ITALY MEMORIAL FUND
Recently I have been in correspondence with the acting Curator of the National Arboretum Memorial to enquire if our ‘in principal' memorial still stands subject to some slight amendments. The answer was a long time coming but in essence the response was positive. However the content of the letter went on to inform me that the non-refundable application fee remains at £1,000 and there has been a plot fee increase of 100% per m2 making the plot fee £60.00 per m2 used. In addition the Arboretum now requires that a sum of money is provided for the long term maintenance and insurance for all new memorials. This fee is usually set up as an Endowment and is calculated at 20 times the annual cost. Typically, for a small plot, the fee is in the order of £5,000. 00.
Paying out these amounts would virtually wipe out any funds we might hope to have for the building of a Memorial and so I looked into the possibility of donating to the Arboretum several good quality benches, engraved with the name of each pertinent battlefield and the date the battle took place. I found a company in Cambridgeshire that hand makes bespoke benches at a cost of some £500 each but as I would have wanted to order 10-14 of these benches they kindly offered me a 25% discount.
I then spoke to the Curator at length and he said whilst this idea was appreciated he preferred not to have any kind of wooden benches but would like Sandstone ones and he had a company that I could order from but with no discount for a multiple order! Sandstone benches are cold, hard and unappealing and I feel that I cannot justify spending donations on this kind of tribute.
I have spent much more time than I had intended in trying to fund raise for the Memorial. I have personally spent, over the last five years, in excess of more than £1500 on stationery and postage and I cannot afford to keep going at this rate of expenditure. The time spent on writing letters asking for funds or sponsorship should have been used to complete my long awaited book and as a result I am way behind. Therefore I propose to close the Fund at the end of this year and spend my time finishing off the final chapters and then once the manuscript is at the Publishers' I can concentrate on what to do next.
Since then I have been giving this matter a lot of thought and would like to put forward some suggestions as to what may happen in the future.
I thought about perhaps approaching the Royal Hospital Chelsea to enquire if they might accept a donation of tables, chairs and benches but have been informed that due to their many ceremonial events they have benches coming out of their ears.
Next thought was perhaps researching the possibility of buying the benches in Italy and having them positioned within any of the Cemeteries that are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
There are also two new Museums, in Italy dedicated to WWII and perhaps we could offer them the benches to could stand within the grounds of one of these?
The one at the Anzio Beach Head hardly contains anything pertaining to our involvement this particular battle area, it is, at a guess about two thirds devoting to the Americans.
The MOD has been very unresponsive to the Italy Campaign but I thought perhaps I could approach them again to ask if we might donate these benches to stand in Green Park, The Mall, Horse Guards Parade or similar.
Perhaps a Regimental Parade Ground, but I run the risk of offending those Veterans' who served in a Regiment that might not take preference?
After the Westminster Abbey Service debacle I am certainly not intending to ask them but perhaps St Pauls or Westminster Cathedral?
How about along the new waterfront area in Liverpool – after all some troops left this port to go up to the Clyde to join their Convoys which would take them to North Africa and later to Italy? Not with standing that our overseas Allies may not have left from Liverpool but they would, of course, be included.
Finally earlier this week I watched a TV programme entitled “DIY SOS Homes for Veterans” in which Manchester City Council had offered/given a street of derelict houses. The aim of the programme was to convert these houses into homes for Veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. All the tradespeople and local businesses had either donated their time or equipment and building materials free of charge! There was a Communal House that could be used for Veterans to stay whilst they completed a re-training programme which once completed the Veterans would be able to find employment. I thought of maybe donating the funds to something similar in another area and would ask that a small memorial garden was created in the name of Italy Campaign Veterans thus bringing war veterans together.