Pitminster War Memorial

When undertaking any fieldwork project this early stage tends to be the most exciting – exploring the area, getting to know the people and places you’ll be working with and generally learning as much as you can as quickly as possible. Neither myself or Steve come from a standing start for this project, but after just a few fieldwork report entries we’re both seeing interesting results.

Take Pitminster for example, a memorial to those from the Parish who died in the First (here and commonly at the time called the Great War) and Second World Wars. It’s beautiful location is well over a mile from the actual village, half way up a hill next to a well used commuter route. Today if a memorial is built it is usually easy to visit, easy to see and a centrepeice of a population centre. Although Pitminster’s Memorial, half way up Blagdon Hill, is impressive in itself, it suffers badly from its exposure to the elements and has become difficult to visit next to an increasingly busy road. For these reasons and more Pitminster PCC, the Memorial’s custodians, have voted in favour of moving the War Memorial to a more suitable position within the village (see http://www.pitminsterparish.org.uk/pitminster-parish-plan.php). A modern reminder of the continued importance of remembrance.

Pitminster not only highlights the importance of War Memorials to today’s communities, it also presents us with some interesting data. Firstly, it is the only war memorial we have ever seen which gives the dates of the Second World War as 1939-1946. It is probable that one of the people on the 2WW side of the memorial died in 1946 (perhaps in the on-going unrest in places such as Palestine), and the dates are altered to allow for this, or it could be a simple mistake on the part of the insciber, which is unlikely.

The inscriptions are unusually descriptive and seem to be well thought out. The photo below shows the First World War side, and the text ‘…MEN OF PITMINSTER…’ – in that conflict only men from the village perished. On the reverse side it states ‘…PARISHIONERS OF PITMINSTER…’ – one lady is commemorated. Whilst this is far from unique it is unusual to be able to discern just from reading the memorial which force any individual served in. We know a lady is listed because the forces are also given: Army, Navy, RAF and WAAF (Womens Auxiliary Air Force).

We are creating this database for people today to use to discover the secrets which lie beneath the names in the stone, the stories behind the real people who lived and died, and to learn any lessons their stories might teach.

We will remember them.

  1. Tim Courtenay said:

    This is a wonderful undertaking and so very important as part of our heritage particularly so with the centenary of the Great War around the corner. Many of our churches, chapels and indeed village halls have in them individual memorial plaques placed usually by families of those killed. I believe we should try to encompass these in the project.
    There is a very good book on Devon’s War Memorials authors name escapes me, and my copy lent to “someone” so must track it down!!
    Would a circular to all Church/Chapel Wardens and /Councils be a useful way of trawling for support?

  2. Thank you for the comment Tim and for your interest in the project. There are indeed many memorial plaques inside churches, chapels and village halls and we aim to visit every single one, and we hope that readers of the blog will give us a heads-up on any obscure ones in unexpected locations. Please do pass on any info you can about the book. We are in contact with the Taunton rural dean and he has kindly compiled a list of contacts in the AONB region. We have also made contact with councils through our links with the Somerset and Devon Heritages services. We want to investigate further the possibility of getting more protection for the memorials at a county-wide level.

  3. Richard Tyzack said:

    I am Clerk to Pitminster Parish Council. I have begun the formalities of obtaining a grant to aid the cleaning and renovation of the Blagdon Hill Memorial.
    Richard Tyzack

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