Monday, December 15, 2008

A WW2 Memorial displayed anew

The WW2 Memorial of the former Cleator Moor Presbyterian Church
It commemorates Sgt George Gillbanks and Capt William Walker.
It is now in the care of the town's Methodist Church to be displayed anew

In November 2008 the WW2 Memorial that used to be displayed in the former Cleator Moor Presbyterian Church was donated to Cleator Moor Methodist Church. It will be displayed anew on a wall inside the church alongside other War Memorials from the Cleator Moor Free Churches: the WW1 Memorials of the Presbyterians, Primitive Methodists and Wesleyans.

The Presbyterian Church WW2 Memorial was donated to the Methodist Church on behalf of Mrs Mary Hodgson, brother of Sergeant George G. Gillbanks one of those commemorated on the memorial plaque. The plaque had been given to Mrs Hodgson for safekeeping when the Presbyterian Church closed down some years previously. It was originally paid for by Alderman and Mrs James Walker J.P., parents of Captain William Walker. Captain Walker is remembered on the plaque together with Sergeant Gillbanks.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

As mentioned above, Captain William Walker L.D.S., R.C.S. (Edin.), R.A.D.C., Service No 118936, was the son of Alderman and Mrs James Walker J.P. of Wath Brow, Cleator Moor, Cumberland. He was a former Old Boy of Whitehaven County Secondary School (later Whitehaven Grammar School) and his name is also listed on the WCSS WW2 Memorial which can be found in St James' Anglican Church, Whitehaven. Captain Walker served with the Royal Army Dental Corps and died at the age of 26 between 14 and 15 February 1942. Captain Walker's death was a direct result of the Japanese assault on Singapore and consequently is remembered on the Singapore Memorial (Column 111).

In Volume IV of his history of the Second World War ('The Hinge of Fate'), Sir Winston Churchill described the fall of Singapore as ".... the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history" (Chapter VI, p.88). Hostilities ceased with unconditional surrender of the defenders on the evening of Sunday 15 February 1942. However, in describing the events leading to the fall of Singapore Winston Churchill explains that the War Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff had been aware for several weeks that a prolonged and successful defence of Singapore was impossible. It was merely a matter of time. Winston Churchill explained that orders were given, and accepted, "... to fight in desperation to the end" ('The Hinge of Fate', Chapter VI, p.97).

On Friday 13 February 1941, when it was evident the final capitulation of Singapore was imminent, a previously prepared scheme was put into effect to evacuate about 3000 key individuals from Singapore to Java. These included technicians, staff officers, medical officers, nurses etc whose service was deemed to be of 'special value' for the continuation of the war effort. A flotilla of small ships with these 3000 or so individuals aboard sailed from Singapore in the next couple of days. For many, it was to be a voyage they would not complete. Captain William Walker from Cleator Moor may well have been one of them.

An armed Japanese naval force heading for Sumatra came across the little ships, most of which were sunk or captured. Although I do not know for certain exactly how or where Captain Walker met his death, as he was serving with the Army Dental Corps it may have happened while being evacuated from Singapore on board one of these little ships.

After the war, Captain Walker's father arranged for new decorative windows and a memorial plaque to be installed at the Presbyterian Church at Cleator Moor. The plaque was specially commissioned by sign makers in London. Thanks to the Methodist Church at Cleator Moor, the WW2 Memorial Plaque can again be displayed in Cleator Moor.

Thanks to the following for their assistance in writing this article:

Mrs Mary Hodgson, sister of Sgt George Gillbanks

Reverend Gerry Wilson and Mr Alan Moore, Cleator Moor Methodist Church

Monday, 15 December, 2008  

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