World War Two 'Battle of Bamber Bridge' will be remembered in the town

South Ribble is set to commemorate a racially-charged incident during World War Two in which a Black American soldier stationed in the borough was shot dead.

Saturday, 5th March 2022, 3:34 pm
Updated Saturday, 5th March 2022, 3:45 pm
Ye Olde Hob Inn will overlook a commemoration to the Battle of Bamber Bridge (image: Google)
Ye Olde Hob Inn will overlook a commemoration to the Battle of Bamber Bridge (image: Google)

Councillors have settled on the design of a feature to mark what became known as the Battle of Bamber Bridge.

It will be installed on a raised grassed area opposite Ye Olde Hob Inn – at the junction of Church Road and Station Road – and will serve as a reminder of the night in 1943 when violence flared between White US military police officers and Black servicemen on the streets of the town.

South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee has granted permission for the commemoration, having previously asked the authority to carry out a further public consultation on its own proposal.

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The history of a troubled night in Bamber Bridge will be displayed on a lectern in the town (image: South Ribble Borough Council)

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Lancashire history: How the Battle of Bamber Bridge unfolded

Committee members made the request after being asked back in November to approve a stainless steel structure which one resident, John Rainford, said resembled signage from a retail park and was “cartoon-like” in its design.

The original proposal was also criticised by Bamber Bridge local Derek Rogerson, who suggested a memorial to the battle almost five years ago and even commissioned artwork from Penwortham-born artist Tom Cookson. That showed a Black soldier and White military police officer standing within a Bamber Bridge street scene and bearing the words: “Side by side we stood, not always seeing eye to eye.”

The latest committee meeting heard that the council had consulted on a modified proposal, which replaced the previously suggested sculpture with a “more dignified” design, and asked for the public’s opinion on three potential ways of displaying an information panel – on plinths, within a rockery or on a lectern. The latter option was favoured by the majority of 19 respondents.

The image produced by South Ribble artist Tom Cookson as a proposed memorial to the Battle of Bamber Bridge (image courtesy of Tom Cookson)

John Rainford praised the council for listening to the concerns raised by residents and making “the appropriate changes”, which he said ensured that the feature was “more suited” to its proposed location.

Mr. Rogerson also applauded the authority’s efforts, but said that the result lacked “one vital ingredient – an epitaph containing the important lesson from this terrible tragedy when bigotry and racism ruled the day”.

“We believe that all who visit the memorial and read such an epitaph will then depart with a meaningful message in their hearts regarding the consequences of those unacceptable twin prejudices,”said Mr. Rogerson, who requested a “compromise” which incorporated his proposal into the council’s lectern.

However, planning case officer Debbie Roberts said that it was not for a third party to “hijack” someone else’s application – and added that the absence of an epitaph was due to the fact the piece was intended to be “commemorative” rather than a memorial.

The illuminated lectern will contain an account of the incident and will be set at the centre of new crescent-shaped paths.

Committee member Clare Hunter said that she had spoken to Bamber Bridge residents and found that they were happy with the design, but Cllr Barrie Yates said that the digital nature of the recent consultation was flawed and said that it should be repeated in a more traditional form – with Tom Cookson’s artwork as one of the options.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting, Derek Rogerson – who has just completed a book about the battle, which is due to be published later this year – said he was disappointed that his proposal had never been “put on the table”.

He said that his own local survey had yielded 78 responses backing his suggested design and epitaph.

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