‘Selfish’ residents block Stevenage war veteran’s memorial bench

John Kettley

John Kettley - Credit: Archant

People living near Stevenage’s Old Town war memorial have been branded ‘selfish’ after blocking a bench bid in case it encouraged public boozing.

The memorial bench in the position John Kettley hoped it would go on. It was moved their for Sunday'

The memorial bench in the position John Kettley hoped it would go on. It was moved their for Sunday's remembrance service. - Credit: Archant

The memorial bench commemorating Royal British Legion standard bearer Rudy Kettley-Linsell can’t now be sited on the green, despite council chiefs giving it their blessing.

Originally planned to be positioned next to the flagpole, the five foot-long wooden slatted bench was commissioned by Mr Kettley-Linsell’s son John Kettley.

“I just think, if I am being honest, they are being selfish,” said the 50-year-old.

“We wanted to put it there so people would have the chance to reflect on those who fought, or so other elderly standard bearers would have a place to sit if they got tired.

“Stevenage Borough Council could not do enough, they were really, really supportive but because the residents objected it was put on the other side of the memorial green.”

Mr Kettley-Linsell was born in Yangon, Burma and became a child prisoner of war when he was nine years old during the Second World War.

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He came to Britain when he was in his late teens and signed up to a life in the services, first joining the RAF where he toured Singapore and later serving in Northern Ireland.

When he retired he became part of the Royal British Legion and bore the standard flags at parades for 12 years.

He also raised thousands of pounds for the charity and helped to distribute them among families who needed help in Stevenage and North Herts.

John said: “He was a real character, very jovial, everyone loved him.”

He died last August aged 79.

John said he first got the idea for a memorial bench after while watching the annual November 11 service.

He said: “They [the veterans] are getting on a bit, the reason the ambulance is always parked near the florist on Remembrance Sunday is incase on of them faints or keels over.

“I just thought if there was a bench then they could sit on it.”

But it was not to be.

Despite the borough council agreeing to the position of the bench, residents who live opposite the green unanimously disagreed with its position so it was put on the south side instead.

John, who lives in Stevenage, said: “It was the final tick of the box, and then it came back as a no.

“I think the council were as shocked as we were.

“Every single one of the neighbouring house owners objected on the grounds that it ‘might’ attract drunks onto the green in front of their houses.”

A press officer for Stevenage Borough Council confirmed that the bench had been moved because of neighbours rejecting the plans.

She said: “Memorial benches are usually placed in our cemeteries, but given Mr Kettley’s connection to the Stevenage branch of the Royal British Legion, we agreed that it could be placed on the Bowling Green.

“We then spoke to local residents and Mr Kettley to agree a location for the bench.”

The Comet tried to speak to neighbours but none were available to comment.