West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Letters Page

PONTEFRACT WAR MEMORIAL

ADDED 9 June 2006

I read with interest your Digest Pontefract issue (June 2006) recently and noticed there was a letter about Pontefract War Memorial and the places it has been sited over the years.

I have been the parade commander for the Pontefract Remembrance Parade every year now for over 20 years but first took part in the 1960’s as a Cub with the 2nd Pontefract (All Saints) Pack. I went on to be a cadet with 2460 (Pontefract) Squadron ATC before joining the RAF in 1980 and then the West Yorkshire Police in 1982.

I clearly remember the memorial being at “Townend” near the Robin Hood in the sixties and when it was moved it actually went to very close by where it stands today in Cornmarket. There was some debate about where it should go and the Valley Gardens, park and castle were considered but thought to be too far out of the centre. I don’t recall the roundabout near the hospital being considered. The original pillars around the monument were discarded at this time and I recall it being said they had been dumped in Pontefract Park Lake. However, in those days it was in the middle of a tarmac car park area apart -  from market days when it was surrounded by stalls. Following some damage to the stonework, objections to it being used as an extension to market stalls and the disrespectful behaviour of weekend revellers, the council decided to fence it in. Rather than seek local opinion, the council erected a hideous metal barrier close to the foot of the memorial and put a gate on one side only. (Over the years getting the key for that gate was problematic until a duplicate appeared).

The parade continued with all the difficulties associated with the fence being overcome with wreath layers shuffling around the sides to lay their wreaths.

With the redevelopment of Cornmarket the War Memorial site was revamped into the style it is today and is much more appropriate.  The monument was taken down and refurbished and then moved about 20 yards west to where it now stands. In addition, the monument was turned through 90 degrees to show the coloured badges of the Yorks. and Lancs. Regiment and the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on the sides that can be seen on the approaches along Beastfair and Front Street. The pillars were pulled from the lake, some new ones made and these now stand at the four corners with chain fencing between. There was a plan to chain it all in but the previous difficulties in getting keys, keeping people off etc. and the problems of getting access meant I was able to influence that decision and the result is there for everyone to see.

The Pontefract Remembrance Parade has enjoyed excellent attendance over the years and on Remembrance Sunday hundreds gather round to await the commencement of the service as the parish church bells chime eleven o’clock. In addition we have enjoyed unusually good weather over the years, as it never rains on my parade – touch wood.

For those readers who will suggest that the parade commander varies between a Police Officer and a RAF officer, they are correct but both officers are actually me. As a reservist in the RAF Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch) I hold the rank of Squadron Leader, and as a serving Constable in the West Yorkshire Police I am the Ceremonial Duties lead for the whole force but remain loyal to my home town at Pontefract every November. I hope to carry on with this duty for many years to come.

For your previous correspondent who suggested the memorial ended up on Southgate near the hospital, I hope he does not lose his bet. Both theories were actually wrong as the monument went from Townend to Cornmarket where it moved again, but only a few yards.

I hope the residents of Pontefract will continue to give the annual Remembrance Parade the excellent and growing support it has enjoyed over the years.

Michael Wadsworth


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