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WW1 MEMORIAL - WEST GREEN

TOTTENHAM'S FORGOTTEN MEMORIAL

The war memorial on the ‘West Green’, which stands at the junction of West Green Road and Philip Lane, has been there for over 90 years and pays homage to the young men of this particular corner of Tottenham who gave their lives in the Great War 1914-18.

Sadly over recent years the memorial appears to have been forgotten by the burghers of Tottenham and has fallen into a state of disrepair. At one time there were regular ceremonies on Remembrance Day but these have not taken place for several years and now there are rarely any poppies laid upon the memorial.

We therefore decided to conduct a little research on the origins of the memorial and hopefully to raise more awareness of its significance to the area and campaign for its restoration.

 

Pictured below are just a few sections of the memorial that show some of the victims’ names. There are over 420 names on the memorial so we decided to select just a few names at random to research and to provide an insight to the backgrounds of these young man and where they and their extended family’s once resided in Tottenham.
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By coincidence one of the first names we selected was that of OSWALD-HICKS H.L.A purely because it was an unusual name and would hopefully be easy to research. We first discovered that his full name was Harley Lionel Adrian Oswald–Hicks and he was the son of the Revd Thomas Oswald Hicks of Linden Road, West Green. However our subsequent enquiries disclosed that it was his father who had launched the campaign to construct a lasting memorial to the sons of West Green which was eventually dedicated on Sunday 16TH July 1922.

It was also poignant to discover that much of the monies that were collected towards the cost of the memorial were donated by the local residents of West Green. The amounts were often quite small but, at a time when the population were recovering from the aftermath of the war and suffering both emotional and financial hardships of their own, it was very moving to see how the residents rallied around to remember their loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice to King and Country.

 

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EXTRACT FROM TOTTENHAM HERALD
19th JULY 1922


At the unveiling of the memorial by Lord Horne he stepped forward and released the flag that shrouded the Obelisk and said:

“I unveil this memorial to the glory of God and in memory of the men of West Green and Tottenham who gave their lives for King and the country’s cause in the Great War”

The article later reported on the speech by the Chairman of the Memorial Committee – Revd Thomas Oswald-Hicks:


“He could tell General Horne in two sentences, what had been done by Tottenham so far as the Great War was concerned: its contribution to the Army was approximately 35,000 men; he regretted to add nearly 2,000 made the supreme sacrifice. Tottenham raised more skilled engineering units by voluntary enlistment with Lord Kitchener’s Army than any other town in Middlesex, and was only equalled by great cities as Glasgow and Manchester. West Green, he understood, lost no less than 460 men, and it’s example in erecting that memorial might be emulated in other districts.”

 

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“The concluding portion of the speech was made in a heavy downpour of rain and, after Lady Horne had handed a handsome wreath to his Lordship, who placed it as the base, the Rev. T.W Oswald-Hicks formally requested Major P.B Malone M.P to accept the custody of the memorial on behalf of the District Council. This the Major did, and the proceedings hurriedly terminated. The buglers sounding the Last Post and the Reveille, the general saluting the memorial on his departure.”

 

There follows just a few examples of our research on the local men of West Green whose names appear on the memorial. It was noticeable that the majority of these men had once lived within a radius of One Mile from the location of the memorial which is a testament to the large loss of lives suffered in the community.

We acknowledge the individual memorial citations that have been obtained from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (C.W.G.C).

We also referred back to the 1911 Census to discover the family backgrounds of the deceased which was after all just 3 short years prior to the commencement of WW1.

 

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  DIED: 12th April 1918 age 27

   ADDRESS: 9 Linden Road West Green

   OCCUPATION (Pre-War):

  Clerk to Embroidery Agent-Importer

  

Harley was the son of the Revd T.W Oswald-Hicks and Mrs M.A      Oswald-Hicks. He was born at St Johns, Hackney in 1891.

It was the Revd Oswald-Hicks who launched the campaign for a memorial to be erected in West Green not only for his own son but also for the many other local victims of the Great War.

At the 1911 Census Thomas William Oswald-Hicks was a Surveyor and Estate & Business Agent with his own business. Clearly he took up his ministry as a Vicar in the intervening period.

Harley also had an elder sister Gertrude Claire Annie Oswald Hicks who in 1911 worked for her Father in his Estate Agents business.

