Wingwalker Tom Lackey’s anger at war memorial red tape delay

Veteran fundraiser and world record-breaking wingwalker Tom Lackey is furious after being prevented from restoring the Shirley War Memorial, which bears his own brother’s name.

The 94-year-old began working to bring the memorial to its former glory, after it fell into disrepair three years ago. Since then he has spent many hours repairing the plinth and recovering the fading names of the Shirley men and women who lost their lives during both World Wars.

But now the new team rector at St James Church in Shirley, where the monument is based, has told the heroic grandfather he cannot continue his work because of red tape.

Tom said: “I couldn’t believe my ears. We’ve done hundreds of pounds worth of work but we were forced to stop doing it. I’m extremely angry.

“I’ve had letters from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission congratulating me on the work we’ve done, and people from across Shirley have said how well it’s looking now.

“But this new vicar has come in and said we can’t do it again. No wonder his congregation is going down.”

However, Team Rector Peter Law-Jones has defended his decision and said that Tom and his friends will be able to return to the restoration once the work had been cleared by the proper authorities.

“Tom, like many others and myself, want to make sure the men and women are respected and honoured in a proper way and we take that role very seriously indeed,” said Rev Law-Jones. “The issue for us at St James is that we’re a listed building. The memorial is on church grounds and so comes under a whole lot of legislation that requires us to consult with a number of bodies for any changes.

“We value any member of the community making a contribution but it’s about due process.

“Once we have made the necessary consultation and have had permission, we would welcome anybody to help us to do the work.”

Tom enlisted the help of friends, with supplies donated by local firms EH Smith and Treadwells and a ‘bit of muscle’, to repair the memorial which honours fallen heroes including Tom’s late brother, Harold, who died in the Battle of Britain at just 25.

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