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The Mander War Memorial

By john workman  |  Posted: November 11, 2012

The Mander War Memorial at Wightwick Manor.

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Every year at Remembrance the Bugle features a specific war memorial somewhere in the Black Country where the names of the brave, who fought in foreign fields never to return, are etched forever in stone or marble. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the extensive grounds of Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton is a memorial garden dedicated to former employees of Mander Brothers Limited who died in the two world wars.

Originally the company's war memorials were situated at the site of the varnish works and the firm's offices in St John Street, there to remember the employees who had been killed, the vast majority in the First World War. The Second World War memorial includes three names, one of whom is Captain Howard Anthony Mander, son of Vivian Mander.

The majority are the names of ordinary blokes who worked on the shop floor, in the warehouse, in the offices, or delivered the goods to customers; Albert Beresford, Frederick Bradley, Samuel Haddock, Charles Miles, and so many more. Young chaps, known only to their families and colleagues at work; some who may have only been married for a short while, or were courting, and those who already had a young family; the call-up spared no one.

Then to be thrust into a nightmare on the field of battle; enemy bullets to dodge, praying that exploding shells spared you; the acres of mud and decay; of miles of barbed wire and the fear of the unexpected as the whistle blew to send you over the top; experiences that are too unimaginable for words.

You stand and stare at the names, just a simple wall plaque, no statues of noble, heroic Tommies to glorify the moment. You focus on one name in particular, Albert Lee. There is no reason to know what sort of a bloke he was other than that he was selflessly brave. Plucked from the obscurity of civvy street, the wider world now knows why he died, either by bullet, explosion, disease, it doesn't matter. He died so that his family and his fellow countrymen could live in peace and have a future, as the epitaph says, "When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow we gave our today".

After the factory was closed in St John's Street, the two memorials spent some time in storage. Then when the storage facilities were closed and there was a risk the memorials might be destroyed, the Mander family and the National Trust worked together to bring them to Wightwick Manor so they could go back on public display.

Initially they were attached to the stable block walls, but this was unsuitable on a permanent basis and they now stand proud in a memorial garden as a place for reflection and peace.

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