The family of one of Spalding’s Second World War heroes talk about the man whose name will be engraved on a new memorial
Spalding families are longing for the day when loved ones killed in the Second World War will have their names engraved on a new memorial in Ayscoughfee Gardens.
A £60,000 public appeal aims to make their dreams come true and, so far, £7,000 has been raised.
Many, many died and should be remembered. My brother was not a number, he was a person.
Charles Eliff was only 21-years-old when he was killed in action in Belgium on October 21, 1944.
Known in his family as Son or Chuck, Charles was the eldest of nine children, who seemed always happy and had a job milking cows for Pearson’s in Clay Lake.
Shortly before he was called up, Charles had married Rene and they had a son, Trevor.
Peter Eliff (89), one of Charles’s four surviving siblings, was about 14-years-old when Charles left for war.
Peter said: “I shall never forget that when he left our house, with his kit bag on his shoulder, he was half-way across the road when he looked back at the house, and you could see the concern, the anxiety, the seriousness.
“It was a look of ‘shall I be coming back again?’ When he went away there was no more communication.”
Charles never came back. He served with Lincolnshire’s regiment, The Lincolns, and then The Leicestershire Regiment and was affiliated to The Royal Artillery as an anti-tank gunner when he was killed as the Germans made a big push against the invading Allied forces.
“Our mother (Florence) was desperately ill at the time and in bed,” Peter recalls. “We tried to avoid telling her. We didn’t want to tell her, she was too ill, but somehow or other she overheard our comments and then she really did cry, and cry and cry. She was so upset.”
Some years ago, Peter made a pilgrimage to Belgium to see his brother’s grave.
“I wanted to go, I needed to go to be close to him,” said Peter. “I loved him.”
Charles has his name on a World War Two memorial in Spalding Parish Church.
Others killed in the conflict are commemorated there, or at their local parish churches in Spalding, but there’s no memorial in Ayscoughgfee Gardens where the outdoor Remembrance Sunday service is held around the memorial for the town’s First World War dead.
Peter says he’s very proud of Spalding for wanting to build a proper memorial to the townspeople killed in the Second World War because it will honour their service and the ultimate sacrifice they made so that we may live in peace.
It will also give families somewhere to go to remember their loved ones as the real people they were.
“Many, many died and should be remembered,” said Peter. “My brother was not a number, he was a person.”
Gun shot left a chip in brickwork
Charles Eliff made his mark, quite literally, on the family home in Pennygate, Spalding.
Before he was called up, Charles was in the Home Guard and was cleaning his gun when it fired and the bullet went through a window, chipping the house brickwork.
It’s a story that delights brother Peter and sister Margaret Philpots, who say the chip in the brickwork is still there.
As one of the younger siblings, Margaret has few memories of Charles but always makes a point of looking at his name on a memorial when she visits St Mary and St Nicolas Church.
She says: “I just have to go and have a look at it. He was just so lovely.”
For Margaret the planned Second World War Memorial means her brother’s name will live forever more.
She said: “I would love to take my great-grandchildren to see it and to explain what it’s all about.”
Peter was a setting out engineer in the construction industry before joining the council to work as a building inspector.
He remembers his family were poor when he was a lad, with the children almost always going without breakfast, and big families like his were the norm.
“There were about eight houses and about 70 kids where we lived,” he said.
Their dad, Ernest, was a farm labourer who also served his county.
“He was in the First World War,” said Peter. “Dad came home with shell shock. He had been gassed and had damage to his leg but they were tough old nuts then and in no time at all he was working.”
Another of Peter and Margaret’s brothers, Norman, served in the Second World War.
“He was on motor torpedo boats but he came back all right,” said Peter.
Collectors needed to help raise money for WWII memorial
So far the names of 125 men and two women have been put forward to be remembered on the proposed war memorial.
The charity leading the project is chaired by Rodney Grocock, also chairman of South Holland District Council, and his wife, Christine, created the charity website and sits on one of its sub-committees.
Christine is Peter Eliff’s daughter and the family story of the uncle she never knew gives her an insight into how Spalding families feel about their loved ones being properly commemorated.
Christine says: “It’s been a very humbling experience. I created the website for it and when you are typing out all of the names of these brave men and women who gave their lives it really brings home to you the seriousness of it all.”
Names of those brave men and women are listed on www.spaldingww2memorial.org
The website has a donate button so you can give whatever you can afford to make the memorial a reality. You can also sign up for newsletters and there are links to the charity’s Facebook and Twitter.
The memorial will go on the current site of the fountain in the Peace Garden at Ayscoughfee.
In the coming weeks, the fountain will be taken down to allow for the building of an underground structure to support the memorial.
Coun Grocock has made the memorial fund his designated charity, as council chairman, and there will be a big drive for donations on Remembrance Sunday. Clubs and organisations who could collect on Remembrance Sunday are asked to contact Ayscoughfee Hall on 01775 764555 to make arrangements.
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