The wood may be old, the brass dull with age, but every bench plaque is a dedication to somebody who was loved. We see them across our villages and towns, these links between the present and past, and yet it’s rare we know anything about the people they commemorate.
So, we took to social media and asked you to tell us the stories behind Tandridge’s bench plaques: who are the people they pay tribute to, and why has that particular location been chosen for them?
No. 3: Richard Watson, Caterham
Richard ‘Richie’ Watson, from Caterham, joined the Royal Marines in June 2005. In April 2006, after training, he entered 4 Troop K Company, part of 42 Commando, and was later deployed to Helmand Province, in Afghanistan.
Adam Wright knew Richard from a young age, and subsequently served alongside him:
“Richard was always full of fun and laughs. From being a joker at Coulsdon High School, to working and socialising with his fellow Marines, we knew a good time would be had when he was around!”
In December 2006, Adam and Richard were patrolling with the UK Task Force to the north of Now Zad, a district in the north of Helmand, when they came under attack from Taliban forces. During the contact, Richard was hit by small arms fire. He was taken by helicopter to the UK hospital at Camp Bastion, but died from his wounds. He was 23.
To commemorate Richard’s life, his friends and colleagues organised a fundraising football match at Whyteleafe Football Club. Some of the proceeds from this paid for a tree and bench to be erected in his memory on the green by the Fleeting Brook pub. Richard had grown up and been to school locally, with his family home in Stirling Drive while he was a Royal Marine, and this, along with the military history associated with the village, was felt to be the most appropriate place for the bench to be located.
The plaque reads: ‘In Memory of Marine Richard Watson. Killed in Action December 2006 in Now Zad, Afghanistan.’
Adam, who lives in Caterham on the Hill, often visits the bench:
“Richard was a great Marine, friend, brother and son, who will always be missed.”