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Help get Rainham’s ‘missing’ 76 war dead added to memorial

17:41 27 February 2013

The wooden replica memorial, which Sean built himself to house the project

The wooden replica memorial, which Sean built himself to house the project

Archant

For Sean Connolly, it was truly a labour of love – “my wife’s still got the hump with me,” he jokes – but after 18 months’ research, his project on the Rainham Village war memorial is complete.

The war memorial in Rainham VillageThe war memorial in Rainham Village

And this week Sean, of Farm Road, Rainham, presented his handiwork to the team at Rainham Library – two bound volumes profiling every name carved into the stone.

The compendium is even presented in a replica of the village clocktower, built by handy Sean himself.

There’s just one problem. Sean and his collaborator Steve Fifer from the Essex Commemoration Project have found 76 names registered with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that should be on the plaques.

So why aren’t they?

Sean Connolly with some of the profiles he has compiledSean Connolly with some of the profiles he has compiled

“There would have been a lot of people who lost family and were probably so distraught that they thought: ‘I don’t want to go down to the village and be reminded of his name,’ and refused to apply,” he reasoned.

That could now mean many of those families are missing out on seeing their parents and grandparents commemorated in the town centre – and Sean thinks that’s a shame.

“I’m not saying we’re going to change history,” he said, “but even if they were to erect a stone within the rails and inset a plaque with all the names, that would be something.”

For the moment, Sean’s commemorated the missing 76 in his own way – he’s having a miniature plaque engraved to go with the model clocktower in the library.

But the council has confirmed that the names could be added – if the cash can be found to do it.

Most of the 76 date from the Second World War – a period when the town’s population increased significantly.

“During the Second World War, people would have moved to Rainham and rented housing,” explained Sean.

“There had been some new houses built over at the village end, but as war broke out no one had any money.

“So there were rows and rows of empty houses all put up for rent, and we had an influx of families from London.

“Many of those families had brothers and sons who died in the war and would have been entitled to be on the Rainham memorial.”

Among them are nine civilians, including fireman and driver Richard Butler, who died in 1940 at Woodstock Garage, Poplar. His parents lived at The Haven in Upminster Road.

Pick up Friday’s Romford Recorder to read the 76 names. If you recognise any, you can help Sean build their profiles. Contact him on 07929 545 590.

And if you’d like to donate to help get the names added to the plaque, call the news desk on 020 8477 3903 or e-mail ramzy.alwakeel@archant.co.uk.

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