New site found for controversial Somerby war heroes sculpture
A new site has been found for a planned permanent stone memorial to mark the sacrifices made by Second World War paratroopers after the initial location prompted a spate of objections.
A planning application was recently submitted to Melton Council to install the commemorative sculpture to the 10th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, at Somerby, where the troops were based before suffering huge losses in the iconic Battle of Arnhem in The Netherlands in 1944.
But dozens of residents wrote to object to the proposed site - a grassed area in front of All Saints’ Church - because they feared it would dominate what was effectively the village green and one said it would be an ‘eyesore’.
The plans have now been withdrawn, however, after the owners of Burough Court Estate, offered land on Twyford Road opposite Burrough Court, a former stately home which is now used by small businesses for offices and meetings.
The new site would be almost central to all the locations where the battalion was billeted prior to its departure for Arnhem - of the 582 men that deployed only 36 returned two weeks later from what was known at Operation Market Garden.
Friends of the Tenth (FOTT), which organised the £75,000 project to provide the memorial, has accepted what it describes as a ‘hugely generous offer’ and is now preparing a fresh application to go before borough planners.
If approved, it is hoped the sculpture, designed by celebrated Leicestershire artist Graeme Mitcheson, will be unveiled in a year’s time when the 75th anniversary of the Arnhem battle will be commemorated.
Alec Wilson, chairman and a founding member of the FOTT charity, said “The new location means that we can celebrate all of the communities involved with the 10th Battalion in 1944.
“It overlooks the dramatic valley where the paras dropped in training exercises.
“The site allows us to revert to our original impressive design with its sensational impact that had been significantly reduced due to the constraints of Somerby village green.”
Patron of the FOTT, Maj Gen Ranald Munro said: “Having visited the proposed site I am very excited about the opportunity that the location provides.
“It will allow for greater freedoms in scale and design and afford a more appropriate spot for quiet thought and reflection.”
Dawn Wilson, of Burrough Court Estate said: “We are delighted to be in a position to be able to help with providing a suitable site for this historic memorial, with Burrough Court having played a significant part in preparing the 10th Battalion the Parachute Regiment for their extreme bravery in the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.”
Councillor Leigh Higgins, representative for the ward on Melton Council, who had offered to be a middle man when the dispute over the original Somerby location intensified, said the new site was ‘fantastic’ and thanked the estate for its offer.
He said: “The setting is absolutely superb where the visitor can not only reflect on the memorial but the grand vista of rolling countryside around it. “This will be a Jewel in the Crown of the Somerby Ward and enhance the amenity for residents and visitors alike.”
The 74th commemoration parade in Somerby for the 10th Battalion took place earlier this month.
The salute was taken by Maj Gen Munro, who is assistant chief of defence staff (reserves and cadets).
The parade is organised by members of the Leicestershire Parachute Regiment Association with a service held at the village church.