A bronze memorial to thousands of soldiers left behind in Wiltshire months after the guns of the First World War had fallen silent has received approval from Warminster Town Council
The project will now seek to gain commercial/corporate sponsorship for the creation of the statue at a prominent location in the town to mark the 70,000 Australians waiting for a ship to take them home.
Cllr Steve Dancey, a member of the Council’s WWI sub-committee, said: “Around 400,000 Australians volunteered for service in World War I and 70,000 were left stranded in Wiltshire in early 1919 waiting to return home after the armistice. Hundreds died of wounds or of the Spanish flu during their wait while able-bodied comrades drew hill-carvings as they passed the time.
“I can recall that in the 1960s and ’70s there were still many people left in this area who could remember the Great War soldiers locally but they have now passed on, so it would be appropriate that we should seek to keep the memory of these volunteers alive through a quality statue in the centre of the Warminster Community Area.
“It is the right thing to do and would reflect well on Warminster during the period of fundraising and also generate interest and visitors to the town and surrounding area in the decades to come.”
The Australian High Commission has already been asked for its opinion of the idea and the new High Commissioner, Alexander Downer, who was Foreign Minister during the John Howard government, has given the project his support.
Sculptor Amy Goodman, who has already undertaken a number of high-profile commissions for other communities has a number of ideas and is working on the theme ‘a letter from home’.
Her recent projects include an angel in Winchester and the Romsey warhorse.
Amy, who is based at Project Workshops in Quarley close to the A303 east of Amesbury, said: “I think a permanent memorial to those brave soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our countries and our liberty would be a fitting tribute.
“It will be an honour to be involved in such a project, and I believe that an appropriate theme will be the concept of: ‘A letter From Home’.
“This will bring home the distance they were away from their families.
“We are left to ponder: ‘Which of these lads made it home? Perhaps they both didn’t?’ I think that a piece showing two friends: one from the infantry; and perhaps one a trooper from the cavalry resting in the shade made by his horse; with one compatriot handing over that all important letter.
“When we think of the Australian input into the Great War we think of the Australian Light Horse; I think this will be a nice addition, and the Memorial will work on different levels, have lots of emotion, and show the distinctive Australian uniforms featuring the all-important ‘slouch hat’.
“I look forward to exploring these ideas further.”
The World War One working group will now be looking at the potential sources of finance for the project.