A Waterfall of Poppies
One day last year, thinking ahead to the Armistice commemorations in November 2018, Gill Donnelly, a Winchfield resident, had the bright idea that a waterfall of poppies tumbling over St Mary’s Church, Winchfield, could look wonderful and would properly commemorate the fallen from the First World War and subsequent conflicts. Little did she realise that more than 50 people embraced the idea and passed it on to family and friends who knitted and crocheted their way through nearly 3,000 poppies! Mums, sisters, and friends – pretty much anyone who could hold a crochet hook or a pair of knitting needles has done their bit and not only from Winchfield but all round the UK. The Forget-Me-Not café in Hartley Wintney and the Farnham Quilters all set about helping and suddenly, from an inkling of an idea, sprang a wonderful waterfall - the final poppy installation. Canada sent 60 poppies, New Zealand 55 and France too, together with many stories of those who survived and those who sadly did not.
Gill realised that the project was even larger than she had imagined so her husband, John, formerly in the RAF, was strong-armed into designing and project managing how it could be done. Nets were bought, Winchfield village hall was booked and on two sunny Autumn days a team of ladies attached the poppies to the nets. The installation day arrived and Rich Blay could be seen on the Church porch roof, manoeuvring the poppies into place. What a sight!
‘One of the things I most liked about this project’ says Gill Donnelly ‘is how it has brought the whole community together, working towards the final installation which commemorates the fallen from WW1 and all other conflicts, as well as honouring those on our memorial plaque in St Mary’s.’
Much history has been uncovered during all the conversations and one of the most endearing stories is that of the Grandfather of Winchfield resident, Mark Gaines. Edgar George Hill was the son of a Welsh miner and he worked down the mines until his 18th Birthday in 1914, when he signed up and joined the Monmouthshire Regiment of the British Territorial Force. He was deployed on active service in France when he suffered a gunshot wound to his leg on the first day of the 2nd battle of Ypres. His injury later required amputation and so he and his family, needing employment, moved to Richmond, Surrey, to work in the Poppy Factory, where he remained until he retired in the mid-1960s. Touchingly Edgar was very much involved in making the Queen’s Wreaths for Remembrance Sunday at The Cenotaph in London.
Gill has been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support given to this poppy project and would like to thank everyone who has had a hand in making her dream idea come true. She added that the Church will be open for viewing from Monday 12th to Saturday 17th November from 2-4 pm.