Downham Market students restore Bexwell war memorial

First world war friends killed a year apart

Two students from Downham High School have restored a war memorial on the outskirts of the town.

The memorial was erected in memory of two men who were killed in the first world war, but is now sited close to the busy A10 and had fallen into disrepair.

When Fraser Davidson spotted it on a bike ride, he thought it was a shame that the area was strewn with litter and overgrown - so decided to do something about it.

'I hadn't noticed it before but it was covered in litter and it was disgusting really,' he said.

He and fellow student Downham High Ellen Hurst spent six months working to have the memorial restored and re-dedicated as part of their efforts towards the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award.

Apart from cleaning and restoring the stone and surrounding area, they had to build a bridge as the memorial is across a dyke and the original bridge had all but rotted away over the years.

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Fraser roped in some help from his grandfather Clive Joyner, a Downham Market builder, to work on the stone itself.

'We had a lot of help and support,' he said.

The pair began planning their project in the spring when they approached the Royal British Legion, Downham Town Council and the Pratt family of Ryston Hall as one of the two men remembered was a family ancestor.

They also had to plan how and when to do the clearing, cleaning, repairing and bridge building.

'We were up there every week and the summer holidays came in useful because it meant we could spend a bit more time on the memorial,' said Fraser.

A service of rededication was held at the site the weekend before Remembrance Sunday.

The memorial was put on the site of an ancient stone cross on the boundary of the parishes of Ryston and Bexwell and is now opposite the Arbuckle's restaurant on the A10.

It honours two friends killed in action in France on the same date, but a year apart. Lionel Pratt was the son of the squire of Ryston Hall and was killed on September 25 1915. Charles Prangley was the son of the rector of Bexwell and he died a year later.

Second Lt Pratt was born in 1889 and was the third son of Edward and Louisa Pratt. He served with the 18th Battalion of the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) and was killed in the Battle of Loos aged 25. He is buried in a mass grave at the Maroc cemetery, Grenay.

His friend, Second Lt Prangley, known as Doox, was born in 1897 the son of Charles and Elizabeth, who died when he was two.

He served with the 1st Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment and was killed at the Battle of Morval, on the Somme, aged 19. He is buried in the Guards' Cemetery in Les Boeufs and his father commissioned corn merchant George Smith, of Downham, to produce a commemorative book which is kept in St George's Memorial Church in Ypres.

The pictures of his son are mounted on silk from his mother's wedding dress and the covers are made of wood from Bexwell Rectory. The gold cross is made from his mother's wedding ring and the wooden cross that originally marked his grave is in St Mary's Church, Bexwell.

The memorial is Grade II listed and Fraser said he and Ellen will continue to make sure it's kept in good condition.