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Church bells chime with names of First World War dead

PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 September 2015 | UPDATED: 11:16 07 September 2015

One of the church bells (picture: David Levenson/Heritage Lottery Fund)

One of the church bells (picture: David Levenson/Heritage Lottery Fund)

© 2011 David Levenson

At the top of a Plaistow church tower lies an unusual war memorial.

Mourners attend original dedication ceremony of church bells at Memorial Community Church in 1925, held to remember men who died in the First World War.Mourners attend original dedication ceremony of church bells at Memorial Community Church in 1925, held to remember men who died in the First World War.

The names of 200 men who served their country in the First World War are carved into ten bells at Memorial Community Church.

This weekend, visitors can see the bells up close and learn more about the story behind some of those who lost their lives.

As part of the church’s harvest market on Saturday, tours of the grade II listed building and the surrounding area will take place.

“The tour goes past the houses of some of the men whose names are on the bells,” explained development manager Philippa King.

Memorial Community Church, PlaistowMemorial Community Church, Plaistow

“We did it for the first time last year, and there were a few tears shed.”

Like the bells, the church has an unusual history.

Memorlal Community Church was formed in 2006 through a union of St Andrew’s and Memorial Baptist churches.

The Barking Road building itself was built after the First World War, when the chime of 10 bells bearing the names of those killed in battle was installed.

James Albert Varley is one of the soldiers honoured on the bells (picture: Lorraine Melanaphy)James Albert Varley is one of the soldiers honoured on the bells (picture: Lorraine Melanaphy)

One of the bells is dedicated to the Unknown Soldier.

“We had a lot of money in 2011 to restore the bells and start research,” explained Philippa.

“We wrote down the names of all the men on them.

“We rededicated the bells before we put them back and had the families of a few of the soldiers attend.

The Memorial Community Church bellsThe Memorial Community Church bells

“Some of them didn’t even know there was a memorial.”

It is the research into the soldiers that has helped form the walking tour.

It also features letters written by pupils at Kaizen Primary School, who imagined what it would be like to have the soldiers as their brothers or fathers.

Philippa said: “There was one soldier who didn’t need to sign up because he was in a reserved occupation.

“He was given a white feather and signed up, and he was killed straight away.

“His family didn’t even see him in his uniform.”

Philippa added that the church is keen to hear from anyone who recognises any of the names on the bells, as many of the soldiers’ profiles are incomplete.

To find out more, visit localheroes.co.uk, or visit the church from 11am on Saturday.


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