While many places have decorated lamposts with poppies or soldier cut outs, Whitchurch Town Council has recognised the Centenary of the ending of WW1 with items that will remain with the town for many years, ensuring the thoughts will never fade.
The Town Council’s Allotments in Winchester Road have always been called just that “Winchester Road Allotments” yet there is a WW1 story at the site.
THE STORY IN BRIEF
During action he was seriously wounded and lay in No Man’s Land for 9 hours. Once taken from the battlefield he was sent to an advance dressing station and eventually sent on a hospital ship to Liverpool.
He returned to Whitchurch to recuperate and was subsequently sent back to the front line.
In 1919 the local Council asked Harry to plant the Weeping Willows, which are still at the allotments, in remembrance for the ‘Fallen’ of World War 1.
At Harry’s funeral in 1988 Lord Denning said:
“When you see these trees along Winchester Road you will be reminded of Harry Gilbert”.
The idea of renaming the Allotments came when the story appeared on the Whitchurch Nostalgia Facebook page, an excellent and popular resource set up by local resident Fiona MacDonald and which has become a wealth of information on local history. Cllr John Buckley knowing that the Grandchildren of Harry’s family were keen for some recognition of their ancestor, obtained Town Council approval for a renaming and on Saturday 3rd November at midday the Allotments were officially designated as “The Harry Gilbert Allotments”.
The family gathered
A very well attended gathering at the Allotments heard the history of Harry and his life both in WW1 and later in Whitchurch in a moving presentation from his grandson Colin Flaherty. Harry’s signing up, his return to the Front, the job that had resulted in cycling to Bournemouth, his time in the town band, were all described with love and affection. Also present were many other members of the family – grandchildren, great grandchildren and even great great grandchildren many of whom had travelled from other parts of the UK, along with a number allotment holders, town councillors and local residents.
Whitchurch Town Mayor Cllr John Buckley in his speech said:
“Let us remember and honour Harry, the brave soldier who survived the First World War and who planted these willow trees in 1919 for ‘The Fallen”. Let us keep that little story alive for future generations while at the same time honouring all those who have served us.”
Following the ‘cutting of the ribbon’ a reception was held in the Town Hall where Cllr Claire Isbester gave an interesting talk on the ‘Sowings for New Spring’ textile artwork which is installed in the front office as a lasting memorial to those who served. Anyone is always welcome to call in and see this wonderful creation.
It was a lovely occasion.
The Town Council’s Winchester Road Allotments are now officially
‘THE HARRY GILBERT ALLOTMENTS’