Disappointing turnout for Colnbrook WWI centenary event

Yesterday’s World War I centenary event was “moving” but failed to capture the public imagination, with a disappointing turnout casting a shadow over proceedings.

Just a handful of residents turned out to join parish councillors, CRA trustees and local schoolchildren to see the parish council unveil its new plaque to Colnbrook’s World War I heroes.

Just a handful of residents turned out to join parish councillors, CRA trustees and local schoolchildren to see the parish council unveil its new plaque to Colnbrook’s World War I heroes.

Just a handful of residents turned out to join parish councillors, CRA trustees and local schoolchildren to see the parish council unveil its new plaque to Colnbrook’s World War I heroes.

The event itself was over in the blink of an eye.  It took just ten short minutes for the Area Dean of Burnham and Slough, Rod Cosh, to recite a short service; the Parish Chair to unveil the new plaque; a lone bugler to play The Last Post; and four wreaths to be laid.

Fewer residents stayed on for the service at St Thomas’ Church or refreshments served in the marquee erected outside.

The bizarre decision to commemorate the centenary with a plaque on the Jubilee Clock seems at least partly to blame.  A number of residents had voiced misgivings with the decision to somehow turn the clock into a war memorial, with some suggesting it was disrespectful and diminishes the role of the existing War Memorial.

A residents’ group was denied laying a wreath at the War Memorial itself, rather than the clock, being told to “pick another day”.

The clock, over a decade in the planning, had been a pet project of the parish almost since its inception.  It eventually found purpose morphed into a Diamond Jubilee project in 2012 with funds controversially being donated by business interests including failed construction company McArdle and Olympic coach park operator TGM.

Still apparently trying to bring the clock into the heart of the community, it will forever be associated with the parish council’s eagerness to attract funds from unscrupulous business interests.

Both major donors were pushing through Green Belt applications at the time of their donations.  Their applications went uncontested by the Parish and they were later given the opportunity to hob-nob with royalty in return for their generosity.

The crowds turned out in their masses for its official unveiling in 2012 by HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. But the clock will always be symbolic of the parish’ apparent willingness to court royalty while failing to engage with ordinary residents, and this time they did not come.

The new plaque is mounted on the side of the clock facing the road.

The new plaque is mounted on the side of the clock facing the road.

The new plaque unveiled to the fallen, pictured above, now competes with the existing one self-congratulating parish councillors and donors – as if they should be considered in equal respect by parishioners.

Slough’s flagship centenary event, Slough Remembers, will see the unveiling of a real war memorial for the borough next Saturday by the mayor of Slough.

A candlelit vigil will follow, two days later, at the new memorial in the run-up to the 100-year anniversary of Britain’s declaration of war against Germany at 11pm on August 4 2014.

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