Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the first Remembrance Day services, staged at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1919. Inevitably, much of the focus of such ceremonials is on those who fought and died in the 20th Century’s two world wars.
But now Sarah Jones is campaigning to commemorate, by name, all those from Croydon who have died in service since the end of the Second World War in 1945.
“The loss of life across two world wars was devastating, but it is important to remember that over the last half-century brave members of our community have fought and died so that we can continue to be safe,” said Jones, who has been MP for Croydon Central since 2017. “They deserve to be honoured just as highly.”
Jones might do well to use her influence to get the council’s chief executive to get out a steel brush and some detergent to clean up the Croydon war memorial outside the Town Hall. During ceremonies on Sunday, the Croydon Cenotaph, a Grade II-listed memorial, was looking badly stained and neglected, with moss growing on what is supposed to be white stone.
The Croydon Cenotaph is an unusual war memorial in that it was intended to commemorate all the victims of war, whether those in the military or those who died on the home front.
The memorial was unveiled in October 1921, designed in Portland stone by James Burford, and it was updated after the Second World War and again in 1997. It is framed by bronze statues of seated figures by Paul Raphael Montford, one depicting a wounded soldier from the East Surrey Regiment, the other a widow holding her child.
It includes the words, “A tribute to the men and women of Croydon who died and suffered.”
The further inscription, “And in memory of those who lost their lives in wars and conflicts since”, was added 22 years ago.
Jones now wants to go further. A stone of remembrance in Croydon Cemetery memorialises “those who died in the service of their country since 1945” but does not currently include names.
She has begun an appeal for information from the Croydon community to help build a complete list of Croydon’s fallen war heroes killed since 1945.
The roll of honour from 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945 is held in Croydon Central Library.
A list secured by Jones from the Ministry of Defence indicates 24 service personnel killed in action were originally born in Croydon. This list does not include those who were born outside Croydon, but lived the majority of their lives in the area.
The appeal aims to make contact with family members and descendants of Army, Navy and Air Force servicemen and women. Jones is asking anyone with information to submit it online at www.sarah-jones.org/fallenheroes.
Jones hopes to secure the backing of local organisations including the Croydon branch of the Royal British Legion and local cadets groups.
As Croydon Central’s MP from 2017, Jones worked with the family of Danny Simpson, who died while serving in Afghanistan, to help their campaign for a commemorative military plaque in Croydon Cemetery.
Speaking yesterday, Jones said, “Today we remembered those from our community who lost their lives in service. Commemorating those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country is a powerful reminder of the importance of the freedom we all enjoy, the freedom they gave their lives for.
“The loss of life across two world wars was devastating, but it is important to remember that over the last half century brave members of our community have fought and died so that we can continue to be safe. They deserve to be honoured just as highly.
“Our first task is in seeking a comprehensive list of the names of Croydon’s fallen heroes.
“I hope our community can pull together and raise awareness of this campaign, and that by next year’s Remembrance Day their names are suitably commemorated.”
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