The Story of the Cannock War Memorial

What’s in a name?

Cannock War Memorial, Market Place

Cannock War Memorial, Market Place

Often my research work is done either for personal interest, or for my work; however, sometimes there are occasions when I have to do it for other reasons – and this is one such case. A few years back I had the good fortune to come across a Victorian autograph album, which will feature in later articles. The research I undertook on the album eventually led me to soldier and to the Cannock War Memorial.

So many of us pass our war memorials with scarcely a look, after all, while we may appreciate the sacrifice the life and loves of those on them have long since gone. Well, whilst this article is about the Cannock memorial itself and the need for a community to reflect, for me, it did all start off with a name.

James Garrett Watson was the soldier, however he was not on the memorial – but a James E Watson was. This, after a little research I could prove was an error and it should in fact have been James G Watson. Call me sentimental, but I had grown to understand the family I had researched and I had indeed visited Garrett’s grave in France, so I felt I wanted to do something about it.

James E Watson, as recorded incorrectly on the War Memorial

James E Watson, as recorded incorrectly on the War Memorial

In early 2012 I contacted Cannock Chase District Council and a really nice lady, Angela, attended a talk that I gave on the album. She was very supportive and assisted me in getting the memorial changed; however, before I could approach the Council I knew I not only would I have to prove that the name was an error, I would also have to prove the Council were responsible for the memorial. In short, I needed to trace its history and this I did, with evidence extracted from the Cannock Urban District Council minutes (forerunner to the district Council) and from the Cannock Advertiser.

The History of the Memorial

A committee had been formed in 1919 to organise the peace celebrations and to “formulate a memorial scheme”. As nothing practical seemed to have been achieved regarding the memorial, in July 1921 a public meeting was convened to resolve the issue, which Hon Sec W Jukes said was a “disgrace and blot on the good name of the town”.

Cannock Advertiser, 23rd July, 1921

Cannock Advertiser, 23rd July, 1921

The appointed committee approached Cannock Urban District Council with regard to a site. Chairman, Mr Bumstead, championed the Market Place, as the Cannock men were addressed there during the war. Two sites were looked at, but it must be remembered that the road was open to traffic at the time, and eventually the current place was chosen as it was seen as less of a danger to traffic.

In the Council Minutes for 6th December 1921, the UDC requested that the War Memorial Committee be asked to erect a ‘wooden erection’ of the exact size of the proposal on the same site suggested. We know this was done, as the minutes for the Council meeting for the 13th June, 1922 state that the war memorial replica be left in the Market Square for another month – and those for the 4th July 1922, that the replica now be removed.

Through 1922 the funds were raised to pay for the memorial. It ultimately would cost £650, which was easily met through subscriptions and charity events such as garden parties. All extra money raised would go to the provision of hospital treatment for the wounded and their families – of course, no National Health Service then. It is interesting to note that Chadsmoor and Bridgtown were approached in order to make the memorial a wider one for the Cannock area, but they refused.

Cannock Advertiser, 26th May 1923

Cannock Advertiser, 26th May 1923

On the 8th August 1922 the sanction was given by the Council and recorded in the minutes for the erection of the war memorial, to the design submitted, in the Market Place, Cannock, at the place suggested, which was about 8 – 10 yards in front of the band stand. On the 10th April 1923, Cannock Members gave formal approved of the site of the proposed war memorial and resolved that the work of erecting it be allowed to proceed.

The planning for the unveiling ceremony had started back in the January of 1923. Originally the honour seemed to be destined for “the most badly wounded soldier in the Cannock ward”…. of course, this was to change.

Cannock Advertiser, 20th Jan, 1923

Cannock Advertiser, 20th Jan, 1923

The Council minutes record for the 17th April 1923 that “the clerk read a letter from the CWMC inviting the Council to attend the unveiling ceremony on Whit-Tuesday. This was accepted and if the procession would wish to meet at the Council offices, they will be available.

