A community project has uncovered that a name is mysteriously missing from a First World War memorial plaque at St Werburghs Community Centre.
For the past three years, St Werburghs community centre’s Old Scholars project has been investigating the stories behind the names on the memorial plaque to those killed in the First World War.
The 93 men named on the plaque went to the old Mina Road Boys School and lived in St Werburghs before going to war, but none returned.
And now, the shocking discovery has been made that the memorial is missing a name. That name is Harry Pring, a fallen soldier from St Werburghs whose name, for unknown reasons, is not included on the war memorial.
Who was St Werburghs’ forgotten soldier?
Harry Pring, born 1895, came from a working class family in St Werburghs, and was a sawmill labourer before fighting in the First World War.
It is unknown whether he volunteered or was conscripted to fight. From 1916 all single men between 18 and 41, except the medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker were forced to fight or face criminal charges.
He fought in France during the war and survived the Battle of Lys and the Third Battle of the Aisne, but it was the Battles of the Hindenburg Line that tragically took his life, along with thousands of others.
He was killed in action on 5 October 1918, age 23, just over a month before the end of the war.
Xeena Cooper is the coordinator of the Old Scholars project, which is run by volunteers and funded by the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund.
In an interview with Cable, she spoke about how the project came about. “The project was predominately about researching 93 names which feature on the First World War plaque,” she said. “Sadly, that plaque had been forgotten over the years; families moved away and the relevance of the plaque itself didn’t have as much meaning to the community. So because we were living in the centenary years of the First World War, the community centre wanted to change that.”
Xeena also spoke about how she found out that Harry’s name was not on the plaque. She said: “A local family got in touch with the project and told us about their ancestor who was in the First World War, lived in St Werburghs and went to the old school, but sadly, he’s not on the plaque. So we would really like to get his name added”.
She stressed that two university history professors have verified Harry’s story, so there is no doubt that his name should be added to the memorial.
Remembering the forgotten
On Friday, 9 November, a remembrance celebration was held at the community centre to pay tribute to those listed on the plaque and others killed in the greatest slaughter the world had ever seen, and to launch a campaign to get Harry’s name put on it.
As well as a moment of silence to remember St Werburghs’ First World War heroes, the service featured the reading of poems, school pupils singing and the unveiling of an arts heritage board, which showcased the project findings.
Doreen Watkins and Sue Pring are descendants of Harry Pring. Speaking at the celebration, they told the Cable what it would mean to them to have Harry’s name on the memorial. “I would be thrilled to death,” Doreen said. “The whole family would be proud.” Sue agreed, saying: “I think it would mean a lot to the family.
“All those who fought in the war died heroes, so to get recognition that he is one of them would be fantastic.”
Retired RAF serviceman Colin West was also at the celebration. He too backs the campaign to get Harry’s name on the plaque, having told the Cable: “They definitely need to get his name added to it. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”