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Calls to honour Passchendaele brothers by turning Ilford park into ‘centenary field’

PUBLISHED: 09:15 17 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:23 17 August 2017

Richard Leighton and Elaine and Tony Webb, of South Park Users Group, with their replica cup honouring the O'Donoghue brothers. They had the cup made as a copy of a trophy created by South Park Swimming Club after the First World War in commemoration of nine members, including the brothers, who lost their lives in the conflict. Picture: Ken Mears

Richard Leighton and Elaine and Tony Webb, of South Park Users Group, with their replica cup honouring the O'Donoghue brothers. They had the cup made as a copy of a trophy created by South Park Swimming Club after the First World War in commemoration of nine members, including the brothers, who lost their lives in the conflict. Picture: Ken Mears

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The tale of two brothers killed in action on the same day during the fateful First World War has inspired a campaign for a park to be preserved in perpetuity.

Dennis (known as Fred) standing with his brother Reggie and their sister Gertrude. This image was taken when the brothers were home on leave in December 1915. Picture: Redbridge MuseumDennis (known as Fred) standing with his brother Reggie and their sister Gertrude. This image was taken when the brothers were home on leave in December 1915. Picture: Redbridge Museum

Tony and Elaine Webb and Richard Leighton, all of the South Park Users Group, have for two years been calling for Ilford’s South Park to join the Centenary Fields project, which protects green spaces with connections to the 1914-18 conflict.

Last month, the Recorder shared the story of Dennis and Reggie O’Donoghue, from Ilford, who died during the Third Battle of Ypres – also known as Passchendaele – which took place 100 years ago this year.

Dennis and Reggie were members of South Park Swimming Club, and the campaigners hope to honour them through turning the park into a centenary field, with the help of charity Fields in Trust.

Elaine, 61, said: “We did our history project last year with Eastside Community Heritage and thought it would be good to round it off by applying for this.

“These brothers gave their lives for us to have the freedom we have today. I don’t think it’s much of a price to pay to protect that history, and this lovely park.”

A Redbridge Council spokesman told the Recorder of its intention, with partner organisation Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure, to work with the group to find a “suitable approach” to recognise the connection with the O’Donoghue brothers.

He added: “Fields in Trust is one of a variety of approaches that could be used to mark the poignant anniversaries connected to the Great War.

“Redbridge currently has seven parks and open spaces that are protected by the Fields in Trust.”

The memorial cup arranged by South Park Swimming Club to commemorate members killed during the First World War. Reggie and Dennis's names are inscribed, as well of those of seven other men. Picture: Redbridge MuseumThe memorial cup arranged by South Park Swimming Club to commemorate members killed during the First World War. Reggie and Dennis's names are inscribed, as well of those of seven other men. Picture: Redbridge Museum

Elaine said the South Park Users Group would be happy to contribute some or all of the money required, but with a stipulation for sites to be established by November 2018, there isn’t a lot of time left.

Tony, 70, added: “If we could get this sort of protection, we would be able to have a plaque telling the public it’s been protected in the brothers’ names.

“It would be good to remind people what these guys did for us.”

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