Mystery remains about memorial 100 years ago

Rev David Long visiting the grave of Private F.S. Marrow at the Somme
Rev David Long visiting the grave of Private F.S. Marrow at the Somme

A borough community came to a standstill at a major event to remember those who died in World War One exactly 100 years ago today.

Standish came to a halt for a major event with public ceremonies for soldiers who paid the ultimate price on the front line a century ago in 1919.

And the day also saw the first step in the creation of an organisation supporting veterans which still exists today.

Now a local historian is bringing back to light the fascinating events in Standish on August 23 1919 to

mark the 100-year anniversary.

Intriguingly, Rev David Long says the thought process behind the massive tribute event is shrouded in mystery as he can find no other records of other local communities going to such lengths to remember those who lost their lives.

Rev Long said: “There doesn’t seem to have been anything quite like this one in Standish anywhere else in Wigan, certainly not on the same level.

“There were all sorts of things going on after the war. Standish also threw a big party for returning soldiers in the school.

“The borough itself erected a temporary shrine in Mesnes Park alongside the pavilion.

“After peace was declared and about a year after the end of the war they held a party to celebrate the signing of the Armistice.

“There was also a big debate going on about where the actual war memorial was going to be.

“That went on and on, there were all sorts of rows about it.

Originally it was going to replace the temporary shrine but of course it ended up in front of the parish church.”

Accounts from the time say around 200 ex-servicemen gathered in front of the old cross in Standish’s market place at around 3.30pm on that day in

August 1919, with former soldiers coming from the village itself and surrounding districts.

The Standish Subscription Band played music and a lone bugler sounded the Last Post.

In a simple ceremony a laurel wreath was placed at the foot of the cross and the national anthem played.

The men then formed ranks and marched through the streets of Standish behind the band, with those left disabled by the brutal conflict able to join the procession in a car donated by the director of the Wigan Coal and Iron Company.

The firm was closely linked with the conflict as the director’s daughter was Mabel Hewlett, who served as a Red Cross ambulance driver in France and is the only woman on Standish Library’s roll of honour.

The entire family through itself into the war effort, with four sons going off to fight and returning alive and other women working at the Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital in The Beeches on School Lane.

At the end of the procession the men saluted the wreath on the cross in Market Place before heading to The Globe Inn where a tea was laid on.

The day, though, would also have a permanent legacy as the informal chatting, drinking and smoking following the commemoration led to the idea of an ex-servicemen’s organisation being founded in Standish.

A branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers was set up on the spot.

The organisation was one of three which came together in 1921 to form the Royal British Legion.

Rev Long, who has spent several years researching the borough’s involvement in World War One to coincide with the centenary commemorations between 2014 and 2018, came across the story of the Standish memorial day while researching lost war memorials in Wigan.