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World Malaria DayToday is World Malaria Day.  Although malaria has been eradicated from much of the western world, it still kills over a million people each year.  It is also strongly linked to conflict.  When people are forced to flee their homes, they often end up living in areas were malaria-carrying mosquitos are prevalent and they have little or no access to healthcare.  Malaria is a very serious problem in Africa, where one in five childhood deaths are due to the effects of the disease. An African child has an average of between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year.

Soldiers fighting in areas where malaria is present are also at risk.  In the Second World War, the Royal Air Force’s Anti-Malaria Control Unit attemted to combat the disease with techniques such as spraying DDT powder over swamp land in an effort to eradicate mosquitos.

Buffs Boer War memorial, CanterburyWell over half of the 20,000 killed in the Boer War (1899-1902) died as a result of disease.  This is illustrated starkly on this Boer War memorial to the East Kent Regiment (the Buffs).  In the 3rd Battalion two men were killed in action and 29 died from disease. 

It is not uncommon to see memorials from this period indicating which casualties were a result of disease, a practice that is largely absent from later memorials, illustrating that deaths from disease were far less numerous.

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Yesterday was the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, so I’ve found a topical war memorial – a church built as a memorial to the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.  The battle features as the climax of Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV, Part One, in which Henry IV defeats a force led by rebel noblemen, although the play mainly concentrates on the coming of age of his son – Hal – later to be Henry V.  Henry V goes on to appear in two more Shakespeare plays, including the one that bears his name.

It is estimated that around 1,600 men were killed during the battle. St Mary Magdalene church was built a few years later on the site of a great burial pit, as a memorial and a place where masses could be offered for the dead.  In fact, the village in which the church is situated is called Battlefield.  It’s not uncommon for a place name to incorporate the word ‘battle’, one of the more famous being Battle, site of the Battle of Hastings, and another place where a church was built as a memorial.

As well as being a memorial itself, St Mary Magdalene contains a marble memorial tablet to ten local men who died during the First and Second World Wars and, in the churchyard, there’s an addition to his parents’ gravestone commemorating, Francis Chubb, killed in action in the Boer War, 13 October 1900, in Carolina, South Africa.

Barbara McDermott, one of the two remaining survivors of the RMS Lusitania, died on 12 April.

A poster featuring Justice, personified by a full-length figure of a woman wearing robes and a cloak, holding a sword, in its scabbard, in her extended right hand. She stands above the sea in which drowning figures are visible. In the background right, the four funneled ocean liner, RMS Lusitania, sinks.The British ocean liner, Lusitania, was sailing to London from New York when she was torpedoed by a German submarine on 7 May 1915.  Over half of the nearly 2,000 passengers on board were killed.  The sinking was condemned in Britain and America and considered significant in the later decision of the US to declare war on Germany.

This poster, showing the figure of Justice offering a sword and the stricken Lusitania in the background, is one of many that used the outrage at the sinking to encourage people to join up and fight.

Barbara, who was nearly 3 years old, and her mother, were travelling to visit relatives in England.  Both survived the loss of the Lusitania and spent the rest of the war living in England, although Barbara’s mother sadly died in 1917.  Barbara eventually returned to her father in America after the war.

We’ve recorded a number of memorials commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania, mostly to individuals who lost their lives, such as Annie and Dorothy Lancaster (commemorated by a plaque in St Bartholomews Church, Keelby, Lincolnshire) and 22 year old Tertius Selwyn Warner, son of Thomas and Agnes, whose name was added to their gravestone in Whetstone, Leicestershire.

There’s an interesting article on the BBC News website today about a mountainous region of North West Pakistan called Waziristan.  Bordering Afghanistan, Waziristan is known to be occupied by pro-Taleban and al-Qaeda militants and is believed by some to be the hiding place of Osama Bin Laden.

