‘Catford’s garden of Eden’: Campaigners encourage public to visit refurbished war memorial gardens

A team of campaigners who set up a memorial to commemorate heroes from the First and Second World Wars are encouraging the public to visit their gardens.

For 18 years Tony Green, 66, from Kent, has worked alongside a team from the Bellingham Ex-servicemens Club in Allerford Road, Catford, to restore a memorial he discovered in 2006.

Now, Mr Green is urging the public to visit the gardens, which he describes as “Catford’s own garden of Eden”, to help keep the memory of the ex-servicemen alive.

The memorial gardens in the Navy Corner of the Bellingham Ex-servicemen’s Club’s Remembrance Gardens (Picture: Bellingham Ex-servicemen’s Club)

Mr Green said: “These gardens mean everything to me.

“The work this team has put in is absolutely outstanding and I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without them.”

Mr Green, former vice chairman of the Honor Oak and Brockley branch of the Royal British Legion, discovered a framed letter while tidying up the Legion’s clubhouse in Eddystone Road in 2006.

The document – signed by R. Rayment – tells the story of what happened when a postman, Jack Heart, delivered letters to Kentwell Close on the Honor Oak Estate, shortly after HMS Hood was sunk during the Second World War.

Tony Green (Picture: Tony Green)

On May 24, 1941, Britain’s largest battleship, known as the Mighty Hood, was hit by a torpedo shot from the German Battleship Bismarck.

The ship went down within minutes, with only three crewmen surviving the tragedy.

Ten men from Kentwell Close were among the 1,418 who lost their lives. 

The letter describes how mothers on the estate were in “extreme distress” when their post started to arrive from the War Office bearing the news of the young men who had died.

A memorial was created for the victims after the war, but it became forgotten and fell into disrepair until it was discovered by Mr Green in 2006. 

Tony Green holding the letter he found in 2006 (Picture: Tony Green)

Following the discovery, Mr Green set up the Battlecruiser HMS HOOD South East London Memorial Group, based at the Bellingham Ex-servicemens Club, to renovate the memorial.

In 2007, the group arranged to have the memorial installed and dedicated in the Navy Corner of the Ex-servicemens club’s Garden of Remembrance.

Every year, the Ex-servicemen’s club in Bellingham commemorates the victims of the HMS Hood in an event which is attended by war veterans, ex-military and Navy personnel from around South-east London.

Last year’s commemoration of the HMS Hood at the Bellingham Ex-servicemen’s Club (Picture: Bellingham Ex-servicemen’s Club)

Within the gardens there are a number of other memorials, including a stone for Commander Archibald Buckle, who was awarded four distinguished orders for services from 1914-18 in Antwerp, Gallipoli, Somme and Ypres. 

The gardens also host four Victory Cross Veteran memorials, Burma Star Officers memorials and Officers of the 34th and 36th First Surrey Rifle Regiment memorial.

Mr Green said: “I want the gardens to be noticed and recognised.

“I want people like Commander Buckle and the marines who died on HMS Hood to be remembered for what they did, giving their lives for our country.”

Pictured top: The memorial gardens in the Navy Corner of the Bellingham Ex-servicemen’s Club’s Remembrance Gardens and Tony Green holding the letter he found in 2006 (Picture: Bellingham Ex-servicemen’s Club/Tony Green)

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