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Campaign heightens to help Diss remember the fallen

Pat Mordey with the Tommy silhouette. Picture: Mecha Morton.
Pat Mordey with the Tommy silhouette. Picture: Mecha Morton.

A campaign is underway to remember those lost in the First World War by creating a new permanent memorial in Diss.

Diss Waveney Rotary Club has bought a haunting silhouette of a soldier, which is part of a nationwide commemoration called There But Not There, to mark marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the conflict.

Thousands of silhouettes, small and large, called Tommies, will be placed around the country in different locations and will also raise money for military charities.

The rotary club, which purchased the limited edition Tommy in February, wants to create a permanent memorial to the fallen on land next to Morrisons’ roundabout.

But negotiations around the use of that area of land have proven frustrating.

“Let’s just say there have been a lot of negotiations, with more still to come, and time is moving on” said Pat Mordey, president of Diss Waveney Rotary Club.

“We have bought the silhouette as a tribute by the town for the sacrifices which were made during the Great War.

“What better place could there be than the gateway to the town for it to be seen by everyone.”

Tommies have been created by the charity Remembrance.

There But Not There was inspired by the impact of the installations in Penshurst Church in Kent during the Remembrance period of 2016.

It is backed by Lord Richard Dannatt, who has urged communities to take part in the remembrance initiative.

Tommies will be displayed in places of worship, schools, workplaces or wherever soldiers’ absences are keenly felt.

A poppy will be placed in all of the silhouettes on November 11 to mark the end of the war, which ran between August 1914 and November 1918.

The Diss Tommy will first be installed at Diss Corn Hall on November 6 to coincide with an art event.

It will then move to St Mary’s Church for November 11, where there will the annual Remembrance Day service.

On the Saturday, there will also be a concert featuring RAF Honnington Military Wives Choir, prose and poems readings, called A Tribute to Sacrifice - There But Not There, at the church.

But the battle to find a permanent home for the Tommy silhouette goes on.

“Towns and cities all over the country are holding commemorative events for one of the most significant events in history – the war to end all wars – and yet we weren’t really aware anything was happening in Diss,” said Mrs Mordey.

“We felt sorry that the people of Diss were not being given the opportunity to commemorate this special event.”

According to the rotary club, it has been in talks with a number of bodies.

South Norfolk Councillor, Graham Minshull, and South Norfolk and County Councillor, Keith Kiddie, who both have military backgrounds, have also been helping with the campaign.

Chief organisers and club member Andrew Rackham, said: “The circumstances surrounding that piece of land are very complex.

“Norfolk County Council owns it, the town council uses it, but there is also a high pressure gas main underneath.

“To us though, it seems like the ideal place, at the entrance of the town.”

Mr Rackham was inspired to start preparations for a Diss commemoration after first working on a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, recognised as the national centre for remembrance.

A builder by trade, the work there led to other memorial projects in the Somme, France, and also northern Cyprus.

Some 700,000 British soldiers lost their lives in the First World War.

Mr Rachkam hopes to involve schools, groups and artists in the project, with a focus on education.

“We want to create a poppy garden around the silhouette, as well as things such as a poem trail around the Mere gardens,” he said.

“The red tape has been frustrating regarding the land, but those guys fighting all those years ago never gave up, and neither will we.”

For more information, to sponsor or help out with the project, email info@disswaveneyrotary.org.uk.

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