Two local businesses have joined forces to create a permanent place in history for three local heroes. Devon-based family run business, Dunn’s Ploughs, sought the expertise of South West Galvanizers Ltd when tasked with designing and fabricating a memorial bench to sit within the grounds of St Peter’s Church in Dowland.
The bench was commissioned to commemorate the memory of three young soldiers from the village – Arthur Piper, William Piper and George Westcott – who did not return home following the end of World War I.
Sue Dunn of Dunn’s Ploughs, and Treasurer of the Church, said: “Four years ago we discovered that three young men from Dowland did not return to their families after the end of World War I. Their sacrifice had never been acknowledged in our parish, and we did not have a war memorial or any public record of their names. We began a project to put this right by making a unique and meaningful new war memorial in the form of a metal bench.
“It was an absolute honour for Dunn’s Ploughs to be tasked with such an emotive project to commemorate these brave young men. We knew how important this piece was to our local community and it was vital to ensure its longevity by protecting it from the elements with an appropriate finish, and so we enlisted the support of our friends over at South West Galvanizers to future-proof the bench.”
The unique design of the hand-crafted steel bench takes the form of a farm gate with a seat shaped to fit. Three original World War I helmets hang in recognition of each of the three soldiers, and steel poppies rise from either side.
The completed structure was hot dipped into the galvanizing plant’s molten zinc bath at around 450C, allowing for a metallurgic bond to be formed which protects the steel from rust and corrosion for more than 70 years, before being powder coated in black as a mark of respect.
Remarking it as one of the ‘most beautiful’ they’ve seen, the Imperial War Museum has formally registered the bench as an official War Memorial, resulting in the soldiers’ stories being officially – and permanently – recorded. And the ‘Brothers in Arms’ organisation based in Flanders, Belgium, has also asked to record their stories – enabling their legacy to reach far and wide.
Sue added: “The ultimate goal was to have their names formally recognised, and to provide a focal point at which to pay respects. This project has actually achieved much more than this – it has united a whole community in our determination to remember them. This has only been possible with a group of dedicated hard-working individuals who have volunteered their time and skills.”
Anthony Wonnacott, General Manager at South West Galvanizers, concluded: “We consider it a huge privilege to be involved in galvanizing this striking memorial bench. The story of the three young men it pays tribute to is both heart-warming and humbling, and it’s an honour to have played a key role in ensuring it remains fit for purpose to be enjoyed by the local community for many generations.”
The display has attracted significant attention and the church has already welcomed over 3000 visitors since its installation, sparking unexpected charitable contributions to date of over £9000 for The Royal British Legion and St Peter’s Church.
South West Galvanizers Ltd is part of Wedge Group Galvanizing Ltd, the largest hot-dip galvanizing organisation in the UK with a history dating back over 150 years. With 14 plants strategically placed across the country, the firm offers a truly national galvanizing service.