At 9.30am on Saturday, the 8th March 2014, local residents of Montgomery joined forces to create the ultimate ground clearance team. With pick axes, chain saws, forks and spades a gathering of residents cleared the site within 2 hours. Once the clearing was complete, the work of preparing the ground for planting a new boundary hedge was undertaken. Time was of the essence, new yew plants needed to be in place early enough to become established before the summer. Again a number of volunteers stepped forward to clear the boundary wall borders, dig out perennial weeds, re-fill with compost and plant the yews, which had been secured locally. The local cub group led the way with the planting, together with other adults and children, the whole border area was soon planted. Each child was presented with a commemorative certificate by the Mayor, to remind them of their contribution. This phase was completed in May 2014.
Over the next months, volunteers would continue to weed and water these plants on what would become the hottest summer for some years. The contractors moved onto the site and began undertaking the ground works, and the circular bed, to be a feature for young people in the town to maintain, was completed in June 2014. It was planted up by the local brownie pack. Each year, 34 commemorative crosses , each inscribed with the name of one of the fallen will be placed in this bed by local children.
INSTALLING THE STONE
The most nerve-wracking part of the project was the installation of the stone. Over 3 metres tall and weighing over two tons, the stone had to be lifted in by crane into a specially prepared frame. Local people turned out to witness this, children were given a break from their lessons to view this historic event, and it was recorded for the ITV news bulletin that evening.
UNDERTAKING THE RESEARCH
Meanwhile, as the physical work on the site continued, the work of researching the names of the fallen began in earnest. This is described more fully in the next chapter. In addition, pupils at the local school undertook their own research, enquiring into how Montgomery had looked before the soldiers left for war, and drawing maps of where the men had lived, honing their indexing skills in the process. The older children, years 5 and 6, also visited the Imperial War Museum (North) at Salford to learn more about World War 1 and life at home during the wartime period.
THE NAMES ON THE MEMORIAL
A decision was made early on that all the names on the three lists in the town, (see later) together with anyone else who had a close connection with Montgomery, would be included on the memorial. A decision was also made that there would be no cross checking with other memorials, so that it could be possible that a man who already appeared on another memorial elsewhere, but had a strong link to Montgomery, would be included. The criteria for inclusion on the Montgomery memorial would be:
Already named on one of the lists recorded in the town
Linked to the town by birth, family, residence or employment
Close relatives living in the town (at the time of the War)
Given the size of the memorial, it was decided to add the regiment in which the men served to their names; all other information that could be gathered would be displayed in an exhibition to be run for two weeks at the Old Bell Museum in Arthur Street, following the service of dedication.
COMPLETING THE GARDEN
The work to complete the garden continued throughout the summer period. Tension mounted as the date for creating the plaque which contained the men’s names drew near, with two men still not clearly identified. Further confusion arose with the possibility that one of the men had been awarded the Military Medal, as reported in the County Times (the recipient turned out to have been his brother) Finally, in the middle of August, the final piece in the jigsaw fell into place, when the details about William Jones, the last man to be identified, were found.
RE-DEDICATING THE GARDEN
On the 6th of September 2014, the same date as the original service in 1953, the memorial stone was unveiled, following a service of dedication at St Nicholas Church, Montgomery by the Bishop of St Asaph, Dr Gregory Cameron. The Service at church included readings from members of the community and was attended by over 200 people, including relatives who had travelled across the country to particpate. The congregation then paraded informally down to the site of the Memorial Garden, where the Bishop led a short service, and a bugler from the Regiment of Wales played the last post.