WAVERLEY Borough Council has been accused of disrespecting the five employees of Farnham United Breweries who lost their lives in the First World War after painting over a commemorative plaque on the outside wall of the revamped Memorial Hall.
Farnham’s new £3.27m health and wellbeing centre re-opened last year on West Street following extensive building works, provides a new home for the Brightwells Gostrey Centre for older people, Waverley Training Services, and, where possible, its previous users.
However, as part of the work, the council repainted the outside of the building – obscuring a plaque above its main entrance dedicated to the lives of Private George William Ayres, Private Mark William George Glazier, Charles Thomas Hawkins, Frederick Charles Mansey and John Baden-Powell Wallace.
Taking umbrage at the council’s actions, Scott Bell of the Farnham Great War Group said: “The Farnham Memorial Hall has recently been enlarged and upgraded and the work is now finished.
“On the front of the hall is a memorial plaque naming the five soldiers to whom it is dedicated, all employees of Farnham United Brewery who gave their lives fighting in the Great War
“Imagine my surprise and horror to see the plaque has now been painted over in brilliant white along with the whole wall so it is not possible to read their names.
“The Farnham Great War Group visited the battlefield where he died and laid a wreath in memory of one of the men, Private GW Ayres, in 2017, exactly 100 years after he was killed.
“He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras War Memorial along with nearly 35,000 of his comrades who also have no known grave.
“In a way, the Memorial Hall is his known commemoration and surely all who go there should be able to read his name and the other four names of his comrades?
“Before the hall was altered the plaque stood out and was a sandstone colour contrasting with the background wall and with the names clearly legible. I am no expert but feel the plaque should be carefully cleaned and reinstated to its original form.”
Responding to Mr Bell by email, Kelvin Mills, Waverley Borough Council’s head of communities and major projects, said: “The historical relevance of the Memorial Hall to Farnham was foremost in our thoughts as the hall was being refurbished.“In fact each of our main rooms is named in memory of the five soldiers named on the memorial plaque; in addition, we have erected five silent soldiers at the forefront of the hall and embedded the history within all our marketing material.
“The plaque was painted to raise the profile of those employees who gave their lives in the Great War. It was refurbished in line with its original form. However, we agree with your description that the names are somewhat difficult to read and it is our intention to bring out the names more clearly, as we have already done with the Latin inscription above.
“We have identified a firm capable of this detailed piece of work and are looking to confirm dates when this work can be carried out.
“It is our intention to do this as soon as possible.”