Memories revived after conservation group restores gate

Happy to see a newly restored gate in position at Maresfield Parish Church are, from the left, the Rev Ben Sear, Angie Welton, Ian Shaw, Pat Palmer and Gerald Clipp.

A wrought iron gate presented to Maresfield Church in 1947 has been repaired and rehung with a plaque polished to remind people where it came from.

The gate was a gift from the 163rd Infantry Officer Cadet Training Unit (Artists Rifles) who were stationed at Maresfield at various times.

Gleaming

There to see the gate back in gleaming condition was Gerald Clipp, vice-president of the Artists Rifles Association.

Mr Clipp told Uckfield News he could imagine members of the unit marching to a service at the church every week and presenting the gate to the church once World War 2 was over.

He said it was fantastic hear about, and see, the gate because while the early history of Artists Rifles – so called because artists, actors, musicians and architects were attracted to join – from their formation in 1860 and up until 1920, was well known, there was little information about them during the World War 2 era.

Freshly polished, a plaque on a newly restored gate at Maresfield Church.

Refurbishment of the gate was undertaken thanks to Maresfield Conservation Group who enlisted the services of Nutley blacksmith Dan Tester to clean it up and replace parts which had rusted away.

Angie Welton, administrator for Maresfield and Nutley Churches, said she was contacted last year by Brigadier Michael Perrett-Young who had contributed to the gate and inscription and was in the party presenting it.

He was wondering whether it, and the plaque, were still intact.

Angie sent him photographs of the then tarnished and buckled gate but was sad to discover when she tried to let him know about the repairs that he had died at the end of last year.

Undeterred

Angie said: “Undeterred, I contacted the regiment with my story and asked if someone would be prepared to come down fo formally reopen the gate and my efforts were rewarded by a reply from Gerald Clipp.

The Rev Ben Sear led a socially distanced gathering at the gate on Tuesday and said he was grateful to the Maresfield Conservation Group for carrying out the work.  

He added people missed the gate when it was taken away for repair and it was good to see it back fully restored. “We are glad to have these connections with the history of the village and the people who served our village and country.”

History

Angie Welton has provided a history of the Artists Rifles from the 1920s.

She says the unit was reconstituted as an infantry regiment within the Territorial Army, the 28th County of London Regiment. 

In 1937, this regiment became part of the Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade. The regiment functioned as an Officers Training Corps throughout World War 2.

It was disbanded in 1945, but reformed in the Rifle Brigade in January 1947 and transferred to the Army Air Corps in July as the 21st Special Air Service Regiment (Artists Rifles). 

SAS

21 SAS was formed from the two disbanded regular regiments 1 SAS and 2 SAS, with the 1 and the 2 being reversed into 21 to provide some means of continuity. 

21 SAS was active during the Malayan Emergency and in many subsequent conflicts. 

In 1952, members of the Artists’ Rifles who had been involved in special operations in Malaya formed 22 SAS, the modern special forces regiment – the only time a Territorial Army unit has been used to form a unit in the Regular Army and remain a parent of a regular unit.

The Artists Rifles became a reserve regiment in the Territorial Army in 1967.

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