremony included hymns as well as speeches and a religious dedication. Wreaths were laid. The Royston Amateur Musical Society sang the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's 'Messiah', accompanied by the Royston Town Band; the national anthem was sung; Reveille was sounded; and a muffled peal was rung on the bells of the parish church.