PICTURE GALLERY: Poignant start to new era at Dereham Memorial Hall

The courage and heroism of generations of people were honoured and the exciting future was celebrated as Dereham's Memorial Hall was officially re-opened yesterday after a �2.6m refurbishment.

The complex has been transformed over the past 18 months and mayor Michael Fanthorpe - who swam in the old pool as a child - said: 'This is now the best hall in the whole of Norfolk. The people of Dereham are very lucky to have a building of this calibre.'

A poignant afternoon began with the unveiling of a plaque below the Dereham First World War roll of honour in the entrance foyer and the ceremony was attended by several Second World War veterans.

A highlight of the re-dedication ceremony in the auditorium was the first public showing of a sculpture

created by Dereham sculptor Neal French, dedicated to heroism, courage and self sacrifice of ordinary people.


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It is based on an image of Private William O'Callaghan from Dereham carrying his comrade Private Bert Pooley over his shoulder after they survived the massacre of Le Paradis.

Mr O'Callaghan's son Dennis - who attended the ceremony with his sister Heather Neeve and his son Stuart - described the sculpture as 'fantastic.'

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'It represents what my father would have wanted to have been achieved for Dereham. It is not just for him but for all the people who did not come back and still do not come back.'

Mr French said: 'I wanted to produce a piece that. while not in any way glorifying war, would aim to embody the outstanding qualities of courage, comradeship and fortitude of members of all our armed forces.'

Before the unveiling, Dereham deputy mayor gave a moving speech and said the sculpture would help preserve the memory of those who had given up their lives for others.

Writer, broadcaster and champion of Norfolk dialect Keith Skipper welcomed guests and recalled many occasions when he covered events at the hall while he a reporter on the Dereham and Fakenham Times as well as amusing stories of dances.

He said it was an 'extremely proud day and a grand milestone event' for Dereham.

Dereham rector the Rev Sally Theakston performed the re-dedication and students from Dereham's high schools and sixth form college read poems.

The Band of the Parachute Regiment played during the re-dedication service and also performed a concert in the hall last night to raise money for the Royal British Legion personnel recovery centre in Colchester.

The public can look round the new-look hall on Friday from 12-4pm and Saturday from 9am-1pm.

POEMS READ OUT DURING THE MEMORIAL HALL OPENING

The Soldiers at Lauro by Spike Milligan (read by Tom Evans of Neatherd High School)

Young are our dead

Like babies they lie

The wombs they blest once

Not healed dry

And yet - too soon

Into each space

A cold earth falls

On colder face.

Quite still they lie

These fresh-cut reeds

Clutched in earth

Like winter seeds

But they will not bloom

When called by spring

To burst with leaf

And blossoming

They sleep on

In silent dust

As crosses rot

And helmets rust.

The Casualties Were Small' by May Hill, September 1941 (read by Millie Power of Northgate High School)

When Winton Aerodrome was bombed

The 'Casualties were small'

Just your son, and my son, and little widow Brown's son,

The youngest of them all.

And your son was your eldest lad,

Handsome and straight and tall.

A model for your younger sons,

Beloved by you all.

And Mrs Brown's, her youngest boy

Her sole support, and stay.

So like his father, all her joy

Was quenched, on that dark day.

And mine, my only son and pride

So loved and dear to all.

The blast of bombs spread far and wide

Tho' 'the casualties were small'.

The Lost By Herbert Corby, an armourer and then an instructor in the RAF (read by Ross Chandler of Dereham Sixth Form College)

Think of them. You did not die as these

Caged in an aircraft that did not return.

Whenever hearts have song and minds have peace

Or in your eyes the prides of banner burn,

Think of those who dreamed and loved as you

And gave their laughter, gave their sun and snow,

Their grave blessed by their native dew

That you would live. To them this debt you owe.

Their glory shines about the sky forever,

Though in these things they left to you, the ghost

Should haunt your field of ease and resting river.

Their lives are ended, but dreams are not yet lost

If you remember in your laugh and song

These boys who do not sing and laughed not long

Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen (read by Julia Callaby of Dereham Northgate High School)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, May 1915 (Read by Joanna Brown of Neatherd High School)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Reality in Afghanistan by Phil Williams (2009) (Read by Amy Monument of Dereham Sixth Form College)

My pain feels cold and selfish

My anguish very small

My reality insignificant

Compared to ones that fall

Young men with broken bodies

Their Comrades lie in sacks

Devastated parents

Their sons will not come back.

My pain will ease and lessen

My anguish slip away

Reality in Afghanistan

Two brave men died today

Young men with shell shocked faces

Growing old before their time

Are living breathing testament

To this shallow pain of mine.

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