The Chertsey Town War Memorial next to St Peter’s Church in Chertsey, Surrey was unveiled at a grand ceremony on 30 October 1921.
Ahead of the centenary in October 2021, I am curating a public history project to uncover some long-forgotten stories about those who lost their lives during the Great War, their bereaved families, and those who returned from the fighting. I am keen to hear from those who have family and other connections to the memorial.
Displayed on the Chertsey Town War Memorial are the names of 128 men and one woman from the Great War, plus a further 63 names added after 1945. Yet, like so many memorials across the country, there is little readily available information about who these people were, what their lives were like before they went to war, where they fought, how they died, and who they left behind.
Before 1914, Ernest Dyos of White Hart Yard worked at Morton’s boot shop at 129 Guildford Street and played for Chertsey Wednesday Football Club. Ernest moved to Devon to work in Morton’s shop in Tiverton, enlisted during the first few weeks of the war, and was killed in action in September 1915 having been in France for only two months.
Many of those who fought did return. Ernest’s older brother Charles was medically discharged in 1916. Herbert Wells of Abbey Road, who replaced Ernest at Morton’s, was wounded in 1915, held as a prisoner of war in Germany for two years, and by late 1917 was interned in Switzerland. Herbert returned to Chertsey a year later after the Armistice.
It can only be imagined what impact the Great War had on families losing one or more of their loved ones. Mrs. Hunt of Grove Road lost her sons Herbert and Richard within a period of five days in September 1914. Each man had a young wife and a child less than a year old.
The centenary project will reveal more of these human stories and examine how Chertsey decided on a suitable memorial for its war dead including what other forms of commemoration were considered, how the final statue design was agreed, and what happened at the unveiling ceremony. These stories will shed light on what Chertsey was like as a community one hundred years ago.
Please get in touch if you have any stories, images, memorabilia, or other information relating to the memorial and those named on it, those whose names were omitted, the bereaved families, and those who returned from the war.
This project is in partnership with Chertsey Museum and forms part of my postgraduate studies in Public History at Royal Holloway University of London 2020/21.