Prestigious award for historic Melton Drill Hall

Historian Derek Simmonds at Melton's Drill Hall, which has been awarded a  Leicestershire County Council Green Plaque following a public vote EMN-170814-130332001
Historian Derek Simmonds at Melton's Drill Hall, which has been awarded a Leicestershire County Council Green Plaque following a public vote EMN-170814-130332001

An historic Melton building where troops rode and marched off from to fight in the First World War a century ago has been given a prestigious honour.

The Drill Hall, in Asfordby Road, is one of six places or people in the county to be chosen to receive a green plaque from Leicestershire County Council to mark its significance in the community.

More than 6,000 votes were cast in the quest to find the latest winners of the plaque from a shortlist of 12 contenders.

It was nominated by Melton historian Derek Simmonds, who felt the award would recognise the sacrifice and the service of local young men in the Great War. His grandfather was one of the Melton and District Territorials who marched to war from there.

He said: “These local boys of ours marched and rode to war from the Drill Hall and this prestigious green plaque will mean they will be remembered.

“I am absolutely thrilled and quite emotional achieving this award on behalf of the boys and my grandad.

“I would like to thank everyone for their support.”

The plaque will now be fixed to a wall of the Drill Hall, which is now used as HQ for 1279 Squadron (Melton Mowbray) Air Cadets and the town’s army cadets, during a special ceremony.

Councillor Pam Posnett, cabinet member for green plaques, said: “The amount of votes we received was fantastic and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to get behind their favourite and support the scheme.

“It is great that people want to celebrate and acknowledge the people and places of Leicestershire’s rich history and we will now look at installing these six plaques for everyone to see.”

Built in 1914, the Drill Hall was the headquarters for A Squadron Leicestershire Yeomanry, who bravely fought and held the line at the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge. These troops came from Melton, Rearsby, Harby and Rutland and after four hours of incessant bombardment and a further seven fighting off infantry assaults only 50 were accounted for.

In June 1915, 206 troops paraded at the Drill Hall to replace those who had fallen. The hall was also HQ for C Company 1/5th Leicestershire Territorials, which was re-lettered as B Company in France, who took part in a fierce skirmish at Hohenzollern Redoubt in October 1915.

Many of the casualties came back to Melton to be treated at the war hospital at Wicklow Lodge, which received its own green plaque in a ceremony last week.

The other five recipients of green plaques following the latest vote are Ann Ayre Hely, from Ravenstone, a nurse in the Crimean war; Heathcoat and Boden’s Lace Factory, in Loughborough, site of the ‘Luddite’ attack of 1816; John Theodore Kenney, from Kibworth, an artist who illustrated Thomas the Tank Engine; Tommy Brown, from Earl Shilton, who helped rescue an Enigma cypher machine and code book from a German submarine; and William Pearson, from South Kilworth, who was one of the founders of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The green plaque awards scheme was set up by council leader, Councillor Nick Rushton, to recognise and celebrate people and places which have made an important and enduring contribution to the county.