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This page records the details of the War Memorials in Fleet and Crookham.
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TEMPORARY WAR MEMORIAL (1919)
In the summer of 1919 peace celebrations took place to commemorate the end of the First World War. As Fleet had no War Memorial at this time, a temporary one was erected in Fleet Road opposite the post office at the time. As can be seen by the sawn wood in the background, this land formed part of Pool and Sons sawmill site.
At length the war ended with an Armistice on November 11th 1918 and the Peace Treaty of Versailles in 1919. During the summer of 1919 there were celebrations everywhere.
In Fleet there was, understandably, no permanent memorial yet built to the men who had given their lives in the terrible loses of four years trench warfare and elsewhere. It was therefore decided to erect a temporary memorial for use during the celebrations. The site chosen was in Fleet Road at the upper part of the sawmill ground. This provided a saluting base for a march past.
– Hew Pool
These are two images of the temporary Fleet War Memorial showing different viewpoints. Today it would be roughly positioned where the entrance to the Hart Shopping Centre is.
Below: Two different views of the temporary Fleet War Memorial sited in 1919.
We can compare the views in 1919 to the landscape today but even this has changed in recent times. Looking at the building opposite the memorial you can see quite easily how the positions compares to the 2016 image (below left) but by 2023 (below right) the design of the shops have changed, making it altogether less familiar.
Below: The outlook from the temporary memorial site in 2016 and 2023.
Here we can see a page from the Fleet Peace Festivities brochure from 1919, showing the use of the temporary war memorial at the services on Sunday July 20th.
STATION MEMORIAL (1921)
When the Cenotaph in Whitehall was unveiled in 1920, many towns decided to build their own war memorials, including Fleet and Crookham. Local stonemasons Mardles were entrusted with the job and created models of the designs for approval before they were built. Mr. Mardles grandson, Tim Mardles, still has the models and was kind enough to share the photos of them. Here we can see the mockup of the war memorial in Fleet and the finished article in place.
Below: A model of the Fleet War Memorial before it was built (Credit: Tim Mardles) and the finalised memorial.
The memorial, made from white Portland stone, was originally located on land donated by the Station Hotel. It was unveiled by The Earl of Selborne on April 10th 1921. The dedication was given by the Reverend Henry Robins and was also attended by the Reverend W. R. Lowis B.D.
The photos below show people gathering at the unveiling ceremony as the crowds spilled out onto the roads, blocking access by the station approach.
Below: Fleet War Memorial unveiling ceremony April 10th 1921.
Buglers, soldiers that were stationed at Crookham, can be seen in the background as they sounded the Last Post in an area that would be recognised today as the entrance to the Waterfront Business Park and local clergy from all the churches read out prayers and the dedication.
The trees that have been cleared in the photo are to make way for Pool’s timber business which was about to move into the area. You can just see Fleet Pond at the top left of the photo and “The Flash” which would later be filled in with sawdust by Pools.
Below: Buglers sound the last post at the unveiling ceremony.
The photos below were taken just after the unveiling ceremony on what was just a normal working day. With the absence of crowds the memorial can be seen clearly.
Below: The war memorial free of crowds after the opening ceremony.
The memorial became an important feature in the town and Remembrance services were posted in the local newspapers to advise residents of upcoming events as nearby churches and schools joined in the services.
Below: Newspaper articles for Fleet Remembrance services in 1935, 1942 and 1946.
In 1945 crowds gathered at the War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday to celebrate the end of the Second World War and the return of their loved ones and family members. The procession was usually led by the RAMC band, stationed at Church Crookham, which would march down Fleet Road with hundreds of people representing local organisations. Much like today, the service was carried out by the local clergy and including the laying of poppy wreaths.
Below: The scene from 1945 – and the same position today.
Over the years the crowds attending the memorial services continued to prove an issue as the roads were blocked and pavements full. With the introduction of cars the problem was to become worse and by the 1970s the decision was made to move the war memorial to a new site with better access.
CIVIC CENTRE (1972/73)
In 1964/65 preliminary plans were prepared for a new Civic Centre complex. Although the original scheme was modified the Assembly Halls and the County Library were completed. The Halls were first open to the public on 1st October 1972. The War Memorial was incorporated to become part of the piazza having been moved from its previous position at the entrance to Fleet Station.
Below: The Civic Centre Fleet pictured in 1976 with the War Memorial in its new position. Photo credit: Bernard Potter.
However, this wasn’t to be the last destination for the well travelled memorial as plans for the area were to change in the mid 1980s when new council offices were built on the complex.
Below: A last look at the war memorial in 1985 before it moves again.
GURKHA SQUARE (1985/86)
By 1986 the memorial had reached what would (hopefully) be its final resting place as it was rebuilt in the position we know it today – Gurkha Square.
The memorial had been updated after the end of the Second World War and now contained 86 names of the dead from WW1 on four side panels and 66 from WW2 on the plinth as well as one name from another conflict.
Below: The War Memorial picture in Gurkha Square 2023.
