Two decades of ‘disrespect’: Council moves WWII memorial featuring embarrassing mistake to its new HQ… after no one spotted error for 20 years

A war memorial – featuring a factual error – that had been on a council’s wall for 20 years has been moved to its new HQ… because no one had spotted the mistake.  

Cambridgeshire County Council’s multi-million-pound building was opened in 2021 – and includes a plaque moved from the foyer of its old base that was dedicated to council members who died in the Second World War.

But slapdash staff have been labelled as ‘disgraceful’ after a local spotted it had mistakenly labelled the conflict the Great War on the plaque – a term denoting the First World War.

This is despite the memorial being just three minutes from RAF Alconbury – from which heroic British bombers flew against Nazi Germany.

One local – who spotted the blunder – slammed the council, saying: ‘I thought: “Does no-one proofread this or have people forgotten their history?”

Cambridgeshire County Council’s multi-million-pound building was opened in 2021 – and included a plaque (pictured) dedicated to members of the council who died in the Second World War in the property’s foyer

But slapdash staff have been labelled as 'disgraceful' for mistakenly calling the conflict the Great War on the plaque (left) - a term denoting the First World War (the plaque for which is pictured right)

But slapdash staff have been labelled as ‘disgraceful’ for mistakenly calling the conflict the Great War on the plaque (left) – a term denoting the First World War (the plaque for which is pictured right)

The building was opened in July 2021 at the cost of £18million - with staff being slammed for leaving it virtually empty as they continued to work from home

The building was opened in July 2021 at the cost of £18million – with staff being slammed for leaving it virtually empty as they continued to work from home

Among the names is noted war hero William Dick Hawkes, the pilot of a Lancaster bomber who died aged 26 after being shot down by a Luftwaffe night fighter over Holland in 1943

Among the names is noted war hero William Dick Hawkes, the pilot of a Lancaster bomber who died aged 26 after being shot down by a Luftwaffe night fighter over Holland in 1943

‘If the council can’t get this right about their own war dead then what else can’t they get right.

‘It’s just poor show really, and shows complacency. And there it is on full public display.

‘At the bottom it says: “We shall remember them.” But they’re not doing a great job of remembering if they can’t get the name of the war right!’

Among the names is noted war hero William Dick Hawkes, the pilot of a Lancaster bomber who died aged 26 after being shot down by a Luftwaffe night fighter over Holland in 1943.

Witnesses to the tragedy say that after being attacked he refused to lighten his plane’s load to escape by dropping their seven 1000lb bombs out of fear for the houses below. 

Ron Ravenhall, who was 10 witnessed the plane explode above his house in occupied Hilversum, researched Mr Hawkes as he followed in the pilot’s footsteps – going to the same school as him and serving in the RAF.

Writing for Roll of Honour, he said: ‘Like me, the people of the Netherlands will never forget their indebtedness to the thousands of gallant young fliers who died that they might live and will continue to honour those who survived the unparalleled heroism of their youth. ‘

The memorial is dedicated to ‘members of the Shire Hall staff who died in the Great War 1939-1945’. It adds: ‘We shall remember them’.

The blunder is despite the memorial being just three minutes from RAF Alconbury - from which heroic British bombers flew against Nazi Germany

The blunder is despite the memorial being just three minutes from RAF Alconbury – from which heroic British bombers flew against Nazi Germany

New Shire Hall's décor is war-themed, with a mural of a fallen soldier on the wall of one building

New Shire Hall’s décor is war-themed, with a mural of a fallen soldier on the wall of one building 

The huge site, pictured front, sits just minutes from the old airbase, whose runway can be seen at the top of the picture

The huge site, pictured front, sits just minutes from the old airbase, whose runway can be seen at the top of the picture

A separate plaque next to it is dedicated to members of the ‘County Hall staff’ who died in the First World War and correctly calls it ‘The Great War.’

Local resident Peter Edwards, 42, said: ‘It is disgraceful that they can’t write that correctly also bearing in mind the history of this particular area.

‘I haven’t walked past there for a while but no one ever works there so in the winter at 4pm in the afternoon no one is ever in there – they’re all working from home. 

‘It’s council-run, we’re paying for it, no one’s in the building. It cost an absolute mint to put up.

‘I don’t think anyone in the building would have noticed this and probably don’t even care. I think they’re more concerned about what is happening now.’

The building was opened in July 2021 at the cost of £18million and its décor is war-themed, with a mural of a fallen soldier on the wall of one building and a café in the former RAF Alconbury Watch Office.

Another local resident, John Dale, added: ‘It’s nice having a plaque up to remember people but getting the names and dates wrong – I think people need to read and write English correctly

One local - who served in the RAF - called the plaque 'stupid' and said the council should take it down and replace it

One local – who served in the RAF – called the plaque ‘stupid’ and said the council should take it down and replace it

Glider pilot William Herbert Shipp died in September 1944. He was buried in the Netherlands with the heartbreaking inscription

William Dick Hawkes died aged 26 after being shot down by a Luftwaffe night fighter

Glider pilot William Herbert Shipp died in September 1944. He was buried in the Netherlands with the heartbreaking inscription, while war hero William Dick Hawkes died aged 26 after being shot down by a Luftwaffe night fighter

A café opposite the front entrance sits in the former RAF Alconbury Watch Office

A café opposite the front entrance sits in the former RAF Alconbury Watch Office

‘Get rid of the idiot who has made the mistake and put someone in their place who knows what they are doing.’

Among the other names on the plaque are Robert Alfred Walter Dawkins, who was 21  when he was lost on a sortie while serving at the 299 bomber squadron in 1945.

Royal Marines Commando Frank Holgate Hancock was killed in action in Croatia aged just 20 after an air attack on the unit’s base.

And Glider pilot William Herbert Shipp died in September 1944. He was buried in the Netherlands with the heartbreaking inscription: ‘Dearly loved only child of Fred and Rhoda Shipp. He was all our world.’

Two more military deaths are also noted on the memorial – John Baxter, William Reginald Jarman. 

A third resident, who did not want to be named, said: ‘My father was ex-aircrew bomber command. 

‘I think it’s lack of communication and lack of someone not even knowing what the war was about. Do they teach it at school? 

‘All they’ve done is copy the other plaque. It’s a total disservice to these people and a lack of respect.’

And another resident, who is ex-RAF, added: ‘It’s stupid isn’t it. I think they should take it down and amend it. 

‘It amuses me that people put these things up without researching it.’

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire County Council told MailOnline: ‘Both plaques to honour staff members among the fallen in both World Wars on display at Cambridgeshire County Council’s Headquarters moved with us from our previous headquarters in Shire Hall in Cambridge, where they had been on display for at least twenty years.

‘The County Council has never received any complaints from staff or the public about the wording on either historic plaque which have and still form the centre piece of our annual remembrance service led by the Chair of Council each November.’

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