Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday, May 16

To High Elms, for the rededication of the memorial to my uncle Eric Fox Pitt Lubbock, killed March 11, 1917. Lyulph had organised the event and said a few words of introduction, followed by the Rector of St Giles Church, Farnborough, the Rev Matthew Hughes, who spoke about Eric and blessed the memorial. I then spoke briefly. Uncle Eric was my grandmother’s favourite child, the one she loved with such intensity that she remained in deep mourning from the day he was shot down, for the remaining 30 years of her life. But he lit up the lives of everyone he knew, family, friends, his father’s scientific colleagues, and comrades in the armed forces. My father, who Eric called ‘dear little Moke’, born seven years after Eric, idolised him, and so I bear his name. When my father was little he couldn’t pronounce the name ‘Eric’ and he called him ‘Yay’, a nickname that was transferred to me within the family when I was a child.

Eric hated war, and my grandmother wrote that if his life had been spared, he would have worked for real peace, as his father had done, thoughi in vain. But he joined up from a sense of duty at the beginning of the war, and was in France with the British Expeditionary Force by the end of September 1914. In 1915 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, and the memorial, a representation of the Sopwith Camel in stone, commemorates his service in the RFC, for which he received the Military Cross in 1916. Wing Commander Jeff Jefford, historian of the RFC, was with us today.

The memorial was originally in the family graveyard in the wood just below St Giles’ Church. After my mother died in 1981, the local authority removed all the memorials, to save them from vandalism. Most were relocated in St Giles Church graveyard, but the aeroplane was held in a council depot, presumably because it was considered secular, and also possibly because he was actually buried in Poperinghe, Belgium. After several years it was somehow acquired by a stonemason, Lloyd of Bedwyn in Wiltshire, in a transaction the records of which no longer exist . When John Lloyd closed the business down last year, the contents of his yard including the aeroplane came on the market, and thanks to cousin Roderick Lubbock, we were alerted to the sale. Lindsay and I went down to Great Bedwyn on the day of the auction and I bid for it successfully. The London Borough of Bromley kindly agreed to give it space at their new sustainable environment education centre ('BEECHE') in what used to be the kitchen gardens of High Elms, where uncle Eric and I both lived, and after a few hiccups with the transport it reached its final resting place at his ancestral home. The staff at BEECHE, the officials at the London Borough of Bromley, and the Rector and the Parish Council of St Giles have been wonderfully supportive of the project since we first discussed it with them last autumn. The whole family values enormously our connection with High Elms, and we’re delighted that Eric’s memorial has returned to its rightful home, where it will be treasured by everyone who visits this sacred spot.

Kentish Times article on the return of the memorial:

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