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Long-lost gift to town from World War II sailors finally coming home
9:00am Sunday 6th May 2012 in Chippenham
A LONG-LOST historic plaque awarded to Chipp-enham by grateful sailors on World War II warship HMS Cyclops is set to be returned to the town.
The plaque, presented to the chairman of the Chipp-enham Urban District Council in 1942, was given as thanks for the money the town had raised to ‘adopt’ the ship during warship week, a nationwide incentive to raise funds for the war effort.
People from the town raised a staggering £247,000 for the submarine depot ship – the equivalent of £4.5million today.
But many years ago, the commemorative plaque vanished from Chippenham, and its whereabouts have remained unknown – until now.
Paul Moran, who lives in Salisbury Close in the town, discovered the missing plaque when his brother Roger Tonkinson was moving out of his house.
Mr Tonkinson had received the plaque from an antiques dealer in Bath two years previously, and rediscovered it while packing up.
Mr Moran, who was in the Royal Air Force for 25 years, said, “It is a curious story.
“Raising money for the war then was a nationwide effort. The figures are astonishing. Apart from Chippenham’s massive total, all the local villages and towns raised large sums as well. Yatton Keynell, for example, raised £2,400. Across the nation the mind-boggling total of £546,000,000 was raised in just six months. In today’s money, that is £2.3billion.
“The Cyclops plaque therefore represents the huge effort that the townspeople of Chippenham made in World War Two. The town’s population then was possibly half of what it is today.”
Local artist Doris A Lloyd of Yatton Keynell depicted the village’s fund-raising triumph in a painting kept at the Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre.
Now Mr Moran wants to return the plaque to the museum too, and said there are still questions to be answered about its missing years.
“What happened to this plaque in the interim?” he said.
“How did it end up in Bath? When a similar plaque was presented to the town council in St Ives by the rescued crew of HMS Wave, it was proudly hung in the council chambers. What happened in Chippenham in 1942?”
HMS Cyclops, launched in 1905, weighed in at 11,500 tons, was 500 feet long and had a crew of 266. It was an invaluable source of supply and repair for many types of vessel, mainly submarines, and uniquely survived both World Wars before being scrapped in Newport in July 1947.
Mr Moran, who wrote naval history Part of the Shore: The Saving of HMS Wave, said he was delighted at the historic find.
He said: “This plaque has been missing for many years and it would be interesting to discover whether the current Chippenham Town Council actually knew about it.
“What is clear is that the people of Chippenham should be reminded of a quite extraordinary feat of generosity by the town in 1942. I would like to know just how such a huge sum of money could be raised in just one week from a rural market town. Someone in the locale may know something about it and it would be great to hear from them. My hope is that the plaque will be celebrated for what it is – a talisman of the selfless sense of duty this town had in wartime.”
Anyone with information about the plaque and the fund raising of March 1942 should contact the Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre on (01249) 705020.
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