On Saturday May 13th in 1922, Major-General H F Thuillier RE, Commander of Her Majesty’s Forces, Chatham, officially opened The War Memorial Cottage in Southfleet, Kent, in memory of 18 courageous villagers who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1919.
93 years later on a sunny Saturday in August, Memorial Cottage in Red Street made history once more, with the unveiling of a brand new commemorative plaque to remember the men who fought for King and country almost a century before.
The charming property, which sits opposite the village pub, The Ship Inn, is now a private residence belonging to Raymond and Pamela Watson, who bought and refurbished it in the year 2000.
It was erected originally by public subscription to accommodate the Parish Nurse and provide facilities for first aid cases. Ironically, Mrs. Watson’s sister-in-law, Rosemary Buckle of The Avenue, Gravesend, used to live in the house with her mother and many of the village babies were weighed there!
In 1952, The War Memorial Cottage was acquired by Kent County Council for the local health authority, and was passed on to the Department of Social Services in 1974. In 1988, the Department of Health took it over but sold it in 1991, and by 1994, it was approved for residential use.
Southfleet Parish Council approached Mr. and Mrs. Watson with a view to replacing the original stone plaque which had broken with time and been taken down some years previously, and the couple readily agreed to host the new memorial, which now takes pride of place under the landing window on the front elevation.
Mr. and Mrs. Watson draped the new plaque with a Union Jack, in keeping with the 1922 ceremonial opening, and hosted an unveiling in their front garden, on Saturday 22nd August.
They stood with other villagers – some of them relatives of those remembered on the memorial, and one of them a World War II survivor, to watch as Parish Council Chairman, Noreen Salway, uncovered the new gilt-edged memorial and delivered an address in memory of those whose names are etched on it.
After the ceremony, Tony Jandoo and Karen Tivers of The Ship Inn, kindly provided complimentary refreshments for all those who turned out.
Said Raymond Watson: “We are honoured to be living in such an historic house, and thrilled to have been asked to accommodate a new plaque. We still have a copy of the Parish News report and the Order of Service from the ceremonial opening back in 1922, and an old photograph of the Major-General unveiling the first plaque.
This weekend, we tried to recreate that Saturday all those years ago, and were really pleased to see people turning up to remember the soldiers who lost their lives in World War One. We would like to thank Southfleet Parish Council for giving us the opportunity to celebrate the history of our much-loved family home.”