‘Vickers’ graves finally marked

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Memorial Service for ‘Vickers’ Air Raid Graves

 

On 4 September 1940, 83 civilians working at the Vickers-Armstrong factory based in Weybridge lost their lives during a day time air raid; five of whom were unidentified or unclaimed. On 9 September 1940 these five people were buried in Burvale Cemetery; the graves remained without a memorial – until now..

Memorials to commemorate the five victims have been kindly donated by Lodge Brothers Funeral Directors, four of the five victims who died were never identified but the fifth was identified as William Ernest Hunt aged 36.

A short dedication of the memorials by Rev’d Martin Fletcher from St Peter’s Church will take place in Burvale Cemetery on Thursday 10 March 2016 at 2pm which will also be attended by the daughter and grandson of the late William Ernest Hunt.

MarySheldon-webCllr Mary Sheldon, Porfolio Holder for Leisure & Cultural Services, said:

“About a year ago I was approached by two Hersham residents and I agreed to do what I could to find out more about the 5 unidentified civilians who lost their lives in the Vickers air raid. I spent some time in the Library at the Brooklands Museum, many hours on the internet and combed through numerous archives – it was a daunting task.

We found the identity of one and after further exhaustive searches I finally suggested that we should look into having Memorials made at least to record what had happened, even though 4 of the 5 names were not known.  And now we are to have the Memorials dedicated at Burvale Cemetery on Thursday 10th March at 2pm.  The daughter and grandson of the late William Ernest Hunt will be attending, having travelled from the North of England to see the marked grave of their relative for the first time.

I am sure local residents will join me to thank Lodge Brothers Funeral Directors for their thoughtful donation in memory of all five victims.

Please do come and share with us this moving occasion.” Burvale-Memorial-web

For further information, please contact the Cemeteries Manager, email cemeteries@elmbridge.gov.uk or call 01372 474567.

 

Update from Mary Sheldon on the Memorial Service – 10th March:

Burvale Cemetary – Thursday 10 March – approximately 50 people were in attendance, including about half a dozen from Brooklands Museum who have always been very involved and interested in the whole of the 1940 Vickers disaster.    

From my perspective, the most moving part of this dedication was the presence of Constance Keany and Carol Blacklidge, daughters of two of those buried at Burvale in 1940, William Ernest Hunt and Stanley Eric Powell, whose names had until now not been mentioned. The two daughters saw their father’s graves for the first time, and met each other in such unexpected circumstances.    Their sons (ie grandsons of William Hunt and Stanley Powell) had both contacted me during the last 2 weeks having heard about the memorials and planned dedications – such is the power of the social media.

They have just updated Wikipedia to include last week’s dedication –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooklands for their information.

Transcript of the introduction to the dedication from Councillor Mary Sheldon:

Burvale-Vicar-webBURVALE VICKERS MEMORIALS

I am sure everyone here will have read about or heard from family and friends various accounts of what happened in Weybridge on that fateful day in September 1940.

On 4 September 1940, at least 83 civilians working at the Vickers-Armstrong factory in Weybridge lost their lives during a devastating, daring daytime air raid. A further 420 people were injured, some seriously. Most of the workers were having their lunchtime break at the time.    Five of those who died were unidentified or unclaimed. On 9 September 1940 those five people were buried here at Burvale Cemetery; their graves have remained without a memorial – until now.

Keany-family-webJust over a year ago, I was approached by two Hersham residents – and they are here with us today – Lorna Douglas and her sister Sheila Morris….. They had noticed, whilst attending their family grave here that there were 5 unmarked graves and asked me, as one of their Hersham councillors, if I could do anything about getting some kind of memorial stone which would explain the circumstances around these five graves.   I agreed to do what I could to find out more. I spent some time with a very knowledgeable volunteer in the Library at the Brooklands Museum, many hours on the internet and combed through numerous archives – it was a daunting task.

We found the identity of one after checking the Burvale Grave Register and this was William Ernest Hunt, who died aged 36. William’s daughter Constance is with us today, together with her son and daughter Denis and Nicky. Constance, Denis and Nicky have travelled from the North of England to be present with us to take part in this dedication and to see the marked memorial of their relative for the very first time. By the strangest coincidence only 2 weeks ago Denis (Keany) contacted the Council asking for help in locating the grave of his grandfather; he wanted to bring his mother to see the grave but had no idea at all that there were plans to have a headstone on it, or that a dedication/blessing was to take place today….we are all amazed at the timing of all this   !

After further exhaustive searches, and not being able to confirm any further names, I finally suggested last Autumn that we should look into having Memorials made at least to record what had happened, even though 4 of the 5 names were not known.

Lodge Brothers, Funeral Directors, kindly offered to make and to donate the two memorials and we are extremely grateful to them for their generous and thoughtful donation.

Powell-family-webAnd now we are to have the Memorials (for the 5 victims of this devastating air raid) dedicated here today at Burvale Cemetery.   We also have present a number of other people who have been involved with Brooklands Museum and other organisations in connection with WW2 and other local history groups. Also here today is Neil Blacklidge, grandson of Eric Stanley Powell, who also died in the air-raid at the age of 26 and whose body was not identified at the time in 1940, (but it is possible that he could also be buried here).   Neil contacted me a few days ago when he heard about the dedication to be held today.

And now I will ask the Reverend Martin Fletcher of St Peter’s Church Hersham to  continue with the dedication.”

 

Hersham Hub Note: We are trying to get a transcript of the dedication to include in this post.

 

If you would like to know more about the Vickers Air Raid you can read:

Surviving the Vickers Armstrong Air Raid. September 1940

There is also some information here about the work carried out by the Vickers factory:

Brooklands: The Vickers Wellington

 

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