Nephew of fallen servicemen angry over felling of war memorial trees in Sheffield

The nephew of two Sheffielders who were killed in the Second World War has expressed his anger at the felling of a tree planted in their memory.

Tuesday, 27th March 2018, 5:17 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th March 2018, 5:25 pm
Brothers Ronald (left) and Gordon Booker were both killed in action during the Second World War

Gordon and Ronald Booker were among the fallen servicemen from Frecheville to be commemorated by the planting of 19 war memorial trees on Heathfield Road following the conflict.

Two of those trees - including the one dedicated to the brothers - were cut down last Friday by the council's contractor Amey as part of the controversial £2.2 billion Streets Ahead contract to repair the city's roads and pavements.

The stump of the tree which had been dedicated to the Booker brothers

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The council said both trees were diseased and they would be replaced as part of wider plans to improve and rededicate the living memorial, which it said were supported by the Royal British Legion.

But Gordon Millward, who is named after his uncle, says he was furious to discover they had been felled.

He believes relatives should have been informed before any work took place and claims the tree dedicated to his uncle appeared to be a healthy one.

"These trees were planted as a tribute to the self-sacrifice shown by my uncles and the other servicemen from the area, and they should never have been felled like this, without any warning," said the 71-year-old businessman, who grew up in Frecheville but now lives in Mosborough.

The war memorial in Frecheville

"There was nothing wrong with that tree. I've stood there many times and bowed my head in memory of my two uncles and what they did for us all."

The council published photos after the felling showing a hole at the core of the stumps which they said was evidence of internal rot not visible from the outside.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment and street scene, said it had 'worked closely' in recent months with local residents and members of the legion to discuss its plans for the memorial site, which they had supported.

As well as replacing the two trees, the council plans to plant an additional tree and to replace an existing bench with a new one.

The stump of the tree which had been dedicated to the Booker brothers

David Warburton, president of Frecheville RBL, said councillors had given a talk at a recent branch meeting explaining 'quite truly' that some of the trees were dead and needed to be removed but that they would be replaced.

"I'd like to make it clear that we cannot approve the removal of any of these trees. The decision has to come from the council and from the relatives of those commemorated, who should be informed before any of the trees are removed," he added.

Mr Millward said Gordon Booker had died in 1944, aged 22, after the tank in which he was travelling was blown up.

Ronald Booker, who served as a rear gunner on a Lancaster bomber, died in 1942, aged 21.

The war memorial in Frecheville