Almost a hundred years since the start of First World War and many of the Memorials to local lads, who died to protect the life we lead, are in poor condition – including Rippingale’s.
When most of Britain’s war memorials were built – in the early 1920s, there was little money about – particularly in small, rural communities – so the materials used were often not top quality.
Rippingale’s was built of Clipsham limestone by Reginald Blomfield and the weather has caused serious damage for the fourth or fifth time – water soaks in several inches deep, then freezes in winter, expands and splits off large flakes of stonework.
Moss and algae just makes things worse.
The repair bill is going to be nearly half the village’s annual share of council tax and the blunt truth is that unless Rippingale wins a 100 per cent grant, we simply can’t afford it.
Luckily the National Lottery Fund was last year persuaded by a national newspaper campaign – they published two of my letters – to support the cause and promised to ensure that every British war memorial was repaired by 2014.
So far – so good. But we all know life’s not that simple. Our war memorial is a Grade II English Heritage National Monument, as well as a listed war memorial.
It’s sited at St Andrew’s Parish Church - that means Lincoln Diocese - and comes under the planning authority of South Kesteven District Council.
That’s six organisations to be negotiated with to reach agreement on materials, design, chemicals like herbicides and sealants, washing methods and use of paint, for instance gilding for the inscriptions and names, not to mention the terms of a grant.
The Lottery Heritage Funds wants to ensure these men are not forgotten, so wants to see evidence of community involvement, particularly amongst young people – that a human face emerges from coldly chiselled names and that means local history.
There are 10 names on our memorial – nine from the First World War and one from the Second World War – all we had up to two years ago was a folder of 10 pages from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, listing their names, dates and places of death.
The file for submission to the Lottery Heritage Fund is now 134 pages long and is likely to double that size before we - and the Year 10 History Group at Bourne Grammar School - are finished.
Copies of 1891, 1901 and 1911 Censuses, showing family background, birth, marriage and death certificates, school records, wonderful local photos and stories, transfer documents from the Lincs Yeomanry to the Lincs Regt and to new regiments, fantastic photos and documents from recruiting days, Regimental records, War Diaries detailing what was happening on the days they died, Commonwealth War Grave Commission records, cemetery records (most have no grave – simply memorials), medals and more from specialist websites.
They were nearly all farm-workers, used to looking after horses – if you’ve seen the play or film War Horse you’ll understand. They were young, so keen to leave rural life for something more exciting, that they lied about their ages – and sometimes their names – recruiting queues were long and Recruiting Sergeants. rushed off their feet, so mistakes were made.
It was all going to be over by Christmas, and we were going to win – that was what they were told.
Just a few details about our boys. Look at George Hill’s photo, when he signed up in Bourne, probably wearing a uniform lent by the photographer. Does he look ready for mischief or not?
He was in the 10th Battalion of the Lincs Regt and died at the age of 22 on September 25 1916 in Flanders - one of a family of 15 – his brother Arthur Palmer died, aged 19, nearly a year later at Arras.
Look at George, dressed up for the village Temperance Fete in 1906, front row first on the left, and his friend Alf Thompson, who died on June 8 1917, also at Arras, front row second from right.
Then there are the Sandall brothers, John William and Walter who died seven months apart in 1918, one at Arras, one in Beirut and a relative of theirs Albert Edward Sandall who died in the Second World War near the Messina Strait in Sicily, trying to prevent enemy soldiers crossing to the Italian mainland.
Look at Albert’s picture - at the right hand pocket of his Sunday best jacket – he was known as “the catapult king,” never without a catapult, a pocketful of pebbles, a rabbit, hare or pheasant.
Then look at Frank Kime – one of the Kime bus company family – again on recruitment day in Bourne in splendid uniform – except that none were issued on recruitment day.
Look at his left hand – the size of a bunch of bananas. He suffered from a condition called macro dystrophia lipomotosa. Then look at him on his death-bed after the end of the war – he died of Spanish flu, which killed 30 million worldwide, in 1919, after being wounded months earlier.
Then a few days ago, while at Bourne Grammar School, something of a shock! Three new names – all connected to Rippingale – and none of them on our war memorial.
They are Private John Thomas Taylor of the 8th Battalion Lincs Regt who gave his birthplace as Rippingale, Private Walter Blankley Harby and Private George Stubley - both gave Rippingale addresses.
Plenty more work to do before we get this file off to the LHF early next year,