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The Marconi Monument, Wynol's Hill

Marconi Memorial

Terry wrote (August 2007): "Please find enclosed 3 pics concerning the monument built by the Italian Prisoners of War at camp no 61 Wynols Hill Coleford. It was completed in 1944. The monument was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of radio transmissions. It was made from whatever was available and in the prisoner's own time after their daily work at the camp or in the local area. The monument was eventually finished at Christmas 1944. The inscriptions were in Italian and English and read guglielmo marconi magicio of the ether the Italian Prisoners of War Christmas 1944. There were also shields of sundry cities and states in the folds of the curtain walls of the crescent flanking the central tower. The sad fact is that this monument could have been saved. In 1961, a local history society requested a quotation from a broker to insure the monument. The group received no reply. With the cost of repairing the monument rising, the council decided their workload was too heavy to allow an engineer, who's department would be responsible for the work, to carry out the work As the monument fell into disrepair it was discovered that the Italian consulate had offered to pay for the upkeep, but this was refused by the West Dean council, The monument was still on site during the Silver Jubilee celebrations of H. M. The Queen in 1977. It was destroyed soon after to make way for the Wynols Hill housing estate. The photos enclosed show the monument in its heyday. The second picture is of one of the globes which can be seen on the monument with the doves sitting on top. The two globes remain in a garden not to far from the site of the monument along with the doves. The third photo is a copy of an original postage frank from a postcard sent to a loved one by a prisoner".

Royston Pritchard recalled (August 2007) that the central tower was hollow. There was a door into the monument on the back side and inside the door was a ladder to taking you up to the flagpole at the top. Royston recalls that it was like going up a chimney.

Roger Matthews? added (August 2007): "The demolition of the monument was an act of vandalism comparable to the demolition of the nearby "mansion" (Wynols Hill House). I share Royston Pritchard's memories of the ladder - and recall fondly constant explorations of the crumbling mansion - at considerable risk to life and limb!".

Another comment was left (December 2007): "I too can recall the memorial still being in place albeit in a bit of a state. I left school in 1977 and as boys we would climb up the steel rung ladder inside the tower to stick our heads out of the top. Unfortunately various lads had also lit fires in the tower so the inside was coated with soot making a climb to the top rather messy for the clothes! I totally agree that the demolition was something that the local authorities should be ashamed of having allowed".

In his book "Coleford" (published by Alan Sutton 1983) Dr Cyril Hart confirms records of a house at Wynols Hill from 1725. Dr Hart added in his book: "During the 1939-45 War it was commandeered by the Army in connection with a prisoner-of-war camp, and later was demolished to create a housing site".

Gerald Baglin added (September 2008): "... born in 1966 and as a child I grew up just up the road from the Prisoner of War camp, which was then derelict. I can remember actually climing up the inside of the tower (monument) and Kerry Lewis lit a fire underneath me. Subsequently I got a bit sooty, but Paul Tingle put the fire out and I climed down again covered in soot. We were know as part of the Edingburgh Place gang and as 'boys will be boys' we all had a laugh about it. I went home covered in soot and got told off by my mum!".

Darren Parnell added (January 2011): "... my Italian born Grandad, Vincenzo Jimmy Lanciano was kept at P.O.W. Camp 61 in Coleford. I was born in Gloucester but now live in Texas and my Grandad passed away a few years ago so I'm trying to put some kind of history of his life in England together. I know that he was taken prisoner in N. Africa and shipped to Scotland before being put on a train down to Gloucester ... I was hoping you might have or might be able to find some pictures taken of the camp 61. He eventually went back (to Italy) after the war and brought my Mother and Grandmother back to England. He came back to work and run a Farm called The Gravel Farm in Westbury-upon-Severn. My Grandads' name was Vincenzo Jimmy Lanciano but everyone called him Jim or Jimmy. It's difficult for me to research as i now live in Texas. Any help would be greatly apreciated darrendparnellATaolDOTcom".

Does anyone else recall Wynols Hill House, the P.O.W. camp or the Marconi Memorial?.

Globes
Laura Porciani and her grand-daughter with the globes. Laura's father was a P.O.W. at Wynol's Hill.

 

The Review’s Sarah Daly finds out what links the Italian inventor of radio with Wynols Hill near Coleford

Published in The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review Weds Feb 13 2013

TO discover that there was once a monument in the Forest of Dean to Guglielmo Marconi, celebrated as the inventor of radio in the late nineteenth century, came as something of a surprise to me. The story of how it ended up being constructed in Coalway during World War Two is even more interesting and sheds light on an important role played by this area during the war.

