Bodicote finally allowed to honour its war soldiers

Bodicote Church poppies. John Morgan and Rachel Whitrow of the Bodfest committee, who installed the poppies. NNL-181030-170831009
Bodicote Church poppies. John Morgan and Rachel Whitrow of the Bodfest committee, who installed the poppies. NNL-181030-170831009

In a campaign that lasted almost as long as WWI, the village of Bodicote has finally been given permission to mount a permanent memorial to the villagers who died during the conflict.

The story begins in 2014 whilst the country was commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of World War I.

The Bodicote poppies finally have a home

The Bodicote poppies finally have a home

Bodicote resident and former landlord of the village’s Horse and Jockey pub, John Morgan, was on a trip to London when inspiration hit.

John said: “When I used to run the Jockey, we had a group of regulars there that for more than 10 or 12 years would go to Belgium and France and visit the war graves.

“In 2014 we went to the centenary of the first world war which coincided with the poppies at the Tower of London.

“On the way back I thought it would be a fitting gesture to get some for the village so I bought 25 which is one for every member of the village who died.”

John’s ambition was to see the ceramic poppies permanently displayed in the village’s church but he had not gotten prior approval from the vicar. This would mark the start of a four-year campaign that would involve architects, Bodicote British Legion and the mysterious Diocese Advisory Committee (DAC).

John said: “We were told you can’t put them in the church. The reasons were they were too big or they didn’t have the room. Then the Bodfest committee wanted to reimburse me so the poppies would be from the village.

John, a Bodfest Committee member, added: “We involved the Bodicote British Legion and thought they would help us, they’ll be able to do it but that fell on stony ground.”

In 2015 Bodfest took over the process to see them housed in the church with John leaving the UK to seek sunnier climes.

Rachel Whitrow, treasurer, said: “I applied back to the vicar and was told to go to the parochial church council (PCC) who said I had to apply to the Diocese to get permission from the Bishop, but we didn’t have a bishop at the time.”

This merry-go-round lasted two years with no resolution in sight until John returned to the village last year.

John said: “I was all for going to the national media because I was livid. Rachel said ‘please don’t do that and give me one more chance’ and we got it on the DAC agenda in March ‘18.

John added: “It had been on the agenda before and they threw it out. They only meet every two months so when they come back to us you then can’t do anything for two months. One of the grounds was we had to have the building surveyed.”

Rachel said: “We had to get an architect to survey the wall we wanted to use and we had to get a builder to drill a hole where we wanted it as we didn’t have public liability insurance.”

Not only were the Bodfest Committee trying to gain permission to place the poppy memorial in the church they were also attempting to come up with a design the powers that be would find acceptable.

Once again bureaucracy, red tape and some fuzzy thinking became the main hurdles to overcome.

John said: “To try and do a visual display is very difficult because they’re so long, they’re top heavy because of the ceramic poppy. To get them into the design we wanted was very difficult, we had them in the garden, we had them on the table and took photos and they would say they didn’t like that design. Another two months and you have to do the same again.”

Rachel added: “We decided to do a mock out of paper poppies they use on Remembrance Day. They didn’t like them because they were 
paper poppies. How else are you supposed to do it?”

The design the committee wanted the memorial to mirror the way the long stem poppies would appear if they were tipped from a vase onto a table. It would also incorporate a plaque including the names of the fallen villagers and a few details of the memorials inclusion into the church, but inevitably trouble was ahead.

John said: “You have to get permission to get it on the agenda. It then came back that they didn’t like the wording on the plaque, so we changed the words and lo and behold we got permission.”

That was just three weeks ago and the 25 ceramic poppies are now on display for perpetuity as a thank you to those brave villagers who gave their lives during WWI.

There is one final twist to this protracted tale, the wall that was surveyed at some cost ended up not being the final resting place for the poppies.

It was moved to another wall as it looked better.