Unsung Heroes: Meet the man cleaning the Beckenham War Memorial

Unsung Heroes: Meet the man cleaning the Beckenham War Memorial

Unsung Heroes: Meet the man cleaning the Beckenham War Memorial


By Liam McInerney  @_LiamMcInerneyReporter - Bromley & Lewisham
 

Welcome to the first instalment of News Shopper’s new interview series, Unsung Heroes, where we visit ordinary folk in south-east London making a difference in the community.


The men and women inside the Bricklayers Arms turn their heads in unison to look out onto the Beckenham War Memorial.

It’s 3 pm on Sunday, July 7, and Garnet Frost has once again started his weekly clean.

The conversation inside the pub turns to Garnet and his desire to make a difference to the area.

Garnet, 65, tells News Shopper he was born in Beckenham and has lived there most of his life, and his grandmother moved there in the early 1930s.


"It’s as good as if not better than any other part of suburban London," Garnet says. "It’s also got one of the greatest pubs in London just over there."

He is referring to the Bricklayers Arms, where the idea to do something about the tatty memorial was inspired.

 

Garnet believes it is "bizarre, ironic and frankly ridiculous" that the memorial has been left unloved 100 years after the end of the First World War.

However, seven weeks ago, Garnet decided to act and now spends Sunday afternoons cleaning it for an hour and a half.

The memorial displays the names of those from Beckenham who died in both world wars.

"This is not a chore," he insists. "I count it as a privilege. When you think of the blood, sweat, toil and tears that those people went through.


"I thank God that I’m healthy and alive in a time of peace. This is my way of expressing that gratitude."

As we speak, one man who is driving by the roundabout toots his horn in solidarity.

Garnet, who was at a wedding the night before and was feeling a little worse for wear, said he couldn’t let the side down by giving today a miss.

Taylor Morris, of The Anti-Grime Squad, her partner Perry and helpers Agnes Mulawka and Piotr Litwa are scrubbing away as we chat with Garnet.


 

"This has attracted a huge amount of sympathetic interest from the people of Beckenham," Garnet says.

"I have had a couple of people offering to nominate me for an OBE," he laughs. "People have been having whip rounds too for material and as your story says I dropped my phone in a bucket of water."


READ: Community gets behind 'selfless' Beckenham hero who is cleaning War Memorial


Garnet says the appreciation has been "uplifting and flattering" but that it’s not something he has sought.

"I’m sure there are more deserving people than me," he says. "This is such a small price to pay to get that reward, but I would do it anyway for the sake of the memory of those who died."

Garnet has no relatives who fought in the war but said his family lived through it.

He expresses concern about the current tensions in Britain and says it’s unfortunate that we don’t learn lessons from the past.

 

"We have new blood of belligerence amongst people and a new wave of anger, xenophobia and everything with Brexit.

"I think it’s extremely dangerous. If I can help a tiny bit to bring people to their senses by saying let’s think about this and what happens in the event of war and what we can do to work for peace."

As the pub regulars look out from the comfort of their favourite boozer, Garnet says he will join them after he's finished.

He jokes that the cleaning keeps him fit and stops him from going to the pub earlier in the afternoon.

Garnet was keen not to take all the spotlight and thanked the volunteers who came out to support him on the day.



Perry Dunnett, a partner to Taylor of the Anti-Grime Squad, tells News Shopper he was "brought up in the day and age when the community looked out for one another".

Before posing for a picture with Taylor, he also pays tribute to the names of the men and women on the memorial who died in the war.


 

"It’s more respect than anything else," he says. "They put their lives on the line. As a community, we can surely give a couple of hours a week to make sure the respect is upheld."

Speaking of Garnet, he adds: "What a guy. Before we came along you could see the transformation of what he did, and we wanted to just give him a hand.

"It brings the community together and that’s what these guys would have fought for all them years ago.

"Let’s show them it was worth it in the long run."

Garnet has been a community hero for a long time, having spent years as a volunteer in Calcutta as well as spending his free time at a local food bank.

Do you know anyone in your area suitable to be featured in our Unsung Heroes series? Please contact liam.mcinerney@newsquest.co.uk

https://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/17755817.unsung-heroes-meet-man-cleaning-beckenham-war-memorial/

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