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Countdown to royal visit to unveil Spalding's new WWII Memorial

The countdown has begun to a royal visit that will set the seal on a £70,000 campaign to honour Spalding’s WWII dead.

HRH The Duke of Kent is passionate about war commemoration and was the first choice of Spalding’s WWII Memorial Committee to unveil a new memorial in Ayscoughfee’s Peace Garden.

Since early January, WWII Memorial Committee chairman and district council chairman Rodney Grocock was one of only three people in South Holland who knew that the Duke, president of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, had agreed to come to Spalding.

District council and WWII Memorial Committee chairman Rodney Grocock.
District council and WWII Memorial Committee chairman Rodney Grocock.

“I couldn’t tell my wife and I couldn’t tell anyone on the committee,” said Coun Grocock.

But an embargo was lifted nine days ago, at last allowing him to spill the royal beans.

Coun Grocock said: “The committee is absolutely thrilled and delighted that His Royal Highness is coming to South Holland.

“It’s not only a massive coup for the WWII committee but it’s fantastic news for the whole of South Holland.”

As reported last week, the Duke will be in Spalding on March 13 and more details of his visit are expected to be available nearer the time.

It’s taken a small army of people - and businesses - to realise the dream of commemorating Spalding’s WWII dead on a single memorial.

Until now, the names of those lost loved ones have featured on memorials in different parish churches while those of WWIareall together - carved on the nationally important and Grade 1 listed Lutyens’ memorial at Ayscoughfee.

Some 117 names - 115 men and two women - will be carved on the memorial designed by renowned designer sculptor Gary Breeze.

Gary’s work can be seen on the memorial to Diana Princess of Wales and in the lettering and carving on the tomb of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral, the monarch who was latterly dubbed “the king in the car park” when his remains were discovered centuries after he died.

The job of making the Spalding’s WWII Memorial is a massive privilege for Holbeach Memorial Company and their work is expected to be completed by March 1,the day Coun Grocock hosts The(council) Chairman’s Charity Dinner, which is due to raise further funds for the memorial project.

Gary Huggins, from the family-owned company, said: “It’s an honour - it’s the biggest thing you can be asked to do.

“We have done a lot of renovations of war memorials but not actually created one before.”

Marble for the memorial has been shipped all the way from China and slate was sourced in Wales.

Former Spalding town centre manager Dennis Hannant, an ex-Army major, was among the first movers and shakers on the fledgling WWII Memorial Committee and invited Coun Grocock to join around three years ago.

Coun Grocock said: “Most of my younger life I have spent in the service of Her Majesty - 12 years in The Royal Navy and 11 years in the police force -and if there was a ‘Royalist Party’ I would be a ‘Royalist’and not a Conservative.

“I have been a Conservative all of my life but the Queen and duty mean a great deal to me.”

Among those serving on the WWII committee are ex-service veterans Keith Crawford (RNA), David Allmond (Paras), Ken Willows (Lincolns) and Spalding Royal British Legion chairman Frank White.

Coun Grocock is in awe of their achievements and determination in the face of advancing years - and the way Keith and David have battled serious health problems, simply brushing them aside and getting on with the task in hand.

“Working with the vets has shown me a different level of duty, respect and courage,” said Coun Grocock. “Even when they have medical problems, their duty always comes first.”

Donations can still be made to the memorial and anything over and above the total needed will go into a fund for its ongoing maintenance.

*Spalding’s new WWII Memorial has been created on a wave of good will.

Families who lost loved ones, businesses large and small, and ordinary people from all walks of life have donated.

From the chap who gave £30 to a bucket collection in Morrisons - all in small coins - to Bakkavor, who donated a mighty £10,000 from its Party in the Park, the project has been swept along by those who have simply willed it to happen.

District council and WWII Memorial Committee chairman Rodney Grocock says help also came from firms including Bakkavor Iberia, who shipped the marble from China to the UK, and FreshLinc, who collected the marble from the docks and took it to the stonemasons.

Among other firms contributing work, materials or cash were Buildbase, Dorset Carpentry, Tyrrell Contractors, Ashwood Homes, who donated £400, and Larkfleet Homes, who donated more than £1,000.

Councillors donated from ward budgets and district councillor and WWII committee member Jan Whitbourn staged fundraising events, including a quiz.

Ex Bakkavor bossTerry Moore, one of the team behind Party in the Park, served on the committee as did David Turner, Ayscoughfee’s museum manager Julia Knight, and Ayscoughfee’s head gardener Dan Cooper.

As well as the dedicated work of ex-service veterans, Keith Crawford, David Allmond, Ken Willows and Frank White, there were behind the scenes contributions from Cheryl Arnold and Coun Grocock’s wife, Christine.

Cheryl researched the names to go on the memorial and worked with Christine to put them in alphabetical order.

Christine was also busy liaising with families whose loved ones were being commemorated and was moved by the many stories about the service people who never came home from war.

* You can contribute to the funds by visiting: www.spaldingwwiimemorial.org and clicking on the ‘Donate’ tab.

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