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First World War memorial unveiled for 15 soldiers from the same St Albans street

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An extraordinary memorial to 15 soldiers who were killed in the First World War has been unveiled in the St Albans street where they once lived.

Joan Stanley, the niece of one of the victims, unveiled the tribute built onto the wall of the house at 1 Kings Road at a special ceremony on Saturday 13 May.

She was helped by Major Rhys Little from the Royal Anglian Regiment and standard bearers from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regimental Association.

Residents from Kings Road had raised funds and campaigned for the memorial, called Last Post, which will be maintained by St Albans City and District Council.

Street memorials to commemorate those who died in the Great War are a unique feature of the roads around St Albans Cathedral.

Ten street memorials were put up in the aftermath of the war but no such tribute was made to the Kings Road fallen as their street lay just outside the Abbey parish.

The memorial was the idea of Kings Road resident Judy Sutton who has co-authored an illustrated history about the Kings Road fallen with Helen Little.

All proceeds from the book, Kings Road: For King and Country, went to fund the memorial with around £12,000 raised from donations, street parties, raffles and other events.

A residential committee was set up to oversee the project and commissioned the memorial sculpture from artist Renato Niemis.

His modern design features metal bricks, raised out from the wall, which depict the 15 men by name, regiment, civilian occupation and the number of the Kings Road house where they once lived.

Judy, who has lived in Kings Road for more than 30 years, said:

 I can hardly believe this has finally happened after almost five years of hard work.

The idea of a memorial came to me after I went to a local exhibition to mark the centenary of the Great War’s Armistice and was struck by how many men from Kings Road had lost their lives.

The street suffered among the highest number of First World War casualties of any other City Centre road and I felt it was important that we should have a memorial here to remember them.

I am delighted that we have now honoured their memory and sacrifice in this way and I thank all of the many people and organisations who have helped bring this about.

Mr Niemis, whose work includes a memorial sculpture for missing US warplanes at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, was at the ceremony.

He said:

The memorial is partly about finally bringing these men home from the war. It reflects the fact that the men who died were the bricks and mortar of the road.

Details from each soldier’s life are included in the sculpture’s bricks to bring each of these individuals to life. It was fascinating to learn about their history, how young some of these volunteers were and how varied were their occupations.

The bricks are also designed to look a little like the telegrams which the families would have received with news of their loved one’s death at the front.

I wanted to create a memorial that would stand out and catch people’s eye rather than a block of stone with the men’s names chiselled in and I hope I have done that with this design. I want people who walk by to really notice it.

The youngest of the Kings Road men who were killed during the 1914-18 war was 16 years old and the oldest was 38. The dead included three brothers.

The men’s civilian jobs included cowman, gamekeeper, postman, brass finisher and gas worker.

Among those at the unveiling were the Mayor of St Albans City and District, Geoff Harrison, and the Rev. Jonny Lloyd, newly-appointed vicar of nearby St Michael’s Church who blessed and dedicated the memorial.

The Mayor said:

This will be one of the last engagements that I perform as Mayor and it will also be one of the most memorable.

The Kings Road community are to be commended for coming together in this way to honour the Great War dead from their street. It is an awesome memorial, a very fitting and eye catching way of remembering those we owe a great debt to.

A bugler played a Call To Arms at the beginning of the ceremony, attended by more than 100 people, and the Last Post at the end which was followed by a moment of reflection.

Each house where the men had once lived displayed a picture of them for the occasion.

The Council has acquired the memorial as well as a licence to use the wall space and is committed to maintaining it along with the City’s other street memorials.

The soldiers who are commemorated were:

  • William Thomas Hunt, 38, - 2, Kings Rd
  • John Edward Hunt, 21, - 3, Kings Rd
  • Arthur William Peters, 30, - 7, Kings Rd
  • William J Ashby, 23, - 8, Kings Rd
  • Charles E Burridge, 34, - 15, Kings Rd
  • Archie Faulder, 20, - 17, Kings Rd
  • Philip William Hart, 23, - 21, Kings Rd
  • Henry Charles Hart, 26, - 21, Kings Rd
  • Ernest Hart, 32, - 21, Kings Rd
  • John George Coleman, 16, - 25, Kings Rd
  • Alfred Foster, 36, - 31, Kings Rd
  • Edward R J Atkins, 29, - 39, Kings Rd
  • George Edward Howard, 38, - 43, Kings Rd
  • Percy William Cox, 25, - 55, Kings Rd
  • Ferdinand H Henry, 19, - 61, Kings Rd

Pictures: top, Joan Stanley unveiling the memorial with the help of Major Rhys Little; below, the Mayor, far left, at the unveiling; residents wait for the unveiling ceremony to begin; the Rev Jonny Lloyd addresses the crowd; the memorial, pic by Steve Gledhill; Judy Sutton by the memorial, pic by Steve Gledhill.