Below: The names of the fallen on the Gurkha Square memorial 2023.
CHURCH CROOKHAM MEMORIAL
As well as creating the Fleet War Memorial, Mardles Stone Masons also built the Church Crookham memorial in Gally Hill Road. This memorial remained in the same position throughout the years. As with the Fleet version, a model of the finalised project was produced for approval before progressing with the work.
Below: A model of the Church Crookham War Memorial before it was built (credit: Tim Mardles) and the final version in situ.
The memorial consisted of a wheeled cross design on a stone square base with a sword carved into it. It was designed by Charles Geoffrey Holme and dedicated on 10th October 1920. The base of the memorial was altered after 1945 to to included those lost in the Second World War.
Below: The unveiling of the Church Crookham War Memorial 10th October 1920.
The photograph below shows local cubs, scouts, brownies and girl guides at the Church Crookham Service of Remembrance in 1981.
Below: Church Crookham Remembrance Service 1981.
While the position of the Crookham memorial hasn’t changed since its creation, the buildings that surrounded it have as can be seen in these two images from 1968 and 2023.
Below: Church Crookham War Memorial pictured in 1968 and 2023.
Below: The base of the Church Crookham War Memorial 2023.
Elvetham also had its own War Memorial which was located in front of St. Mary’s Church in its grounds. The Elvetham was used as a makeshift hospital between 1916 and 1919. This memorial was mainly paid for with money from the estate and was again the creation of Mardles the stonemason. After the church fell into disrepair many years ago, no Remembrance Day services were held there. It was unveiled by the Hon Sir. S. Arthur Gough-Calthorpe who was the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. The dedication was performed by the Bishop of Winchester on 22nd April 1922 and a thousand people attended the ceremony. Seventeen men from the Elvetham Estate who were lost in the First Word War had their names inscribed on the base. After the end of the Second World War in 1945, seven more names were added to it.
Below: The Elvetham War memorial held its unveiling ceremony on 22nd April 1922.
1945 AIR CRASH
On 5th October 1945, a month after Japan’s formal final surrender marking the end of the Second World War, a Liberator aircraft repatriating Czech residents from England to Prague crashed on the Elvetham Estate.
The plane, carrying 23 passengers and crew, took off around midday from Blackbushe Aerodrome at nearby Hartfordbridge Flats. Within two miles it had crashed in flames in a sugar beet field, killing everyone on board. Newspapers reported that five field workers had a narrow escape when the aircraft came down 200 yards from where they were eating their lunch.
There were five crew and 17 passengers on the flight list but for days after the crash, mystery surrounded the identity of a 23rd body found in the wreckage. She was finally identified as Edita Sedlak, wife of Flight Sergeant Zdenek Sedlak – the pair had only been married five months.Other victims included Marina Pauliny, vice chair of the Czech Red Cross in London, eight other women and five children. Two men originally booked o the flight had given up their seats to two of the women, so desperate had they been to return home.
– The Elvetham Hampshire – A History
Below: Newspaper photos and articles about the crash.
Below are images of the memorial outside St. Mary’s Church. A laminated sheet of paper has been placed at the base of the Elvetham memorial to remember the victims of the 1945 plane crash.
Below: The Elvetham War Memorial and grounds 2023.
Pictured below are images of the base of the memorial taken in November 2023. Unfortunately the names aren’t that easy to read.
Below: The base of the Elvetham War Memorial with inscribed names.
MARDLES THE STONEMASONS
Behind all the local war memorials were the Mardles family, who opened their stonemasonry business in 1901 in a shop they built at 105 Fleet Road. Here they can be seen at their business premises, which was to play an important part in the future of Fleet.
Below: Mardles Stonemasons in Fleet Road c1911.
The building that once housed the Mardles family business sadly no longer exists but you can see a photo of it here from one of their adverts. If you take a look at the two photos after that you can see the ‘number 1’ logo is placed where the building is…and today where it used to be. The original shop was demolished in 1979 to make way for an office block. Later that was also demolished and today it is retirement home complex.
Below: Mardles Stonemasons building in Fleet Road.
When war broke out in 1914 both Harry Mardles and his son Sydney volunteered and joined the Hampshire Yeomanry in Aldershot. On their return from the war, their business was given the commission to build Fleet War Memorial. They also built a number of other local memorials including Elvetham, Church Crookham, Crondall, and Hartley Wintney as well as creating gravestones for the local cemeteries.
Below: Sydney Mardles on horseback during The Great War and a newspaper article celebrating his wedding anniversary in 1956.
In 1965 the family spoke to a local newspaper and described how the next generation were keeping the business alive and how they had adapted to build houses as demand for stonemasonry had dwindled over time. The article provides some interesting background to the family business and their time in Fleet.
Below: Newspaper interview with the Mardles family from 1965.
The business existed until 1977 when it went into liquidation, marking the end of an era in Fleet.
Below: Mardles the stone masons comes to an end in 1977.
So that’s the story of the War Memorials in Fleet and Crookham. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them and as always, please get in touch if you have anything to add!
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