 

 

WEST GREEN MEMORIAL - RESEARCH UPDATE  - AUGUST 2016

We have now completed research for approx. 400 of the men named on the memorial. This has proved difficult at times and we have encountered many brick-walls that have hampered our search. Nevertheless it reaffirms that the vast majority of the men had lived within a one mile radius of the memorial. Here is a summary and sample facts uncovered during our research:

  • We have used a combination of records to cross reference our information. These include CWGC Ancestry.co.ukFindMyPast.co.uk and the 1911 census records. Very often this has proved useful to establish a Tottenham connection for each individual.
  • We are informed by the CWGC that many WW1 records were destroyed by a fire during the Blitz in WW2 that has obviously curtailed our research and prevented access to all casualty records.
  • Many CWGC records only provide name number and regiment and where commemorated. Very often no ages or where they lived is provided.
  • Cross-Checking ‘FindMyPast’ and ‘Ancestry’ records will sometime show where the person enlisted and the 1911 Census records can provide date and place of birth and you can then be confident it is the same person and indeed that they have a Tottenham address.
  • We suspect that many people had moved to Tottenham since the 1911 Census either because they had changed jobs, married or were living with relatives in the area.
  • In some instances we have found Electoral Roll entries for 1914 that has helped identify them.
  • By entering this information into an Excel Spreadsheet it has been possible to search the accumulated data in many ways – For example here are a few FACTS:
  • 68 of the men who died served in the Middlesex Regiment (There are different battalions and units within the regiment and these have been noted when applicable)
  • Over 20 of the men had lived in nearby Langham Road, West Green.
  • Many men had died on the same day. For example 8 men on the 1st July 1916, which was considered to be the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
  • There are many examples of brothers from the same families who died: BETHELL – HENLEY- BOWIE- BOND - CRANE to name just a few.
  • Over 45 men from West Green are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France. Many more are commemorated at Ypres (Menin Gate) memorial. Local men who served in the Navy are commemorated at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham Naval Memorials.

We have retained copies of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) citations for the men who we have researched along with Census reports and other data that has been pertinent to our research. Copies of these records are obtainable on request.

 

 

We have researched randomly the profiles of a further 23 men whose names appear on the memorial and hopefully this should provide a background of their social and family history:     CLICK HERE   to view the complete list.
HARRY  BEDFORD ARTHUR  BETHELL CHARLES  BETHELL ERNEST  BETHELL
HERBERT  BETHELL FREDK BINDOFF CHARLES  BUNTING FRANK   CHESHIRE
GEORGE CLARKE CHARLES FAULTLESS JOHN FROST WILLIAM KILLINGBACK
GEORGE LOVEDAY DONALD McCASKILL JACK WARD EXTRA NAMES ADDED
THOMAS PEARCE GEORGE SELLIER ALBERT HENLEY FRANK HENLEY
GEORGE HENLEY ALBERT DANIELS FREDERICK NOAH SYDNEY ELPHICK SANDERS

 

As already explained, this brief social history of just a few of the victims selected randomly from the many names on the memorial, merely scratches the surface of the suffering and hardships experienced by these families of West Green.

My brother, Ray Swain has recently written to the West Green Residents Association to seek their support for the restoration and future upkeep of the memorial. In his letter he makes the following request which hopefully captures the feelings of many of today’s residents of the area.

“I would like to form a Memorial Trust where money could be held in trust to purchase Poppy Wreaths each year to be laid on the West Green Memorial along with the Lordship Recreation Ground Memorial and the Civilian War Memorial in Tottenham cemetery where some West Green resident are buried in a mass grave. I fear that as the years go by no one will care about remembering these poor souls. Furthermore, many of the civilian private graves in Tottenham cemetery are also neglected due to the fact their relatives no longer live in the area. The outcome is that these people are largely forgotten which is very sad as whole families were killed with no one left to pay for a grave, hence the mass grave in the cemetery. I only hope that we can do enough to make people realise that something has to be done now, as we are most probably the last generation to recognise and care about the sacrifices they made and thus ensure that they will always be remembered”

There has also been a similar appeal by the ‘Friends of Downhills Park’ who are also concerned about the forgotten memorial in West Green.

Article prepared by Alan Swain.
September 2014

Updated August 2016 to provide research results

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