Councils snub call to honour forgotten '˜Tommies'

Communities across Yorkshire have pledged to honour the region's fallen after the former head of the British Army condemned the sluggish uptake of a First World War commemorative campaign.

Leeds Minster has launched a series of displays and installations around the church, as part of a nationwide programme entitled There but not there. Pictured director of operations Richard Butterfield. 6th July 2018. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

A ‘There But Not There’ campaign, designed to signify the loss of a communities’ war dead, has seen more than 1,000 life-size soldier silhouettes sold.

But, while there has been a huge uptake from individuals and community groups as well as overseas, just a third of local councils across the country are said to have installed one of the six-foot tall statues.

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Patron General Lord Dannatt, writing personally to every local authority leader, called on them to back the project, but many have reportedly refused or ignored his pleas.

“The campaign gives communities and individuals a chance to connect with their past and the role that their cities, towns, villages and loved ones played in the First World War,” General Lord Dannatt said. “It is the responsibility of local councils to play a central role in this, paying tribute to their constituents who gave so much in one of the defining periods of this country’s history.”

More than 1,000 of the sculptures have been sold in the UK and overseas, including installations in New York, San Francisco, Ottawa and Toronto. In Leeds, silhouettes have been installed at the city’s Minster, to represent the 76 men associated with the church whose names are recorded on its war memorial. And in Scholes, a six-foot-tall aluminium Tommy was unveiled by local members of the Royal British Legion at the start of this month.

But of all UK authorities, just 160 have reportedly installed the Tommies, with 250 yet to do so.

“This is something we all should remember and give thanks for,” said Barwick and Scholes branch standard bearer Martyn Simpson, a 56-year-old RAF veteran yesterday. “There are no veterans left – no wives to remember them. Local councils should get behind this. This is a reminder of the huge losses, not just in our village, but in every village and every town and city across the country.”

The campaign’s director, Rowley Gregg, said: “When city authorities all over the world are getting on board but our own local councils aren’t, you have to wonder why. It is particularly frustrating that many local councils have yet to acknowledge Lord Dannatt’s letter and we urge the remaining 63 per cent to get involved in what is a hugely important campaign. Some councils have been incredible. Driffield being one example, where they have erected a hugely powerful installation in support, but it is disappointing that more haven’t come on-board.”

Across Yorkshire, some of the biggest city councils have confirmed they are funding support including at Ripon Cathedral, in Beverley, Northallerton, and Sheffield. In York, a Tommy sculpture is to be installed while in Hull, 10 silhouettes have been funded for Sutton village.

Leeds City Council, meanwhile, said it would be commemorating the sacrifice of those who served. “We are fully supportive of the Royal British Legion’s work and the enormous contribution our armed forces make, both in peacetime and war,” a spokesman for Leeds City Council said.

The Local Government Association said its members were commemorating the centenary in a number of different ways.

A spokesman said: “Councils are leading efforts to enable communities to commemorate the centenary of World War One and pay tribute to those who gave their lives.

“This is being done in a number of ways, including offering grants to community groups and co-ordinating parades.

“Many councils will also be hosting a beacon of light as part of the Battle’s Over national tribute to mark this solemn occasion.”