Back in 1919, when a young officer in the British Army, Captain Francis Stockdale, was stationed in the region, Waziristan was no less dangerous.  Stockdale wrote a book about his experiences called ‘Walk Warily in Waziristan‘, which was published by his family in the 1980s.  Many of the local tribesmen were hostile and regularly attacked British troops and encampments.  Unfortunately they were also renowned as excellent shots.  The area was remote and inhospitable, a terrain of barren mountains and ravines, where temperatures could rise as high as 55°C (131°F).  Not without reason was it known as ‘Hell’s door knocker’.

Read more from BBC News

Running up the engine of Bristol F2B Fighter Mark II at Dardoni, before taking off on a bombing sortie to Spinwam in North Waziristan, early 1923.The British employed modern warfare techniques  against the tribesmen, using planes such as this Bristol F2B MkII fighter to drop bombs.

We have a good number of memorials that refer to Waziristan.  17 have been recorded so far, dating between 1894 to 1937, which indicate just how dangerous the region could be. 

A plaque in St Giles Church, Wrexham, remembers 18 men of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers who lost their lives on active service in Waziristan between 1920 and 1923.

Others, like Captain Stockdale, lived to tell the tale.  One such was Major Charles Davies Vaughan DSO, who served in Waziristan in 1894, as well as in South Africa during the Boer War, but died at Gallipoli in April 1915, at the age of 46.  A memorial to Major Vaughan can be found St Michaels Church, Ystrad, Wales.

‘Useful’ war memorials are certainly less common than the purely symbolic form, but plenty still exist.   Practically anything can be purchased, installed and dedicated as a war memorial.  From bird baths to ambulances, writing desks to horse troughs.

Among the many structures serving as memorials are hospitals, nurses’ homes, libraries, schools, sports and social clubs, bandstands, swimming baths and a mountaineers’ hut.  Despite the diverse forms, their purpose was the same – to improve the quality of life for those still living, rather than standing solely as a monument to the dead.

Some, no doubt, will prove to be more durable than others.  The summit of Scafell Pike – the tallest mountain in England – was donated by the 3rd Lord Leaconfield as a war memorial in 1919.  Others, such as cottage hospitals, may eventually become unsuitable for the use for which they were intended and be demolished or converted.  In these cases, a dedicatory inscription may be all that remains to remind us of the community’s intention, decades before.

Thetford hospital memorial tablet. Image copyright Norfolk NHS

In Thetford, Norfolk, after the end of the First World War, the local people chose to erect a memorial to their war dead that would benefit the whole town.  They decided on a new wing for the cottage hospital and installed in it the very latest medical technology – x-ray apparatus.  Last year the cottage hospital closed when a new healthy living centre was opened, but the dedicatory tablet has been saved and will be re-erected by the Town Council once a suitable location has been found.

A new memorial plaque has been unveiled at Llanelli District Cemetery for a local soldier who died in action in Iraq on 7 July 2007. 

Lance Corporal Francis was the driver of a Warrior armoured fighting vehicle that was hit by a roadside bomb while on patrol in northern Basra.  He was 23 years old and on his third tour of duty in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh.

Read more about the unveiling ceremony from Llanelli Star 

Read more about Lance Corporal Francis from the Ministry of Defence

A new grants scheme is being launched today by Historic Scotland and War Memorials Trust.  Funding will be available to ensure that freestanding memorials across Scotland are preserved in recognition of the contribution service men and women have made for their country.

Historic Scotland will provide £30,000 annually to War Memorials Trust who will provide additional funds and be responsible for distributing the grants.  War memorials eligible for conservation grants are freestanding monuments such as obelisks, crosses and statues. 

The scheme can grant aid up to 75% of the total eligible cost of the works to a maximum of £7,500 per project.  See the press release for further information about the launch of the scheme.

Anyone interested in applying for a grant in Scotland (or elsewhere in the UK) is advised to visit the WMT Small Grants Scheme information page to learn more about the available funding or to contact the Conservation Officer on 020 7881 0862 or conservation@warmemorials.org or the Trust Manager or Administrator on 020 7259 0403 or info@warmemorials.org.