On the 19th May 1923 the Cannock Advertiser printed a report on the updated order of ceremony…

Order of Ceremony, Cannock Advertiser, 19th May 1923

Order of Ceremony, Cannock Advertiser, 19th May 1923

Order of Ceremony, Cannock Advertiser, 19th May 1923

Order of Ceremony, Cannock Advertiser, 19th May 1923

As you can see, the wounded soldier – Cannock’s most wounded – has been shunted aside in favour of Colonel Campbell VC. Campbell had in fact commanded the Staffordshire Brigade, which had broken the Hindenburg line at the St Quentin Canal…

Col Campbell, Cannock Advertiser, 19th May 1923.

Col Campbell, Cannock Advertiser, 19th May 1923.

And so the day arrived – 22nd May, 1923. At 2.50pm, the Councillors, Memorial Committee, the clergy, dignitaries, representatives of the fallen (maybe including Charlotte Watson, James’ mother), guides and scouts made their way from the Council offices to the memorial, accompanied by the band of the 2nd North Staffs Regiment.

At 3pm, the Bishop of Lichfield announced the hymn ‘Our God, Help in Ages Past’, which he followed with a prayer. A lesson was then offered from Corinthians by the Rev George Lampard, which ironically contained the line “Oh death, where is thy sting, Oh grave thy victory?“, – a line parodied in the trench song ‘The Bells of Hell’. A prayer was then offered by the Rev Lawrence Evans.

Campbell then delivered his address. He spoke of his pride at having commanded Staffordshire men and their breaking of the Hindenburg line. He went on, reported in the Advertisr in the jingoistic style of the day, to state that “I am convinced there could be no finer way of ending one’s life… and [after offering his sympathies to the bereaved] it was some comfort to the bereaved that their lads died content. Why? Because they had done their duty and could do no more. Those lads has set a wonderful example of unselfishness and self-sacrifice.

Campbell went on to say that he believed their sacrifice would not be in vein and that they had helped bring “peace, perfect peace“. With this, he pulled the cord to release the flag covering the memorial and the crowd of several thousand, so the Advertiser says, finally saw it.

The Bishop of Lichfield then dedicated the memorial with a prayer – “We bless, hallow, and dedicate this memorial, which has been placed here in loving memory of the men that fell in the Great War, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost… Amen… Jesus spoke these words and said “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man may lay down his life for his friends.”

After this, the Memorial Committee formerly handed over the memorial to the care of the Council. This was also reported in the minutes for the 5th June 1923 – where the Chairman reported that after the recent unveiling of the Cannock war memorial it had been officially handed over to the Council. It was resolved unanimously that the Council accept this and if within their powers, to keep it in a state of preservation. The Highway Committee be called to the question of kerbing around the memorial.

The Bishop then led with the hymn, ‘For All The Saints That From Their Labours Rest’.

The buglers then sounded the ‘Last Post’ and the ‘Reveille’. A collection for the Memorial Fund was made and votes of thanks were given. Finally, wreathes were laid and the national anthem was played by the Salvation Army band.

Cannock Advertiser, 26th May, 1923. The unveiling of the monument.

Cannock Advertiser, 26th May, 1923. The unveiling of the monument.

If Charlotte Watson was in the crowd, and in the picture above, it may have been at this stage she saw the error – and it was a clear error, as the newspaper and the programme of events listed all the names that were requested to be added – and James G Watson was included.

List of the names, Cannock Advertiser, 26th May 1923 - James G Watson is listed.

List of the names, Cannock Advertiser, 26th May 1923 – James G Watson is listed.

Imagine her disappointment and hurt. That is why I wanted it changed – and huge thanks go to Cannock Chase District Council for their assistance in this.

Changed. Feb 2014. For James and more, Charlotte.

Changed. Feb 2014. For James and more, Charlotte.

Also, I found this just in the past few days. I am sure the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum will not mind me providing a link – they have scanned a copy of the original unveiling programme.!/photo.php?fbid=341871430849&set=a.341869615849.189111.41252640849&type=3&theater

I hope this has been of interest, and please, take five when passing the memorial next in Cannock to think on those “lads that died contented

Huge thanks to Cannock Library for their permission and help with the Advertiser. I am not sure who has copyright on the Advertiser. Again, thank-you to Cannock Chase District Council.

