Monday 6 December 1993

Is It Nothing To You Who Pass By?


An exhibition in November 1993 at Warminster's Dewey Museum that coincided with the Armistice Day remembrance services, was a thought-provoking tribute by the Warminster History Society to those gallant individuals who gave their lives or served for King and Country in two World Wars.

Produced by the Dewey Museum's Assistant Curator Danny Howell and Projects' Officer Glenn Head, the exhibition, which was displayed throughout the month of November, featured the names and inscriptions on 41 war memorials in Warminster, Westbury and the surrounding villages. These were painstakenly recorded by Danny Howell last summer and list over twelve hundred names.

The display was complemented by photographs of local war memorials and a selection of interesting war-related artefacts including embroidered postcards from the First World War, a commemorative mug featuring the lyrics to It's A Long Way To Tipperary, and a piece of parachute from the 82nd Para Regiment's drop on Arnhem in Holland.

Among the medals featured were those of Captain Ward, from Warminster, who served with the Lancashire Fusiliers and died in action in France on 11th October 1916; and Frank Hubert Butler, also from Warminster, who was killed in the Middle East in 1918.

Also on show were the memorial plaques from the Warminster County Secondary School, which were situated in the building now used as the Youth Club in the Close; Newtown School at Chapel Street; and the Roll Of Honour to the men of St. John's Parish, Warminster.

One unusual exhibit was the shield from HMS Aphis, which was presented by the Admiralty to commemorate the adoption of this ship by Warminster & Westbury Rural District Council during War Weapons Week, February 1942.

The centrepiece of the display, wreathed in hundreds of paper blood red poppies donated by Warminster's John Bosley - a veteran of operation Market Garden on Arnhem (A Bridge Too Far) during the Second World War, was a scale model of the town's Portway war memorial fashioned by Mr. F.W. Garrett who spent his working life as a monumental mason with the local firm of Egerton Strong. Mr. Garrett was responsible for carving the names of the fallen in the Second World War on the actual memorial opposite Portway House.

Egerton Strong (1880-1964), the sculptor of the Warminster War Memorial, was descended from a family of Master Stonemasons. His workshops were at Portway. Among his many other commissions was the Royal Coat-Of-Arms at the School of Infantry and countless gravestones in local churchyards.

Danny Howell says: "This exhibition created a lot of interest and a steady stream of visitors. People were telling others about it, and there was an extra influx of people after Trevor Porter came along and took a photo of Glenn and myself with the display which was published in The Wiltshire Times. It was very moving when some of the elderly men who came in got very emotional looking at some of the names of the fallen which were listed. I must admit I shed a tear or two myself when some of the old soldiers started crying. It really brings home the stories of sacrifice."

The exhibition, which was called Is It Nothing To You Who Pass By? (the inscription on the war memorial adjacent the old A303 in the village of Bourton, south west of Warminster) was extremely well-received and many visitors to the library and museum commented that it was a pity it had to be taken down at the end of November.