Sherburn, a sometime colliery village in Co Durham, was the home of Flt Sgt Vivian Nicholson DFM, navigator of David Maltby’s aircraft AJ-J on the Dams Raid. Unlike most small communities in the UK it has never had a war memorial – for either World War. (Many of the dead from both wars, however, are commemorated on the wooden chancel screen in the village church, as I saw for myself last year when I was in the village researching Vivian Nicholson’s background.)
This anomaly has now been rectified, and there is a handsome new memorial, surrounded by a small garden. It is largely the result of work by two local people, John Burrell and Kevin Stock – all respect to them for their dedication. It was unveiled on Remembrance Sunday last year, 2007.
As usual, it’s the sheer number of people commemorated that tells the main story. Forty-one men from this small community killed in the First World War, 20 more in the Second. In the First World War they came from my grandparents’ generation; in the Second, from that of my parents.
Some of the stories from those generations are heartbreaking. The Hellfire Corner website has dozens of accounts of men lost in “the war to end all wars”, including that of this ordinary Chatham woman who lost five of her sons. How lucky am I that my generation was not cut down in this way. And all I can do is hope that my children are as lucky too.