Tue, 10 Sept 2019
COMMEMORATIVE stones honouring Thatcham’s three Victoria Cross winners could be moved to stop them being damaged and disrespected.
The three stones in the Broadway mark the heroic achievements of 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Buller Turner, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Buller Turner, and Lance Corporal William House.
The Victoria Cross is awarded for most conspicuous bravery, some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
Thatcham’s VC heroes were from three different wars – the Second Boer, First and Second World Wars.
The stones were installed in 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War Battle of Loos in which 2nd Lieutenant Buller Turner was posthumously awarded his VC.
But the location of the memorial stones has caused concerns about their deteriorating condition and a lack of respect.
At a recent town council meeting, councillors debated moving the stones or placing them on a plinth in the Broadway to prevent people walking over them
Jeremy Cottam (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “We are all aware and proud of our VC stones, but equally I think a lot of us are very concerned about the state of them.
“They are starting to deteriorate.
“I have had reports of mopeds being ridden over them.”
A suggestion to move the stones as part of a project to revamp the memorial garden at the town war memorial was rejected by the then Conservative-run town council last year.
Services manager Naomi Mildenhall said some contractors had raised concerns that the stones might crack if they were moved.
Deputy mayor John Boyd (Lib Dem, Thatcham South) said he had been speaking with a stonemason who said nothing could be done about repairing them.
He said: “That particular type of stone is not suitable to be put anywhere near where they could be trodden on, so they are only going to get worse.”
But Mr Cottam called for urgent protection of the stones.
He said: “Just to sit back and do nothing and let them crack in public view would be highly regrettable.
“We are not discussing where to put them, just protecting what’s there.
“It’s not just us sitting around this table, it’s got to involve the community.
“To me these guys are heroes and their names should be venerated and we have to look after them.
“I’m particularly proud that a village the size of Thatcham has a high number of VC winners.”
Keith Woodhams (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) suggested consulting with the Royal British Legion to learn its views, adding: “We don’t want to do anything that might upset them.”
“That’s the intention once we have secured them,” Mr Cottam replied. “Remove them into safe storage and then we have a wider discussion.”
The stone commemorating Alexander Buller Turner was paid for through a national scheme to mark the centenary of First World War.
The town council paid for the other two, costing around £1,000 each.
The stones were placed in the Broadway owing to the site’s high footfall and the historic value of it being close to the original site of the war memorial.