  1. […] into local mining history and the Harrison empire will find stuff of interest, as will Cannock, Bloxwich and Walsall […]

    • Pam Turner says:

      I am presently researching all the WW1 names on the Cannock Memorial, i shall only stick to basic details because of the amount of work involved but hopefully the completed work will be put on a web site in the near future. As a matter of interest, there are several mistakes regarding the names and some names were obviously added at a later date

      • wyrleyblog says:

        I think names were added (more re-inscribed correctly) after just a week or so after unveiling. I will be doing Garrett Watson on here at some point.

      • Robert Taylor says:

        Hi My name is Spud,(Robert) Taylor. I am Ex Army and related by marriage to Tom Young of Chadsmore  area ? and have relatives in Cannock. One of them has asked about Mr Albert Young. Who is believed to be one of the Young family. His details are apparently on the WW1 memorial in Cannock. They are very interested to see if in fact they are related. I am waiting for another contact from Cannock to get in touch and I hope I can give more info or even her details and then you can both chat to sort it out. The family originally came from Scotland and settled in Cannock to become part of the mining community. I have no other details at present. Yours Aye R Taylor Spud.


      • Pam Turner says:

        Click to access cannockmarket.pdf

        My research into the WW1 names on the Cannock Memorial has now been put onto a web site

      • wyrleyblog says:

        Cheers, Pam. I will do the story of James G Watson at some point. If you are interested, it will be covered in the talk i am giving on 11 Feb to the Friends of the Cannock Chase Mining Museum

      • Pam Turner says:

        Yes, i would be interested, would i be able to come along to that as a guest?

      • wyrleyblog says:

        I am sure the would be fine about it

      • Derek Gallear says:

        I can add some information on my uncle, William (Bill) Gallear. He was born on 4th August 1892, the third of ten children. My father, Ernest was the youngest. His brother Tom was in the trenches with him and survived. Tom’s story was that they attacked in two waves, Tom in the first and Bill in the second. Tom returned and warned Bill that it was bloody hell out there. Bill went over and was never seen again. He has no known grave. His name is on the Thiepval memorial.

  2. Robert Taylor. says:

    I am trying to find about Albert Young who is supposed to be on this memorial. He is part of the young family from Chaddsmore. Their origins are , their great Grand father George Young came from Scotland,Inverness I believe. if anyone can help please call me on 07801088952. R Taylor. Oswestry.

    • Pam Turner says:

      The only person called “Young” on the Cannock memorial is a William Young, i have his details but there is no evidence of him having the name Albert

  3. Pedro says:


    Only about fifteen persons were present at a meeting in the New Hall, Cannock
    called to consider the question of a town war memorial. Mr FD Bumstead
    who was voted to the chair, expressed the opinion that the meeting was not large enough to come to any decision on the matter.

    Mr. W. Lowndes said it was a standing disgrace to those wen who did all they could
    to persuade the lads to go to the war to keep away from a meeting that had been
    called for the purpose of commemorating the sacrifices those lads had made.

    A long discussion followed, in in course of which opposition was expressed to any scheme being launched which should entail additional expenditure on the rates.

    Mr. Aston strongly advocated the provision of public baths with which the memorial tablets could be associated; but Mr. A Burt held the view that the cost would be too great, and besides, that was a work for the Urban Council and not the Memorial Committe. He believed sufficient money could be got for a worthy memorial for the town.

    A suggestion was made for a cottage hospital as a memorial.

    Eventually a motion that those present should constitute a committee to carry the
    matter further received onlv two votes, whilst an amendment was carried that a
    further public meeting be called in September to make one more attempt to arouse public interest in the question.

    (Lichfield Mercury 5 August 1921)

    • wyrleyblog says:

      Hi Pedro, The beauty of a blog is that people can add to it! I remember when researching this that everything seemed to be slow, to the point of painful, at first. The hospital and other suggestions seemed to be half-hearted. I mainly picked-up the story once the memorial was a go-er so to speak. Please, keep adding your comments to those articles that interest you – it just makes them better.

  4. Pedro says:

    A few more findings from the Lichfield Mercury…

    The question of a memorial and the building of public baths was raised with the Council in June 1918.

