Tonbridge sculpture recognises work of women during wartime

Lee Colyer

THE role played by women during times of warfare is being recognised with a sculpture at Tonbridge Castle from Friday [October 27].

The unveiling of the artwork will coincide with the installation of a knitted poppy carpet on Castle Lawn at 11am, in preparation for Remembrance Sunday on November 12.

The Women in War display, which will be sited near the Cannon Lawn, was created by pupils at Hillview School for Girls.

DECORATED Pupils at Hillview School create their Women in War sculpture in memory of heroine Margaret Waite

They were helped by Tunbridge Wells artist Guy Portelli, who created the statue of Dame Kelly Holmes erected this month in Tonbridge.

The work consists of three abstract figures of women with remembrance at the forefront, so one is made of poppies while the other two are constructed out of white flowers with a red cross depicting the uniform of nurses of that time.

Local historian Pam Mills has coordinated the project, which is designed to create awareness of the part women have played in war.

She said: “During the Great War it was a transitional period for women, some of whom were going to work for the first time.”

The sculpture is dedicated to Margaret Waite, who lived at Postern Farm and joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry [FANY] in 1914.

Mrs Mills, who helps organise the local Poppy Appeal, describes how the project came about.

‘It was a transitional period for women, some of whom were going to work for the first time’

“I was researching Tonbridge in World War One and I came across this lady called Margaret Waite. She joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and took her horse Jess and went off to help with the war effort. She was posted to France and Belgium and helped save the lives of men by working on the front line.

“The King of Belgium personally pinned on her and two of her colleagues The Order Of Leopold ll, recognising their bravery in the field.

“Her story has been forgotten so I have told it again, with background gained from her family.”

Margaret died in Tonbridge in 1979. Members of her family, who still live in the town, will attend the event, along with Tonbridge & Malling Mayor Roger Dalton, Mr Portelli, Hillview pupils and representatives of the Royal British Legion.

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