Ilkeston widow’s anguish over wrong name on war memorial

Brenda Booth who wants her father's inscription on the Centotaph corrected.
Brenda Booth who wants her father's inscription on the Centotaph corrected.

An Ilkeston widow says she and her family have faced years of anguish because her father’s name is incorrect on the Ilkeston cenotaph.

Brenda Booth’s father Arthur Cyril Wright, who served with the Sherwood Foresters during World War Two, was killed, aged 26, in Singapore when he was a Japanese prisoner of war. His name is on the war memorial at Ilkeston Market Place but has the wrong initial for the middle name. Instead of a C there is a H.

World War Two solider Arthur Wright from Ilkeston. family's photo

World War Two solider Arthur Wright from Ilkeston. family's photo

Brenda, who is 76 and disabled, said: “If his name’s not right it’s like it’s not him. My mother would never go to the cenotaph because it made her upset that it was wrong. He lost his life for his country, it doesn’t seem right. It’s the same for the grandchildren, they all want it sorted.”

However, Erewash Borough Council told the ‘Tiser that changing the cenotaph would compromise its historical integrity.

Ian Sankey, director of resources and deputy chief executive said: “We appreciate that this is a sensitive matter and understand completely the concerns of the relatives of those that fought and lost their lives during the wars of the last century.

“However, cenotaphs, war memorials and other World War One Rolls of Honour are seen – on a national level, not just in Erewash – as historical documents and it is felt that to make physical amendments to a memorial such as the Ilkeston Cenotaph would compromise its historical integrity.”

Brenda was just three when her father was killed in 1942. He was held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese and escaped twice. The second time he was caught he was bayoneted in the back and killed.

She can remember ‘as clear as day’ when her mum got the telegram to say her father, who once held a dead comrade up in water for two days, had died: “She was pregnant with my brother and collapsed,” said Brenda.

Brenda’s son Lance has been urging Erewash Borough Council to change his grandfather’s name on the metal plaque. He said his grandmother before that had spent years trying to get it changed and he wanted it done for his mum while she was still alive.

Mr Sankey said: “Any mistakes, such as spelling errors, whilst unfortunate, are part of any monument’s or document’s history. They help to inform present and future generations on the process of its creation, and also allow the viewer to understand the reality of the period and the very real confusion that existed at the time regarding those that gave their lives. We have to give that respect to our memorials and to the Ilkeston Cenotaph plaque, which is a historical document in itself.

“We have had approaches over the years from other families and have sought advice from a specialist in the past who informed us that there would be no guarantee of success if any amendments were attempted and, indeed, could spoil the look of the whole plaque or document.

“This council will always treat its historical documents and monuments with great respect - demonstrated last year when we called in specialist conservation companies to properly clean and restore the war memorials and plaques in Ilkeston and Long Eaton to ensure they looked in the best possible condition for the commemorations to mark the centenary of the First World War.”

Stephen Flinders, chair of the Ilkeston District Local History Society, confirmed that the society agrees with the council that altering the Cenotaph after so long would be wrong.