7th Jul, 2022

First World War memorial for 66 Triumph motorcycle factory workers restored

Felix Nobes 9th Oct, 2018 Updated: 9th Oct, 2018

A MEMORIAL for 66 men who left their work benches at the Triumph motorcycle factory to fight in the First World War has been restored.

The historic Triumph Gloria Memorial in London Road Cemetery, Coventry, had been neglected for years with the names of the fallen barely visible.

The memorial for the workers was paid for by subscriptions from their colleagues and unveiled in March 1921 by the founder of the company and former city mayor, Siegfried Bettmann.

Chairman of the Friends of London Road Cemetery (FLRC) Ian Woolley began searching for funding for its regeneration a few years ago.

And after a grant from the War Memorials Trust the restoration has been completed.

The work was fittingly undertaken by W Smith & Son Monumental Masons, the same company which first installed the memorial.

The Coventry-based Triumph manufacturer first produced motorcycles in 1902 at its factory in Much Park Street.

It then moved its headquarters to Meriden, Solihull, before it closed in 1983.

But its legacy continues to this day with a new company, Triumph Motorcycles Ltd based in Hinckley, which gained the rights to the brand.

It remains the UK’s largest motorcycle manufacturer.

FLRC are planning a re-dedication service to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and are calling on relatives to join them.

It is set to take place in the cemetery on Saturday, November 17 at noon.

Mr Woolley said: “For many years the memorial has looked a dark and sad sight with the names barely visible, with talk from various quarters about getting the funds for a restoration.

“I took up the challenge a few years ago with the resolve to get the funding.

“The task now is to try and trace any descendants of the 66 men with the hope that they would be able to attend the service.

“If you are related to any of the men on the Triumph Gloria Memorial please get in touch.”

Following research, Mr Woolley is able to reveal the sad yet poignant tales of some of the men who fought on the frontline.

He said: “Sidney Hathaway was serving as an observer in January 1916 with 11 Squadron on the Somme.

“He and the pilot were shot down behind enemy lines.

“The pilot was taken prisoner and at first this was also thought to be the fate of Sidney.

“His mother back in Coventry received information saying he had been taken prisoner of war.

“But she found out some time later that Sidney had actually perished in the attack.

“Private Albert James was serving at Passchendaele in October 1917, meeting his death in the terrible battle.

“Probably the most poignant is Horace McKnight who served with the 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders when he received wounds which would lead to his death in France on November 11 1918 – the day of the Armistice.”

Mr Woolley also sought to pay tribute to Siegfried Bettmann, who was the mayor of Coventry at the outbreak of the First World War.

He was the first non-British person to hold the office of mayor but was stripped of his status due to his Germans roots.

Bettmann contributed to the war effort by sending 100 of the company’s bikes from Coventry station to the frontline after an appeal from the War Office, Mr Woolley said.

And in April 2000 a plaque to him was unveiled on the boundary wall of Coventry Cathedral – as most of the site was once taken up by the Priory Street Triumph works.

Another plaque was placed near Bettman’s former home in North Avenue, Stoke.

To attend the re-dedication service please contact Ian Woolley by email on woollian.60@hotmail.com or by calling 07746846622.

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