ROYAL Wootton Bassett’s war memorial has received a facelift befitting of its significance at the heart of the community.
Nine months after plans were set in motion to replace the deteriorating wooden enclosure surrounding the monument, a new frame has been laid around the cenotaph, complete with weather-proof artificial grass.
Over the years and due to the increasing number of repatriations through the town, the memorial has gained even more importance for residents keen to pay homage to the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for their country.
The transformation, which cost £500, was completed on Tuesday and the monument’s new grass bed officially unveiled yesterday.
“It was never meant to stay there long-term,” said head groundsman John Macindoe. “With the repatriations, it became popular and a focus in the town and over the years the frame deteriorated.
“We realised that it was paramount that we kept it up and running and upgraded it to something more befitting of the monument. It has taken nine months from the initial conception.
“It has got that air of grace about it now that it needed.”
The bronze memorial was officially dedicated to the town in October 2004. Since then it has become a symbol of its involvement in the repatriations. In January 2010, the Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall each laid wreaths at the monument during a ceremony to dedicate a new flagpole.
Its increasing popularity and the constant laying of wreaths, floral tributes or crosses by townspeople meant removing the frail frame for part of the year was out of the question.
“Possibly, if we had not had the repatriations I imagine it would not have had the attention that it has had,” he added.
“The tray around it was designed to go in and come out at some point during the year but because it became such a focus, we couldn’t take it away and people kept using it.
“We realised a frame or something along those lines needed to stay so went down the route of making it more substantial using stronger wood and artificial grass. We even got the artificial turf free of charge from Steve Aplin Playgrounds in Calne.
“People used the grass to plant crosses, so there is now a slot in the middle for people to plant crosses.”
Deputy Mayor Ian Ferries said: “This memorial was created not only to show our respect for the fallen of World War One and World War Two but also to pay our respects to those of current day affliction and this memorial is a perfect sign of how much our community cares for these soldiers.”