Emotional ceremony sees Norwich war memorial re-dedicated

Norwich's restored war memorial was re-dedicated yesterday as proud veterans and their families gathered to mark Armistice Day.

The rain and wind only added to the emotion of the occasion as a crowd, including a band of Second World War veterans, gathered outside City Hall to pay their respects at the new-look war memorial.

A �2.6m project has seen the war memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who was also responsible for The Cenotaph in London, restored and turned around so it faces St Peter's Street.

The veterans have long pressed for that to happen, but problems in finding the money to do it and other complications meant the war memorial and the memorial gardens have been closed for six years.

However, yesterday, they got their war memorial back, as they observed the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany at the end of the First World War on November 11, 1918.

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, gave a speech in which he thanked the veterans for their patience while the council tried to find a solution to the long-running saga.

He said: 'Today the contractors hand the war memorial, now finished, to the city council and I am very proud to hand it back to the city. 'I can't tell you how proud I am and how pleased I am am with the results of the exercise. You can see people in the street stopping in awe to look at it.

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'In a few weeks the memorial gardens will open and we will have a big ceremony to celebrate that in the new year, but most importantly the war memorial is ready for Remembrance Sunday.

'At last the war memorial looks the way it should do and faces the way it should - a fitting tribute to all who served and fell for their city and country.

'It's been an enormously complex exercise to get it into the state it should be and I hope you will agree it has been worthwhile.

'At last the saga of shame is over and we have a place of pride, remembrance and contemplation for present and future generations.'

The Rev Peter Nokes, from St Peter Mancroft Church, re-dedicated the war memorial, using the same words that the Bishop of Norwich used when the war memorial was first dedicated on October 9, 1927.

He read from Revelations and recited the famous line from Laurence Binyon's poem 'For The Fallen': 'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.'

The Last Post was played, with standard bearers from the Royal British Legion flanking the war memorial.

Standards from other associations, including the the Royal Air Force Association, the Royal Signals Association and Norfolk Area Desert Rats, were also lowered and the two minutes' silence observed at 11am.

Victor Howe, president of the Norwich branch of the Royal British Legion, said: 'The memorial has been restored with great carefulness and sensitivity.

'It reflects appropriately the honour and respect the people of the city of Norwich and county of Norfolk have for the service personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of this country. May God bless them.'

Among the veterans were Ray Self, 85, from Norwich who served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War and was involved in the Normandy landings and in Burma, who had been calling for years for the memorial to be turned around.

With him was Royal Marine Freddie Fitch, also 85, from Heartsease, who was in the first wave of the D-Day landings in Normandy and served in the Pacific.

Mr Fitch said: 'You see war memorials wherever you go around the country, but this one has topped the lot.'

The money to revamp the war memorial and the memorial gardens came after an �8m deal was agreed with the city council and the Homes and Communities Agency.

Terry Fuller, director for the HCA in the East of England said: 'This is the high point of my career. I am forever in the debt of those who served their country and to those who gave their lives and freedom to secure the life and freedom we all enjoy.

'This memorial was designed by the greatest architect of all time located in a great city. It is our duty to honour and remember.

The refurbishment of the war memorial saw the city council work with English Heritage to ensure every stone of the Grade II listed memorial was painstakingly put back exactly as it was before, down to the age-chipped steps around the base of the monument,

Specialist stone masons Fairhaven and Woods carried out the work, while the supporting structure underneath it and the memorial gardens was repaired by RG Carter.

Other events to mark Armistice Day - which observes the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany which ended the First World War on November 11, 1918 - were held around the city.

At City College Norwich a ceremony of remembrance and a two-minute silence were held outside the college to commemorate the wartime sacrifices of members of the armed forces and civilians.

In Sprowston, wreaths and crosses were laid at the Cenotaph outside St Cuthbert's Church, with members of the Royal British Legion among those at the Remembrance service.

• Make sure you get the EDP today for more pictures of the re-dedication ceremony.