The project to refurbish the War Memorial in St Marys Churchyard commenced in late 2013 when a few Bleasby villagers met to discuss how the Memorial could be refurbished by 2014 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of The Great War, WWI. Having obtained quotes for the cleaning and refurbishment work that was required, and following research about the soldiers whose names were recorded on the Memorial, it was found that three additional names should be added as a part of the refurbishment. Permission to do this was sought and received from the Diocese of Southwell.
In order to raise the required funds for this work of c £1,500, it was decided to hold an exhibition in St Marys Church in July 2014 to mark the declaration of war 100 years ago, and to hold a “Lights Out” event. The exhibition was organised and donations were requested from villagers to fund the costs. Talks were presented providing information about each of the Bleasby soldiers who had died. Bleasby Primary School children wrote poems for the exhibition and collected pennies towards the cost of the refurbishment. A cake baking “Bake Off” competition was held to raise funds at the Village summer open event.
It was at this exhibition that an elderly villager mentioned the Lancaster bomber collision that occurred during WWII and she suggested that these airmen should be researched. This suggestion sparked further research and the Bleasby Aircrews Memorial project commenced with the aim of creating a new memorial to the airmen who were killed near to Bleasby during WWII. As more research was carried out, and more memories were contributed, the Project grew in size and complexity, and cost.
As the Aircrews Memorial Project neared completion, a “Sponsor the Slab” scheme was launched which successfully raised the required funding for the foundation work in the Glebe Field for the new Memorial, which was installed in April 2018. Funding for this part of the Project was assisted by a metal detector ground search group who, with landowners permission, paid a contribution to enable them to search the crash site of the two Lancasters.
At first, fundraising activities for the Project commenced in a moderate way. A loose change bucket was placed at the Waggon and Horses, fundraising talks were arranged, and donations sought. It became clear though that a major fundraising event would be required in order to raise matched funding to support grant assistance for the Project, so a special Steam Train Excursion, the “Bleasby Aircrews Memorial” was organised, and run on 20thAugust, 2016. The specially made train headboard can be viewed in the Waggon and Horses today.
Other events and fundraising activities continued. The Bleasby Primary School organised an Evacuation Event to simulate the experiences of evacuee children during WWII. This event was covered by BBC East Midlands Television News, along with three other coverage broadcasts of the Projects.
In total, c £20,000 was raised over a five year period for these projects.