CLC The Duke Of Wellington’s (West Riding)Regiment Memorial Appeal – raising £240,000
It was late in October 2016 that I received a call from Richard Ward, who was on the Appeal Committee for The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment Memorial Appeal. The Committee was looking to see how it could get some help to raise the funds for the project. Richard had been involved with the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) at Alrewas, Staffordshire and from there had heard about the work I had done with the appeal team headed up by its patron, HRH Prince William and its Chairman, Major General Patrick Cordingley with whom I had worked previously on another project. I had been working with them for 2 years and together we had raised £15.7 million overall. The ‘Heroes’ Square’ element, for which I had been actually responsible, raised £1.2 million for the new Visitor Centre that had just been opened and I was about to finish the project.
It was a lovely phone call and as I was able to tell Richard that I was actually a granddaughter of a ‘Duke’: Lt Col Ben Sayers who had fought and was wounded in WW1, served with the Regiment on the NW Frontier in India between the wars and commanded the depot in Halifax after the WW2. My mother had even been born in India. I knew if they wanted my help, I would love to be involved in this Appeal as I would also be able to learn more about the Regiment and its history and my family’s connection with it. As soon as Scott Flaving heard about this he sent me a digest of Ben’s military service from Regimental and other records. These I had not seen and they included his obituary, which had been written by my grandmother Audrey Minna Sayers who filled in some of the gaps in the Regimental account.
The Appeal Committee, chaired by Brigadier Andrew Meek consisted of Brigadier Michael Bray, Captain John Hogg, Colonel Alistair Roberts, Major Peter Robinson and Lieutenant Colonel Richard Ward , then asked me to work with them. One of the early moves was to invite His Grace The 9th Duke of Wellington to be the Appeal Patron. General Sir Charles Huxtable, Major General Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, Brigadier Dick Mundell, Colonel John Barkshire and Colonel Charles Dent all agreed to be our Appeal Vice Patrons. Major David Harrap and Major Bob Heron both joined the Committee later to organise the more complex Events leading up to unveiling ceremony.
With all fundraising projects you never know how easy or hard it is going to be and you have to think unconventionally. I knew that this would be quite a lot to ask given the aim was so narrow – a memorial to a single regiment – so we had to think of all sorts of ways that we could raise funds. I was lent lots of books, letters, pamphlets and many other things about the history of the Regiment when looking for inspiration. The more I read the more it encouraged me to look for help from those who were well-positioned to incite interest and encourage, not only anyone who served in the Regiment, but also to persuade individuals and organisations outside the Regiment to give money to a cause to which they were neither directly affiliated or only loosely connected. This is one of the reasons we came up with some of the fundraising events outside Yorkshire, before we positioned our final event to showcase the unveiling of the memorial a couple of months later.
In the meantime, a website memorial page was created and online donation links were activated. Books were read, letters were sent, calls made and meetings took place. Every day after the initial few months, a cheque, a bank transfer or a thank you letter landed on my doorstep – the response was amazing. Letters arrived that were almost illegible at times either written in haste or by someone who just wanted to have their final input into The ‘Dukes’. Five, ten, twenty pound notes arrived from around the world some wrapped inside some heartfelt letters remembering a loved one now gone and some anonymous – it was amazing to see how many loved this Regiment and gave what they could for this Appeal and it is for all those small and large donations that we achieved our goal. Clubs bandied together, West Yorkshire’s Masonic Lodges were conspicuously generous and sometimes people met up for a social at the pub and had a collection. I felt so honoured to be part of this , to have some of the conversations I have had with people who wanted to tell me about their time in service , or offer up ideas. I will never forget the email I got back from one person who remembered by grandfather – the late Hugh Le Messurier: “Dear Caroline, of course, I knew ‘Ben’ Sayers at the Depot. White hair and reddish complexion. He was there with Sammy Baker and a number of officers called up. All best wishes Hugh.”
What a find, too, in our sculptor Andrew Sinclair whose work and commitment were second to none. He worked tirelessly to incorporate all the details spending many hours/days and weeks researching the history and getting the advice he needed on every aspect. It was also because of his work that I was able to share the vision at the early stages as we knew he would deliver an inspirational and truly evocative piece. The Committee did not leave a stone unturned and volunteers came ‘out of the woodwork’ – Tim Sinclair and his company Wolfstar were there all the way through and came up trumps for our PR at Apsley House and for the final event. Those working in the background doing the accounts, running Bankfield, proofing, answering questions on the queries that came via email, post and social media . All needed our time. Our Vice Patrons could not have been more supportive and were always there in support of all I did, and it was of great sadness that General Charles was not able to see the final memorial in place. I am so grateful for all their support and the teamwork that came with it.
The fundraising events consisted of a Rugby Event in February 2018 at The Leathersellers’ a magnificent and recently completed livery hall, a rare privilege as it is not open to the public, by kind invitation of David Santa-Olalla. Throughout the 20th century the ‘Dukes’ were synonymous with the game of rugby football and this connection is the reason we organised a fundraising event with an evening’s talk by Nigel Melville. Nigel is a Yorkshireman, captained England and now is a key figure at ‘HQ’.
Our second event was held at Apsley House thanks to the generosity of our Patron, The Duke of Wellington. We were honoured and extremely lucky to be able to have the event at No 1 London as there was no better place at which to launch the Appeal and at the same time reveal the design for the Memorial in maquette form. The response from everyone on the evening was that the design had the ‘wow’ factor and also reflected the essential elements of the over 300-year history, its close links to the West Riding as well as to the Wellesley family.
The Hindoostan Shooting Club then chose this appeal for its inaugural HSC Charity Clay Day. The HSC, is a private members shooting club originally formed by serving and retired officers of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. This was a fun day and money was raised for the Appeal outside of those in the ‘Dukes’
The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment returned to Halifax on Friday 8th March its home of over 200 years, for the fundraising dinner in aid of the Appeal at The Arches, in Dean Clough Mills. The event was the third of its kind for the Appeal aiming to raise enough funds to close the gap to the final target.
Little did we realise the full extent of the support the Appeal would receive from not just within the Regimental family but from a whole host of individuals and organisations. There are a few I would like to acknowledge here personally who really put in many hours of support: The Appeal Committee and in particular Brigadier Andrew Meek who I am sure is thankful the phone line has now quietened down; Steve Duncan CEO of the Community Foundation for Calderdale; Tim Sinclair, David Ridgeway, Diane Coates, Janet Gull, Suzanne Macdonald, John Golding and the Yorkshire Committee.
I will always be so grateful for being asked to help and to be part of this Appeal. I have made some great friends, learnt so much and have felt I have been part of something that will educate and inspire generations to come and feel very proud of what we have all achieved together.