Our Bench & Memorial
at Lochnagar Crater
For many years, founder of Wenches In Trenches, Sue Robinson, had been amazed and saddened at the lack of public memorials to the women of the Great War. At every new town or city she visited she made a point of looking and asking around; “Is there anything here to commemorate the women of the First World War?”.
The answer was always the same. No.
In 2013 Sue organised a meeting of members and trustees of Wenches and it was decided that we would raise the funds and build our own lasting tribute. Little did we know that all the councils that we would approach would turn us down. One city (which we will not name) said; “We have enough statues and memorials here, we could do with getting rid of the First World War ones now".
So, what do we do? Where do we go?
Sue approached our good friend, the lovely Richard Dunning owner of Lochnagar Crater on the Somme France.
She didnt particularly want to have a memorial in another country but, hey, needs must!
Richard immediately said yes. So Sue and her colleague, the late and much missed Suzanna Green drove to France and had a site meeting with him and some of the Friends of Lochnagar who maintain and look after that sacred place.
Vinny Felstead (A Friend of Lochnagar) came up with a sketch of a half elipse bench which would do nicely.
So, off we went again to the crater to choose the shell hole that was to be the home of our nurses bench. The cost? Well, it wasnt cheap as it was all hand made in Yorkshire by Vinny and transported across the channel to be assembled. We did sponsored walks and plant sales etc. and swiftly raised the £1,000 needed to pay for it. Vinny gave his time and expertise free of charge for which we are forever grateful.
1st July 2015
How excited they were that day! Sue, Suzanna Green and Audrey Woodrow put on their WW1 VAD uniforms and laid wreaths in remembrance of all Nurses and VADs at the cross of sacrifice at Lochnagar.
Once the main ceremony was over we went around to our shell hole and could see a large shape under a green cover. French TV were there to interview us and a few other folk stayed.
After a few words they unveiled the beautiful hand crafted bench, our very first memorial to those mighty girls who left their homes and travelled across the sea to help in a bloody war.
Richard then presented Sue with a beautiful hand carved plaque of a WW1 hospital ward complete with nurses. It's beautiful and unique as it was carved by Tim another friend of Lochnagar.
We are all extremely proud of the bench - there is an inscription in both English and French carved into it honouring the Nurses and VADs. But then we thought; what about the munition girls, army canteens, F.A.N.Y.s, women doctors, women at home driving trams, mending roads? We decided we must to do something for those lasses as well.....
Once again, Sue got on the phone to dear Richard and asked if he would object to a granite memorial opposite the bench to commemorate all women of all nations who were involved in the Great War in any way? Of course, God love that man, he had no objections not at all.
So, as before, Sue set off with Audrey Woodrow and drove to France. Staying at the fabulous Number 56 B&B with our wonderful friends David and Julie Thompson, they sat down with Vinny Felstead discussing and designing the shape and look of the memorial. Once this had been agreed they then had to find the appropriate words for the inscription. They thought long and hard about what would be all inclusive as they didnt want to leave any woman out. Again Vinny Felstead had it made in Yorkshire then transported it free of charge to France for us.
As you can see they eventually decided on the inscription:
“Dedicated to the valiant women of all nations who served in the Great War”
Wenches raised £2,000 for the construction of the 2 memorials and another £1,000 which was handed to Lochnagar for the upkeep of them.
Thanks to the resourcefulness and tenacity of Sue and the enthusiasm and energy of all the Wenches the women of the Great War now have a memorial to honour their work and sacrifice.
A job well done Ladies.