Marking the centenary of the outbreak of WWI

A Challenge Achieved Beyond Expectation

I have a lump in my throat as I write.  I have always felt it was important to remember and reflect on the great sacrifice made by a generation 100 years ago.  The history group of The Chislehurst Society acted on the idea of one of our members, Mary Wheeler, to create a community event for this commemoration on August 4th.  Sainsbury's manager, John Woods, was enthusiastic about our suggestion to create a Wall of Remembrance inside his store.  In fact he set us a challenge, to fill the whole of the back wall with names and images recalling Chislehurst and it's lads and lasses who gave all for the 'Great War'.

Never one to shy away from such a challenge, I hoped we would achieve it but never dared to dream that we might succeed.   But the Chislehurst community exceeded the call and the whole wall became a dedicated temporary memorial.  I am so proud to have been part of this event and delighted to have shared the experience with so many people.

Black backing paper went up on Friday 1st August and Don Drage put up his beautifully written 'bricks' recalling the names of those Chislehurst men who are carved into the village War Memorial.  Then a steady stream of callers arrived with their family pictures and memories of the fallen and those who survived the conflict.  Shoppers paused from the hub bub of the tills to write the names of their ancestors onto the wall. 

Children coloured in poppies, Kitchener handlebar moustaches and drew pictures of medals.  The children, in fact, knew a lot about the centenary, even if they did think it was a thousand years ago and were surprised to realise I wasn't even born then!  Many people went away to ring their parents and ask about their grandparents and great grandparents, then returned with what they had learned.

We raised £245 for the British Legion who were with us over the first three days of our wall building.  The team were fantastic and we gained additional volunteers over the weekend.  Come Monday morning, Sainsburys were asking if the wall could stay up for the rest of the week and even Bob Neill, our MP (right), came to put up the name of his grandfather. We certainly met John's challenge!   The wall eventually had to come down but everything has been photographed and will not be lost.

Thank you to everyone who participated and to those young men and women of 1914 who gave us the life we have today, no less free from conflict, but free to make choices.

Most importantly, thank you to the Chislehurst community; we paused to think, people were both sad and grateful but joined together to create something special.

The Chislehurst Society is thinking ahead to create an art event on Chislehurst Common in 2019 to commemorate the event staged there in June 1919 for the returning troops. 

Joanna Friel

For more photographs of the Wall and of the people who participated, look here...

This is a copy of an article written by Joanna for Visit Chislehurst (www.visitchislehurst.org.uk)