Bench commemorating life of Norwich war hero damaged by vandals weeks after unveiling

War veteran Ray Self, who died in August. War veteran Ray Self, who died in August.

Peter Walsh peter.walsh@archant.co.uk
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
11:32 AM

Show some respect – that is the message to vandals after a memorial bench commemorating the life of a Norwich war hero was damaged weeks after it was unveiled.

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Memorial bench for Ray Self, which has been broken.Memorial bench for Ray Self, which has been broken.

City service veterans are also angry that people are dishonouring war heroes by using the newly-refurbished Norwich War Memorial as a skatepark.

The double dose of disrespect has caused deep upset – particularly among people who knew Ray Self, the late naval serviceman who was involved in the Normandy landings, and to whom the bench outside St Peter Mancroft church near The Forum is dedicated.

More than 40 people attended a service in March to mark the installation of the bench which remembers Mr Self, known best as ‘Ray’, who also served countries including Burma and Singapore during the Second World War.

Mr Self, who died in August last year, was also a key figure in a 20-year campaign to get the Norwich War Memorial turned around to face City Hall.

But a member of Mr Self’s family discovered the bench, which cost £1,400 and was paid for by donations from military organisations, was damaged with one of the wooden slats broken and in pieces on floor.

Brian Wilson, chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich Combined Ex-Services Association, said: “Ray was a very special man. He was a real man of the city who fought for 20 years with Ray Holland to get the memorial turned round.

“He was such a lovely man and brave as well - he helped to save people from burning ships during the war - he was a special man, a brilliant person and that’s why the seat was put there.

“He had an awful lot of respect from us. We’re just upset his seat has been damaged. He would be very, very upset.”

Mr Wilson said the association was also angry about apparent skateboard damage to the war memorial.

He said: “The association feels quite strongly about this, particularly in the light of the fact that the area, outside the Forum has become a skate board park not only in the evening, but during the day, little or no action being taken to stop this activity.

“The Norwich War Memorial is now also being use as a skateboard area with steps being chipped and black marks from the wheels.

“We’re upset about it - I just think there should be respect. I’m not against youngsters I just think they need to learn to respect these things.”

The plaque on the bench reads: “In memory of Ray Self, able seaman Royal Navy, served his city and country 1926–2013.”

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “We a very sorry to hear about the damage to the association’s memorial bench.

“People disrespecting public property and spaces within the city is a matter we take very seriously and we are continuously looking at ways of managing any form of antisocial behaviour. We will also be assessing the need for any potential repair work to the war memorial.”

■ What do you think? Write, including your full address and contact details, to the Letters Editor, Norwich Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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