Sun, 14 Feb 2021
East Ilsley Parish Council has secured a grant to finance the restoration of a recently-salvaged memorial plaque.
The plaque commemorates the life of Sgt Reginald George Wells, a war hero known locally as 'Rex'.
Sgt Wells was born in East Ilsley in 1887.
He joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment at the outbreak of the First World War, but was ultimately transferred to the Hampshire Regiment.
He was killed amid fierce fighting in Palestine in 1917 and was buried there alongside his company captain.
The event was covered extensively in the Newbury Weekly News at the time.
Years after his death, a memorial plaque was put up in the East Ilsley Baptist church.
In 2019, West Berkshire Council approved plans to convert the chapel into a house.
Builders renovating the building discovered Sgt Wells' tablet and the late sergeant's relatives took a keen interest in the plaque's future.
This prompted East Ilsley Parish Council, spearheaded by clerk Fenella Woods, to arrange for the restoration of the plaque.
Cardiff-based masonry firm Mossfords was commissioned, but Welsh lockdown restrictions delayed the process.
This week, funding was formally secured from the War Memorials Trust towards all costs incurred.
Moreover, the Diocese of Oxford has granted permission to relocate the plaque to East Ilsley's Anglican church, St Mary's, upon its return to the village.
These proposals were a cause of some controversy, not least because Sgt Wells was raised in the Baptist faith.
However, it was found that he had converted to Anglicanism as an adult, with his confirmation into the faith actually taking place at St Mary's in 1912.
The date of the tablet's return remains uncertain.
However, Mrs Woods is hoping Mossfords will send it back this summer and is planning a ceremony at St Mary's to reintroduce it to East Ilsley.
She said: "East Ilsley Parish Council have been successful in obtaining a grant from the War Memorials Trust towards the restoration costs of the plaque rescued from the Baptist chapel last year.
"The parish council are delighted that we have secured this funding and that we have been able to rescue and restore this important part of local history.
"We have now instructed Mossfords in Cardiff to start the work on the renovation and they will give us a timeline of expected completion as soon as they can.
"We have also received the 'faculty' from the Diocese of Oxford confirming we have been granted permission to place the newly-restored plaque into St Mary's Church upon completion."