    The memorial is practically the same in design as the one in Matlock.

    “the War Memorial Committee has confined its operations to the Cannock Ward…. will be for men of Cannock Ward only.”

    A public meeting (September 1927) was called by Cannock Urban District Council to consider whether the local War Memorial, which stands in the Market Square, should be removed, and they condemned emphatically any such step being taken, and the suggestion that it was an obstruction to traffic was not accepted….

    • wyrleyblog says:

      I wonder if it was the same architect – no plans survive (that i could trace).

      I know of several memorials that have been moved over time, but not one removed all together. I wonder if they just mean’t relocating it? It shows the change of attitude; considering it was born from apathy (I think War exhaustion may have been the issue) by 1927 it was clearly seen as sacrosanct.

  5. Roger Wood says:

    The Cannock war memorial is one of three war memorials of the same design in the U.K. The original design was sculptured by Giuseppe Lagomarsini at his Carrara works in Italy. This was carved at the Carrara works, crated and shipped to the Beresfords Belper works. Having been purchased by James Beresford and sons of Belper, Derbyshire. (Stone and Marble masons). Erected in the Matlock Bath Promenade Gardens and unveiled May 21st 1921. Cannock was the second with this design unveiled May 22nd 1923. Scunthorpe was the third to have this design which was unveiled November 14th 1926.

    Roger Wood
    October 14, 2014

    • Roger Wood says:

      Giuseppe Lagomarsini established his works in 1905 in Carrara Italy. His company was wound down in 1974. His employees re-established the firm on its closure in 1974. The had produced hundreds of memorial projects throughout the world. The company is still going today as Cooperative Lagomarsini, Carrara Italy.

      The questions:

      1). Did each town council give Beresfords the order for the memorial?
      2). Or did local Stone/Marble Masons get the order to supply the memorials for their Council?
      3). Did Lagomarsini sculpture all three war memorials in Carrara, Italy?

      Usually the monument does not have a signature of the sculptor because the stone mason took the credit has supplier and erector of the memorial.

      Roger Wood

      October 14, 2014

  6. Linda Hutton says:

    If a book about this memorial is produced I would be very interested in buying a copy. I lived in Cannock 35 years ago and attended school there. My blog:

  7. Jane ward says:

    Don’t know if you could help only in cannock town thought there used to be an old stone horse troff and l thought my Grandads name was there his name was last name Bentonite something to do with kirs the butchers Michael kers

    • wyrleyblog says:

      Hi Jane. I think you are referring to Harry Benton. Benton was a butcher who died in 1922 and set-up a charity which is still administered by Cannock Chase District Council. I believe the purpose of the charity was ‘For Erecting A Clock And Drinking Fountain For Cattle And Dogs.2. To Establish A Public Lavatory And Urinal In The Market Place’. The clock is still there, it was erected in 1935 – though later moved a little due to the pedestianisation of the Market Place (you can google pictures). I assume the trough was put up as the cattle/dog drinking and is what you are thinking of? I am not a native of Cannock so can’t really help much more than that without doing some research. If you use Facebook, try posting on the old photos of Hednesford/Cannock/Chadsmoor site – it is a really good site for nostalgia and photos, someone may remember it! I hope it helps anyway. Wyrleyblog.

  8. Jane ward says:

    Hi thanks for the information I will do that I think your right his name was Henry Benton which was my mom’s madian name

  9. Hi, I have become an Official Remote Volunteer for the Imperial War Museum and revisited your post the other day. As a consequence I have created a Community on Lives of the First World War ( with a link to your site and I am in the process of updating the entry on the War Memorials Archive ( I have found the very helpful information uploaded by Pam Turner – great work! I recognise many of the surnames from when I lived in Cannock and attended school there (1968 to 1979).
    Thanks to everyone for Remembering these men.

  10. wyrleyblog says:

    Many thanks for your message, always nice to hear someone reads the posts – that was the first I did all those years back! I have done lots of stories of WWI soldiers from WWI, if you check out the blog – feel free to link those if you want!

    • Roger Wood says:

      A really great article. Well worth the many hours of research you must have done. Roger Wood (West Hallam Derbyshire).

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