Ramsbury's Remembrance Wood & plans to commemorate two centenaries and two world warsClaire Costello, of Froxfield, was a Parish Councillor when she heard the Woodland Trust was offering free trees to plant in 'Remembrance woods' to mark the centenary of the Armistice that ended the First World War.
However, with no village space suitable for a Remembrance Wood, Claire began scouring the area and soon realised that locally there was the stronger, natural link to WW2 war-time activities at RAF Ramsbury - the old airfield whose concrete remains are still visible.
She discovered that while she could see remnants of the airfield, there was nothing to mark the Great War or the part this area played duriong the Second World War in D-Day. A project to link trees of Remembrance and the airfield was born - it was also the centenary of the formation of the RAF.
Claire and fellow resident of Froxfield College Raine Cully, approached the Kennet Valley at War Trust, which works to keep alive the WW2 history of the area.
A meeting was held at Littlecote House Hotel, where some of planning for the D-Day landings took place. Roger Day, a local historian and writer, and Mike Relph, a former army officer and a member of the Kennet Valley at War Trust, were supportive of the project.
Finding a place to plant the trees was not easy. But Peter Wilson, a Froxfield farmer and landowner, and he was enthusiastic and agreed that 400-plus saplings could be planted to rejuvenate Burnt Wood, immediately next to the airfield.
“It was perfect,” Claire says, “and with Peter’s permission the project was now really achievable. Slowly but surely, as people heard about the project, donations were promised and individuals came forward who wanted to help."
“We had a major donation from the Capricorn Foundation, on behalf of the estate of Mr. Harry Hyams, of Ramsbury. This with donations from other local landowners, charitable trusts, and individuals, ensured the project would not only realise its initial objectives, but we would be able to erect a Memorial on the main runway."
The group running project has commissioned Sam MacArthur of Ramsbury Stonemasons to create the memorials, and the artwork is in progress for a Remembrance plaque, an information board, and the Memorial stone. Concrete blocks from RAF Ramsbury airfield will be used.
They have divided the project into three main elements:
There will be a talk and exhibition on the October 24 - details are here.
Then in May or June next year - 75 years since the last minute planning for D-Day at Littlecote House, there will be a commemoration service at Ramsbury Airfield with the official unveiling of the information board.