Spelling error on war memorial to be put right for war hero

A spelling mistake in the name of a fallen First World War hero has stood uncorrected on a town cenotaph for almost 100 years – to the frustration of his family.

Iris Archer with a picture of her grandfather Benjamin Shepherd
Iris Archer with a picture of her grandfather Benjamin Shepherd

Now the error is to be finally put right in the centenary year of the ending of the war that killed him.

Private Benjamin Shepherd died on the first day of the Battle of Loos – September 25, 1915 – and is remembered on the War Memorial in Darlaston.

Benjamin Shepherd

Except that the surname that appears on the marble and bronze statue is Sheppard.

Now the wheels have been put into motion to put right the century-old wrong after a campaign by historian Graham Payne who contacted Darlaston councillor Doug James.

And the soldier’s granddaughter Iris Archer, aged 79, could not be more delighted.

Darlaston War Memorial

“It has annoyed me over the years – after all, he did give his life for his country. But we were told there was nothing that could be done,” she said.

“It’s wonderful that after all these years, especially this year, that his proper name will be displayed on the cenotaph.”

Iris’s mother Annie was just five years old when her soldier father was killed, leaving his pregnant wife a widow.

“Being so young she couldn’t remember that much but she talked about him when we were younger.

“I remember she told us he was buried in Windy Corner Cemetery in France,” she said.

“I think he would be pleased his proper name appears on the memorial.”

The incorrect spelling

She responded to a story in the Express & Star in which Mr Payne, of Birchills, offered to help people trace the war records of loved ones who died in the war.

He said: “On every paper – including the census reports of 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911, his marriage certificate and even handwritten war documents – his name is spelt Shepherd.

“So this was not an mistake by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission but a local error.

“I’m very happy that after all these years something is being done about it.”

Medals belonging to Benjamin Shepherd

Councillor James said the entire plate, containing dozens of other names, would have to be recast and although it could not be done in time for the Armistice centenary on Sunday, it would be completed before the end of the year.

"We have to get permission to do the work as these war memorials are national monuments but it will be put right. It’s very important that this work is done because as a council we are custodians of these records,” he added.

Darlaston-born Iris, who now lives in Alumwell, Walsall, will be a guest of honour when the new plate is unveiled.

Benjamin Shepherd's memorial plaque

Private Shepherd and all other servicemen and women who have lost their lives in conflict were honoured at a service held in Darlaston over the weekend.

The town was among those around the region hosting Remembrance Day parades and services on Sunday which also marked 100 years since Armistice Day.

There were dawn pipers and poppy displays throughout the area as thousands of people across the Black Country and Staffordshire turned out to pay their respects.

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