The story hinges around Italian-born Bruno Porciani. Bruno was a fascist, although other members of his family opposed Mussolini and fought on the side of the Allies in the war. Bruno took part, with the Italian army, in the ill-fated campaign at El Alamein in Egypt in which 5,000 young men lost their lives. He was captured, along with the rest of his company and eventually brought to Prisoner of War camp 61 at Wynols Hill in Broadwell.

Bruno’s story has been recorded by his daughter Laura Porciani, together with her journey to fill in the missing pieces of his war time activities and his time in the Forest. Her book entitled ‘Da El Alamein a Marconi’ (From El Alamein to Marconi) is currently only available in Italian, although retired local teacher David Powell has recently provided Dean Heritage Centre with an English translation which took him more than two years to complete.

Laura says: “Many of the prisoners that were to be accommodated at the Broadwell camp were Italians taken in North Africa, the total number being approximately 700. Later on in 1945, they were joined by quite a large contingent of German soldiers with no visible friction due to the mixing of these prisoners. Local accounts suggest that there was no real animosity towards the foreign arrivals at all. In fact prisoners were trusted enough to be sent out to work in the fields and local saw mills, long before the Government announced that this should be so.

“The camp at Wynols Hill became full to overflowing immediately, and the overflow was fed and housed for a while at the American camp at Mile End, until the Wynols Hill camp had been considerably extended.”

Laura, whose father designed the striking monument to Marconi and seems to have been a driving force for its construction, says: “In building the monument to the inventor of radio, the Italians would feel proud of being compatriots of Marconi. This mission probably alleviated, to some small degree, the humiliation provoked by defeat and by long enforced imprisonment. That monument, in fact, aroused the sincere admiration of the victors for the ability and tenacity of the men who knew how to build it.”

John Belcher, now one of the trustees at Dean Heritage Centre, remembers the Prisoner of War camp as he himself stayed there after the war. He says: “When I was a student in the 1960s I worked at Carters’ Ribena factory [now owned by Glaxo Smith Kline]. Our accommodation was the old prisoner of war camp. I remember the camp as very Spartan with wooden huts and tepid showers on cold concrete floors. No barbed wire, of course, but a large marble effect concrete monument created by the prisoners themselves, which was in a deteriorated state.”

Today very little remains as testimony to the way in which Foresters and Italians were thrown together during the Second World War. Many of the men stayed behind, however, and made a life in the Forest of Dean, often marrying local girls. The camp at Wynols Hill was dismantled and in the 1970s it was replaced completely by the Queensway Estate.

John says the monument, known locally as ‘The Monni’, became badly vandalised throughout the 1960s and 1970s; the bust of Marconi was removed and the monument was even being used by squatters. He says: “It was still there on the day of the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977. In spite of attempts by the local history society to rescue it and offers of financial help from the Italian government though, it was probably knocked down later that year, as the Wynols Hill estate was being built. What a pity that official short-sightedness allowed such a potent symbol of Forest history and friendship between different peoples who had been at war with one another, to be destroyed because it didn’t fit in with their plans.”

The memory of the monument’s construction still remains as a testament to that friendship however. Like Marconi’s invention, the relationship between the Italian prisoners and their Forest hosts managed to transcend politics.

--------- Recording the Forest of Dean in photographs Some of the information for this article has been taken from www.sungreen.co.uk. Run by Geoff Davis, the website records many old photographs and memories of the Forest of Dean. Geoff would be interested in any other photos relating to the monument, the camp at Wynols Hill or the painting in Broadwell Memorial Hall.

--------- Who was Marconi? Guglielmo Marconi was born in Bologna in northern Italy in 1874. While he didn’t technically invent radio, he saw its commercial applications and built on previous research to develop long distance radio transmission. He succeeded in developing wireless telegraphy and founded The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in Britain in 1897. In 1902, Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio message and 1909 he and Karl Ferdinand Braun were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics, “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.”

---------- Can you help? Do you know any more about Camp 61 at Wynol’s Hill? If you or a relative were imprisoned there or if you have memories you would like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with us here at the Review on 01594 841113 or email sarah@sarahdaly.co.uk.

Copyright Tindle Newspapers Ltd Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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