Tonbridge rolls out the red carpet for those who gave their lives in war

Tonbridge rolls out the red carpet for those who gave their lives in war

A REMEMBRANCE carpet made of more than 7,000 poppies knitted by the public was unveiled at Tonbridge Castle on Friday.

The occasion marked the launch of the Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal.

The ceremony also saw the installation of three statues honouring the role of women in wartime, created by pupils at Hillview School for Girls assisted by local sculptor Guy Portelli.

The carpet, which also features cornflowers – the French symbol of remembrance – is exactly 11 metres and 11 centimetres long, to mark the date of the signing of The Armistice to end World War I on November 11, 1918.

GUARD OF HONOUR 2520 Tonbridge Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets stand to attention with the poppy carpet

Volunteers from the 2520 Tonbridge Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets attached the poppies to form the carpet under the leadership of Pilot Officer Tom Bristow.

The project was organised by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council and the Mayor, Roger Dalton, greeted the exhibition.

“What an amazing creation,” he said. “This has been a wonderful community project and it is spectacular to look at.”

The statues, which are made out of poppies and white flowers pinned to wire frames, were the brainchild of Pam Mills, deputy organiser of the Tonbridge Poppy Appeal and a keen local historian.

THE ART OF WAR Hillview’s artists Jazmine Bartram, Roseanne Eames, Heather Maxwell, Alice Dewey and Rachael Garaty, Guy Portelli, Pam Mills, Lady Mayoress Hazel Dalton and Mayor Roger Dalton with the three statues

“These are the faceless heroines of World War I,” she said. “They have no heads, you don’t know who they are.

“These women rarely have a mention, but today we will remember them.”

She added: “Without these women, I can assure you that the war would never have been won.”

The statues were created over a period of eight months by Hillview’s Jazmine Bartram, Roseanne Eames, Heather Maxwell, Alice Dewey and Rachael Garaty.

Roseanne said: “We came up with the form of the body to make the shape of the statues. We weren’t really talented at working with chicken wire – but we are now!

“Pam showed us photos of the women and we learned about the history and the symbols – what they meant. It’s something that’s been brushed over until now.”

The project was supported by Kent County Council’s Community Engagement Fund, South Tonbridge Women’s Institute and Tonbridge Old Fire Station.

Tom Tugendhat, the MP for Tonbridge & Malling, addressed the crowd who gathered on Castle Lawn, saying: “For a thousand years men have formed up on this patch to go to war. People have readied themselves for the trials and tribulations to come.”

The former soldier, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, added: “It reminds us of the thousand years of history that binds our community together.

“We have so much in common, we are so much better united.”

Where to see the tributes

The knitted poppy carpet will be displayed in the Tonbridge Gateway until November 5, then in the reception area at the council’s Kings Hill offices until Remembrance Sunday, November 12, when it will be moved to the Royal British Legion Industries Gardens in Aylesford.

The Women in War sculptures will remain on display near the Cannon Lawn of Tonbridge Castle.

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