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This article was submitted by UKNIWM volunteer fieldworker Gordon Amand

You may wonder what have Roman remains got to do with war memorials. Well, it would appear that in Prospect Park, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire a chance investigation has led to the discovery of a strange coincidence.

It began in the summer of 2007, when after a period of heavy rainfall (a feature that seems to have characterised that summer), the 18th century wall dividing the church cemetery from Prospect Park collapsed. The park, on slightly higher ground than the cemetery by about 5 feet, overlooks a U bend in the River Wye. It is here that Ross district chose to site their war memorial in 1920, with a commanding view of the river and surrounding countryside.

Excavation of Roman remains found beneath the war memorial

Excavation of Roman remains found beneath the Ross District war memorial

After a discussion between the Church authority and County Council, repair work to the wall commenced in early 2008, but it was not long underway when remains of an ancient occupation were found in the ground layers of the park and it was discovered that the war memorial had been erected directly on top of a Roman settlement. The war memorial, a rough hewn plinth and cross with the names of the district’s fallen was dismantled and stored, whilst archaeologists investigated the area, recovering a number of artefacts. It would seem that both the Roman settlers and the town’s people of 1920 valued the view, but for different reasons.

Following the excavation, the site was re-covered to preserve it for future investigation. As November approached, people in the town began to ask if the annual remembrance service would be held as usual in the Prospect. A surprisingly quick decision was made to reposition the memorial approximately 50m from it original location. The annual Remembrance service then took place on a cold and wet Sunday morning. Interestingly, this was the second time in 2008 that a memorial was rededicated in this area. In March, the Greytree memorial was re-dedicated, having been refurbished. I am not sure if there are many other towns in the UK where two memorials have been re-dedicated in the same year.

The re-sited memorial in Prospect Park

It is now hoped that the newly discovered Roman remains will be further explored, and will eventually prove a visitor attraction for the town. Meanwhile, a little way along the hillside, the war memorial stands, once more overlooking the towns and fields from which those it commemorates came.

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In this Olympic year I have been asked if there are war memorials to Olympic performers. This is rather difficult to answer as their careers at the top level, Sir Steve Redgrave apart, tend to be quite short by comparison say with cricketers, and they disappear from the layman’s consciousness. We do know that many sportsmen of all levels of ability were recruited into the British forces in the First World War, one notable one being Siegfried Sassoon. We have many records of memorials in golf and other sports clubs, while among the individual memorials are two in Northampton, to the black footballer Walter Tull  and to Edgar Mobbs the rugby international.

I have been able to identify some British Olympians who fell in the First World War:

•2nd Lt G.R.L. ‘Twiggy’ Anderson, The Cheshire Regt, died 9 Nov.1914 aged 25. He was a hurdles finalist at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912.
Captain H.S.O. Ashington, East Yorkshire Regt, died 31 Jan.1917 also aged 25. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, and was in the English team at Stockholm.(See 11163)
•2nd Lt A.E. Flaxman, South Staffordshire Regt, died aged 36 on the first day of the Somme.
Captain Wyndham Halswell, (25256)  Highland Light Infantry, died 31 March 1915. A professional soldier who had served in the Boer War, he won a gold medal at the 1908 London Olympics in controversial circumstances. In the final of the 400 metres he was blocked by one, or two, American opponents and the race declared void. The Americans refused to take part in the re-run and Halswell won by a walkover.
•Serjeant G.W. Hutson, Royal Sussex Regt, died aged 25 on 14 Sep. 1914. A regular soldier, he came 3rd in the 5000 metres at Stockholm.
•Private Kenneth Powell, Honourable Artillery Company, died 18 Feb. 1915, aged 29. A celebrated hurdler, he was an unplaced finalist at Stockholm and represented Cambridge both at hurdles and lawn tennis.
•I have also found a reference to another hurdler called Cubitt, but have not yet identified him among the 36 of that name on the CWGC Debt of Honour Register.

Research is continuing into other Olympic casualties for the First World War and later conflicts, so if you know anything, please let us know.