Thursday, 22 September 2011

News - Not forgotten: brave men of Narrow Marsh who gave lives

The rescue of a First World War memorial means the sacrifice of men from Narrow Marsh will never be forgotten.

LIKE millions of adventurous young men, Christopher Lawson and his nephew Christopher Watchorn answered the call to arms and left their home in Narrow Marsh for the Western Front.

Private Lawson, 28, joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers while Private Watchorn, only 17, signed up with the Northumberland Fusiliers.

In the midst of the horror that was the battle of the Somme, on July 7, 1916, young Watchorn went over the top... and was never seen again.

Somewhere in that sea of mud, he was cut down and his remains were lost in the morass. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, one name among more than 72,000 with no known grave.

His uncle fought on, until the closing weeks of the war, before he was wounded in northern France and taken to a casualty clearing station in the village of Bailleulval and there, on September 2, 1918, he died of his wounds.

The loss of those two brave men was mourned back home in Narrow Marsh, local people determined their sacrifice would not be forgotten. They were among more than 270 Narrow Marsh men who went off to war.

In her grief, Rose Connor, mother of Christopher Watchorn and sister of Christopher Lawson, decided to honour all of Narrow Marsh's heroes by erecting a memorial outside the Loggerheads public house, where she was the landlady.

And there it stood, together with a two foot crucifix, over the decades as the rest of Narrow Marsh disappeared.

But the constant battering by wind and rain eventually rendered unreadable the soldiers' names carved into the commemorative plaque and so, in the late 1990s, licensee Mick Walton decided to restore the memorial and began tracking down the names of around 270 local men who went off to war.

In 1998, the refurbished plaque was unveiled by Irene Abbott, granddaughter of Rose Connor, and re-dedicated by Father George Woodall, of St Patrick's, in The Meadows.

At the time, landlord Mr Walton, himself an ex-soldier, said: "All those lads killed in World War One were killed for us. It was only fitting that this shrine was restored as a tribute."

But in recent months, with the Loggerheads changing hands and, at one stage, becoming a Chinese restaurant, he became anxious for the plaque's safety.

And when the pub finally closed, Mr Walton, 67, realised it was time to act, before the memorial was lost forever.

Together with Steve Beeton, 51, the grandson of Private Lawson, he rescued the plaque and crucifix. Then came the vital task of finding a new, fitting home for the memorial.

The two men agreed that St Mary's in the Lace Market, the parish church for the old district of Narrow Marsh, would be the ideal location. An application to the Diocese of Southwell has been successful and during the Remembrance Day service which begins at 11am on November 11 in St Mary's Church, the plaque and crucifix will be unveiled.

Mr Walton contacted the Post after Sue Bell, secretary of the Sherwood Foresters Malayan Veterans Association, made an appeal in Bygones for information on the whereabouts of the memorial.

"We were a bit surprised to see the story that it was missing... it has been in safe hands," said Mr Walton.

Now, their rescue act will get its final reward when the memorial is unveiled at its new site.

"It will be a proud moment," said Mr Walton. "It means it will now have a home for ever."

Mr Beeton said: "My father was very proud of coming from Narrow Marsh and he made me promise to keep the plaque safe.

"I feel I am carrying on Christopher Lawson and Dad's memory, and all the other Narrow Marsh men who died."

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