RESTORATION work has started on what is rated as one of the country’s finest war memorials.
And the Duke of Edinburgh will officiate on October 25 at the re-dedication of the memorial, The Response, which stands in front of Newcastle Civic Centre.
The Grade II-Star Listed bronze sculpture represents soldiers responding to the call to arms in the First World War.
Troops, headed by drummer boys, are depicted taking leave of wives and children as the column marches off to war.
The memorial is being cleaned and repaired for the first time since it was unveiled by the Prince of Wales in 1923.
Earlier this year, Diane Packham, then Lord Mayor of Newcastle, launched an appeal for £35,000 to pay for the restoration, which is backed by veterans’ associations in the North-East.
The sculpture, by Sir William Goscombe John, is held to be of national importance, partly because of the tension it portrays between patriotic fervour and the anxiety of parting from loved ones.
The memorial commemorates the raising of B Company, 9th Battalion and the 16th, 18th and 19th service battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers by the Newcastle and Gateshead Chamber of Commerce in 1914.
It was commissioned by Tyneside ship owner and Morpeth MP Sir George Renwick and his wife, partly in gratitude for the return of their five sons from the war.
It is believed that the subject matter for the work was the massing of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, who marched from their camp at Gosforth Park down the Great North Road and through the Haymarket to Newcastle Central Station.
The project, which has been backed by a grant from the War Memorials Trust and will remove more than 80 years of grime and corrosion, is being carried out by specialists Rupert Harris Conservation.
“It will completely transform the memorial which will be returned to its original bronze colour,” said David Heslop, city council historic monuments manager.
“It will be possible to detect again the details on the figures such as the texture of the clothing.”