It transpired that the Town Mayor, Terry Fraser, was keen to support our project and a working Committee was formed . This consisted of members of the RNA, the RAFA, several Town Councillors plus the archivist Trevor and ex Coucillor H Brew.
A number of meetings were held and a number of problems encountered. Firstly the list obtained from the War Graves data base was not as complete as we had hoped. It transpired that some 12% of the records did not include next of kin information - which was the only clue to the home towns of the casualties. Other means had to be found to trace names. We publicised our list in the local press with requests that long established residents of the town to inform us of casualties not on our list. We also had the task of vetting the list to ensure that all the names we had were genuine residents of Wantage and that as far as possible discover whether the names were, for any reason, already included on existing memorials elsewhere. It was hard going but after some months we had what we were convinced was as complete a list as it was possible to get fifty odd years after the war . It was accepted that some names might still be missing but the committee decided that this should be no bar to going ahead with the project. We made contingency plans to ensure that the method of adding the names to the memorial would allow further names to be added if and when new information was discovered.
Further meetings discussed how the names should be added. The plinth of the existing monument was too small to accomodate all the names - especially as we had decided to add all the 1914/18 names as well. The method decided was to add semi horizontal stone slabs around the base of the memorial to support a number of bronze plates with the names cast in raised letters. There was also discussion of what information to include with the names and a majority decision was that we should include Service ranks and Unit information (Regiment, Ship name or Squadron Number.) This was felt to be important for posterity. Relatives of the casualties might discover the memorial during genealogical searches and would need to have the fullest possible information about their forbears.
There was only one dissenting vote at the meeting when this format was agreed. This was from ex Councillor H Brew who stated that he objected on religious grounds. He calimed that as we came into the world without rank or degree , no rank or degree should be on the memorial .... just bare names.
The next problem was to obtain permission from the Diocese Authorities to do the modification work - since the memorial was on hallowed ground in the churchyard. We saw no problem in this and duly applied, through the Parish Church Council for a "Faculty" to be granted by the Diocese Chancellor for the alterations to be carried out.
Unfortunately for us we were unaware of a mediaeval procedure within the ecclesiastic Court which ruled that in such cases one single objector among members of the Church could demand that the Faculty must be decided by the Diocese Chancellor in an ecclesiastic Consistory Court. To our dismay and disgust ex Councillor Brew decided that as a matter of conscience he was entitled to ignore the democratic decision to add ranks and service details to the names on the monument and decided to block the project by invoking his right to object to the granting of the faculty. His objection was purely on religious grounds. Since we come into ths world without rank or degree he thinks is inappropriate to add rank or degree on church memorials. We were accordingly informed that the matter must be judged in a Consistory Court. In order to ensure that we had enough funds to cover the legal expenses we, as the applicants, must make a deposit of £2000 with £1000 deposited by the objector H Brew.
Fortunately we were able to raise this sum by virtue of a very generous member of the RAFA and we were quite confident that judgement would go in our favour. After all there are thousands of memorials in churches throughout the country which bear not only names but ecclesiastic, military and civil ranks and degrees. It is thus obvious that Church authorities do not support Brew's view. However we were utterly ignorant of the ridiculous procrastination on the part of the diocese chancellor which was to go on for four years..... and we still seem to be no closer to getting the faculty despite a "dirty trick" ploy which persuaded the committee to surrender to Brew's objection.
Having respect for the democratic process I withhold comment on this point at present . I did not support this majority decision but I have no intention of delaying the process
which the remaider of committee members agreed upon.
I do intend, however, to resign from the commoittee if the matter is ever resolved and then, purely as a member of the Wantage ranch RNA give a full explanation of the ridiculous farce of ecclesiastic law which has delayed this project for over 4 years.
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