UPDATED: Politician defends ‘grossly insensitive’ World War anniversary plans

View, Watermead
View, Watermead

A district councillor has defended plans to hold a funfair and concert as part of a series of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

The plans have been unveiled by Watermead Parish Council as part of two days of events that include a free afternoon featuring a funfair and traditional sideshows, followed by a concert featuring local bands until dusk on Saturday, August 30.

They have been criticised by a former parish councillor as ‘grossly insensitive’.

However, Conservative councillor Alan Ward defended the plans saying: “Watermead hosts a summer event every year, and this year - like villages across the country - has chosen to use that platform to commemorate the First World War.

“In doing so the parish council will help raise awareness and money for important armed forces charities.

“I suspect the vast majority of people would give their wholehearted support to those goals, as I do.”

An article on the Watermead Parish Council website states: “The event will serve as a reminder to young and old of the supreme sacrifice made by soldiers and civilians of all countries involved in the war.

“Proceeds from the event, supported by local businesses and charities, will be donated equally between the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes.

“Local charities wishing to have a stall on the field to publicise their work and raise funds are welcome.

“RAF Halton’s museum is supporting the event with historical displays and information.

“Families are encouraged to dress in outfits reflecting 1914 with a prize for the best dressed family.”

However, Eric Rose, a former Watermead parish councillor who resigned last year ‘after he found it difficult to express his views’ said he felt the plans were insensitive.

He said: “To mark the start of this horrific war with a village fete and entertainment seems misguided at best and many might see it as grossly insensitive.

“I feel that it would be more appropriate to hold such an event to mark the anniversary of the end of the war.”

Dr Rose, who worked as a GP at the Walton Grove surgery in Aylesbury between 1973 and 1992 added: “I have read a lot about the war and in my early days as a GP I talked to people who survived it.

“It was basically wholesale slaughter which went on for four years.

“To use a more recent comparison nobody in their right mind would hold a fete with entertainment to commemorate the 9/11 attacks in New York.

“However the death toll in the Great War was many thousands that of 9/11.”

Watermead Parish Council chairman Sue Severn remained tight-lipped over the criticism the council had received over its plans saying: “People are welcome to their own views.”

She added: “We see it as a commemorative event which we hope will do a lot of good in terms of raising awareness of the war.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for people to find out about what World War One was all about through our historical displays.

“At the same time, we hope to raise funds for several charities who have already shown their support.”

On Sunday August 31, a service of thanksgiving to remember those lost in the war will be held on the Balloon Meadow in Watermead.

As part of the service memorial trees and a memorial plaque by local potter Mark Stocker will be unveiled.

Later in the summer, poppy seeds will be planted in the community garden, which along with the tree and plaque, are designed to serve as a permanent reminder of the anniversary.