CHEPSTOW Town Council has defended the way it maintains the town’s war memorial after more than 1,600 people signed an online petition to show their discontent with the condition of the town centre monuments.

The online petition was started by Chepstow resident Shari Finch in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday (November 11), following complaints online regarding the present condition of the large gun which sits alongside the town’s cenotaph in Beaufort Square, on the High Street.

The gun, removed from a captured German U-boat, was presented to the town by King George V in recognition of Able Seaman Williams, a Chepstow man who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his brave actions during the Gallipoli landings.

People's complaints centred around the present state of the gun, which is rusty in places and at the time was surrounded by weeds and grass. It was widely shared that the town council had been offered a grant by the War Memorials Trust in 2016.

Another rumour suggested the council could have the gun removed for restoration work, and it was this claim which fuelled the creation of the residents’ online petition.

In that petition, the organisers wrote: “We the undersigned, are outraged that the town council is even considering, without any public consultation, removing such an important, historical structure and vehemently oppose any attempt to remove or move the gun.”

The petition quickly gathered momentum, acquiring 1,000 signatories in two days.

But responding to the claims made in the petition, a spokeswoman for Chepstow Town Council said details of councillors’ meetings regarding the war memorial had been misunderstood.

“The council wasn’t told that there was funding [for cleaning the memorial and gun] at that time, but was told to take the next steps in applying for that funding by getting contractors to do the conditioning surveys," she said.

“It was agreed in September 2016 the council would use that budget to cover the cost of the surveys.”

The cenotaph was in a good condition – automatically making it ineligible for funding.

The gun was not assessed to be in a good condition, and the town council is currently applying for grant funding while awaiting the results of a conditioning survey.

This process, the council spokeswoman said, had been delayed because of staffing issues.

“Because of a change in staffing without any official handover, we’ve tried to push things through as quickly as possible but unfortunately it couldn’t be done in time for Remembrance Day this year,” she said.

The council had completed scheduled cleaning around the gun ahead of Remembrance Day, she said.

She said any councillors who had raised the topic of the gun’s removal at council meetings had been "part of a democratic conversation” and that no official motion had been tabled.

The council’s current plan, she said, was to “wait for a conditioning survey and then apply for funding from the War Memorials Trust and CADW”.

Ms Finch, who had earlier organised the gun petition, asked Chepstow residents to help her decorate the gun.

“The whole community really rallied around,” Ms Finch said. “Saturday afternoon saw the coming together of about 20 people at a ‘poppy pinning’ party.

“I’d received hundreds of handmade poppies from local schools, community groups and individuals, which were then displayed [on] Sunday morning.”