News article created on 6 November 2018

Anderton Boat Lift to remember 'forgotten' waterway men from WWI

To commemorate the ‘forgotten’ waterway men of WWI, the Anderton Boat Lift, is to release a cascade of 100,000 poppy petals from the 50ft high lift at 11am on Sunday 11 November.

Steam Vulcan - Braunston Marina Steam Vulcan - Braunston Marina

The Royal British Legion’s petals, will be released from the Lift, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ into the River Weaver by waterways staff and Canal & River Trust volunteers. Members of the public are invited to watch the poppy cascade from the bottom of the lift. There is no cost to enter the site, which opens at 9.30am on Sunday 11 November.

Almost every village and town had its own WWI war memorial but this does not mean that everyone who gave their lives in WWI is commemorated on such monuments. Hundreds of waterway men who died in WWI are likely to have been ‘forgotten’ because their itinerant lives - moving cargo up and down Britain’s waterways - meant they were not official residents of the towns and cities where memorials were built.

John Benson, Archivist at the National Waterways Museum said: "Although at the beginning of the war boatmen were in an important reserve occupation moving vital goods like iron and coal, many of the estimated 10,000 waterway men in Britain, volunteered anyway.

"By 1916, all unmarried boatmen under the age of 25 were eligible for call up. Many went into the Royal Engineers where they were used as boatmen to ferry troops via the inland waterways leading to the British sector. Barges on the return journey were used to transport wounded away from the battlefront, as immortalised in Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Hospital Barge’.

"The sort of people in charge of these boats would have been waterway men like Michael Ward and his brother Charlie (pictured at top) from Braunston Marina, Northamptonshire, who were deployed on the waterways of the Western Front."

Timothy Turner, general manager, Anderton Boat Lift, said: "As we commemorate the poignant last year of the war, I am pleased that we are acknowledging the largely unrecognised contribution of Britain’s waterway men in WWI. It is humbling to think of the sacrifices they made in inhospitable and foreign waters, far from home."

The Anderton Boat Lift visitor centre and commemorative event is free to attend. Parking is available on site and a small parking charge applies.