A common feature during, and after the First World War, was a desire to commemorate and remember those who had given their lives during the conflict. Poole was no different but what is remarkable is that the War Memorial in Poole Park was unveiled as late as 1927. A Culture Vulture volunteer working on the Poole History Centre First World War project provides a timeline up to the end of 1920 of the debate about a war memorial in Poole.
All agreed that there should be a memorial but there was no agreement over what form it should take. Opinions were clearly divided between those who believed that it should be of practical value and those in favour of a ‘traditional’ memorial. The dates are those of the Poole and East Dorset Herald newspaper in which the article or correspondence appeared with the aim of giving an idea of people’s opinions as expressed in the local newspaper. Not all references are included here.
- 12 July 1917 A meeting of invited people was held in the Guildhall to discuss a War Memorial for Poole. A person commented that ‘before they did anything in the way of stonework they should see that proper provision was made for the wounded and the relatives of those who had fallen in the War’. The aim was to set up an Executive Committee to determine the best course of action.
- 26 July 1917 Instead of a war memorial there should be Homes of Rest for Disabled Soldiers or Almshouses wrote a correspondent.
- 26 July 1917 A correspondent wrote that ‘I hope the memorial will not take the form of statuary, which would be of no special interest to future generations’.
- 2 August 1917 A correspondent wrote that almshouses would only benefit a few while public baths would be of use for many – often the only opportunity to have a bath was at the public baths.
- 16 August 1917 A correspondent proposed a monument near the Wesleyan Church with a bell, similar to the Curfew Bell, that could be rung.
- 23 August 1917 A request for names to be provided by those who had died in the war for a ‘War Heroes Memorial’ had largely been ignored. The report did wonder if people were aware of the project.
- 30 August 1917 A Poole soldier serving with the Heavy Artillery Group wanted a workshop to be built for wounded soldiers.
- 21 March 1918 The Sheriff to convene a public meeting about a war memorial. The Editorial of the newspaper expressed a hope that no soldier’s or sailor’s name would go ‘unrecorded’.
- 11 April 1918 Suggestions included a bed endowed at Cornelia Hospital, almshouses, or a memorial with an ‘inscription of the names of the men of Poole who had given their lives’.
- 18 April 1918 A correspondent suggested swimming baths, housing, reconstruction of Hamworthy Bridge, and a new museum. Another correspondent wanted a clock tower in Poole Park with the names of those who had died to be recorded on a plinth.
The end of the war saw no decision being made.
- 20 February 1919 Poole War Memorial committee proposed that the memorial should be in two parts at a total cost of £10 000. Firstly, a 30ft tower should be built on Constitution Hill, with the names of those who had died recorded on stone tablets, and possible trophies from the war, such as captured German guns, and tearooms. The second was the purchase of two semi-detached houses in Seldown, ‘Forest Holme’ and ‘Belle Vue’, and to convert them into a convalescent home for soldiers.
- 6 February 1919 In a Council meeting, an opinion was expressed that there should be a central memorial on Constitution Hill with another option being a monument at the old Toll Gate House in Longfleet.
- 27 February 1919 A poorly-attended public meeting threw out the Poole War Memorial committee’s suggestions.
- 6 March 1919 Concern was expressed that the convalescent homes could easily be condemned with a new Government Health Ministry being proposed and any money spent on them would be wasted. The tower idea was ‘useless’. Some wanted a Poole War Memorial Institute.
- 20 March 1919 Poole War Memorial committee resigns after the response to its proposal for the tower on Constitution Hill and a convalescent home was unenthusiastically received.
- 27 March 1919 A correspondent suggested that a fully equipped fire station would be a useful memorial for the town.
- 27 March 1919 A public meeting was to be held to discuss the proposed extension to Cornelia Hospital as a memorial.
- 3 April 1919 A correspondent considered a monument was a waste of money, the extension to the Hospital as not necessary, and wanted houses built for rent to returning soldiers.
- 3 April 1919 The Cornelia Hospital Committee proposed an extension to the hospital and intended to raise £10 000 with 75% spent on the extension and 25% on a monument.
- 10 April 1919 Opponents to the hospital extension believed that the State should pay for hospitals.
- 17 April 1919 At a poorly-attended meeting it was proposed that an extension of Cornelia Hospital should be the town’s war memorial. 24 voted for the proposal and 10 were against.
- 1 May 1919 East Dorset Guild of Workers was closed. The Guild had provided clothing and food packages to soldiers at the front, in hospital and POWs. Its remaining funds were distributed with the Poole Hospital War Memorial Fund receiving £700 and the Isolation Hospital £10. A comment was made by some that more money should have gone to the Isolation Hospital.
- 15 May 1919 A soldier serving in Germany with the Royal Garrison Artillery wanted public baths.
- 22 May 1919 Another committee was formed which hoped to work with the hospital extension committee, this time to create an educational Institute, with baths, for ex-soldiers.
- 26 June 1919 A soldier serving with the army of occupation in Germany wrote that statues had no use. They wanted public baths because they would need one when they got home.
- 26 June 1919 Funds should be raised to create a memorial by extending the Hospital and building an Institute with monies divided 75:25.
- 17 July 1919 Some supported the idea that a fire engine should be purchased as a war memorial as the existing fire engine was not fit for purpose.
- 10 June 1920 A branch of the League of Nations was formed in Poole at a packed meeting held in the Guildhall. A view was expressed by some that those who had died during the war would want, as a memorial, the unity of nations. The branch had around 500 members by August. The League of Nations came into being with the Treaty of Versailles and it was hoped that future wars could be avoided by nations working together. There is a suggestion that Poole was the first place in Dorset to have a branch.
During August 1920, the local newspaper was once again discussing the lack of, and the need for, a memorial in Poole. The long editorial of 12 August expressed a hope that a decision would be made without delay and work begun soon. And yet again there was no consensus.
- 19 August 1920 A cenotaph should be built at the junction of Mount Street (now part of Lagland Street) and High Street.
- 19 August 1920 A correspondent believed that instead of a monument an Endowment fund for the Cornelia Hospital should be created with a simple plaque recording the reason. There was no free National Health Service until 1948 and everything had to be paid for – at the time there were concerns the hospital could struggle to survive.
- 26 August 1920 Money should be given to the Mayor’s fund for a ‘Poole’ workshop at Enham Village Centre for disabled ex-servicemen. The fund had only raised £105. The correspondent believed that this was the best war memorial the town could have. Enham Village was created in 1919, with the support of King George V and Queen Mary, to provide training for disabled soldiers in trades such as upholstery and gardening. 150 men were in residence at the end of 1919. It provided the same care to injured soldiers during the Second World War.
- 11 November 1920 The Cenotaph in London was unveiled by the King in a day of remembrance that included the interment of the ‘Unknown Warrior’ in Westminster Abbey.
From the timeline it is clear that people wanted a memorial but as to what form it should take was unclear. How unusual was Poole’s experience is not known. However, the local newspaper of 20 March 1919 reported on a meeting held in Dorchester into a war memorial for the town. Suggestions put forward included public baths, a convalescent home or rest home for soldiers and the meeting ended with no agreement. The debate in Poole was only resolved when Alderman H. Carter spoke in 1925 about the need for ‘a timeless tribute to all war dead’ which eventually led to the unveiling of Poole War Memorial in Poole Park on October 16 1927.
And the story is continued here on the Poole Museum Society Blog