Soldiers forced to work on Japan’s ‘Death Railway’ after being captured during the Second World War have been honoured with a new war memorial.
A community project involving councillors, businesses, volunteers, and students has seen the Fylde Memorial Arboretum, on Moor Park Avenue, in Bispham, extended.
As well as remembering Fylde prisoners of war put to work on the Thai-Burma railway – given its macabre nickname because of the number of men who died building it – the new memorial will also commemorate those who fought in the First World War.
The council’s armed forces champion, Coun Chris Ryan, said he was continuing the work of the late councillor and vice-chairman of the Fylde Ex-Service Liaison Committee, Jim Houldsworth.
He said: “The arboretum is something that has been there for quite a while and was left dormant after we lost Jim.
“It has taken this to move it on. It’s a shame I did not have the time with him to learn what his plans were, but we are completing his legacy.
“The arboretum is a bit of a hidden gem but it’s starting to get recognition.”
Workers and volunteers have been working at the memorial, which was the first of its type to be set up after the National Arboretum, in Staffordshire, to install a plaque, a section of railway, and to complete landscaping works.
They have also been improving drainage at the site, built on boggy lands, and replacing some of the 3,000 tree saplings, planted in 2009, which did not grow in the conditions.
Coun Ryan said: “We are fighting the ground a bit. It’s very marshy.
“A lot of the trees did not take so we’ve put drainage in.”
It is hoped the site will eventually grow into a leafy area to allow people to visit to commemorate those who gave their lives for their country.
Coun Ryan added: “It’s somewhere for people to go and contemplate and relax.”
The last member of the Blackpool regiment made to work on the infamous railway died earlier this year.
Harry Motteram, 94, had been captured by the Japanese and held for three-and-a-half years.
Mr Motteram’s family, as well as The Royal Artillery Association, told The Gazette they believed he was the last member of the 137th Field Regiment – also known as the Blackpool Regiment – which had its headquarters based in the resort after forming in 1939.