It's a nightmare of red tape. All he wants to do is honour the D-Day fallen

A military veteran has been left "absolutely disgusted" after his local war memorial was not restored in time for the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Norman Birkett, 82, has been fighting for around 18 months to clean the base of the war memorial at St Nicholas Church in Tuxford and to repaint the 22 names on it - many of which he now describes as "illegible".

The Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham have been described as a "brick wall" as they claim that, because there is uncertainty about who owns the memorial, carrying out any work could amount to criminal damage. Despite the calls for the memorial's restoration in time for the D-Day anniversary on June 6, the diocese said the fact that there is "some sort of public interest" makes no difference.

It is a decision which has left military veterans including Mr Birkett furious and they have now set Armistice Day in November as their next target by which the war memorial must be restored. Mr Birkett said: "It's terrible isn't it? I'm absolutely disgusted.

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"It's just gone on and on and we're up against a brick wall at the minute trying to prove who owns a 102-year-old monument. It's on church grounds and you assume the Church of England is a Christian organisation - where is the compassion and the common sense?"

The Church of England's planning system involves ministers and churchwardens having to obtain a faculty from their controlling diocese before any works to a church building or its contents can be carried out. This faculty, the term used to describe the permission to undertake work, was applied for on a private basis by Councillor Emma Griffin, who has been working with Mr Birkett on the campaign.

Councillor Griffin, a Conservative member of Bassetlaw District Council, said: "The cross was repaired in 1999 and we can't find any faulty documents for that and we don't know who paid for it. All we want is to get it cleaned and for the names to be repainted, we're not asking for any structural change.

"We're offering to pay for it completely and the money we raised is in a ring-fenced account. We even had an approved stonemason who had us in his calendar up until two weeks ago but, because we didn't get the faculty, he has now had to push us back."

Names on the memorial are fading and the base needs cleaning
Names on the memorial are fading and the base needs cleaning -Credit:Nottingham Post/Oliver Pridmore

The decision not to approve the faculty has been made by the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham's chancellor, essentially a lawyer who represents the church in legal matters. An email to Councillor Griffin from the diocese says: "The prime question is the ownership of the memorial.

"The rights of the owner of the memorial are those of the owner of any other property, with few modifications. The petitioner has no more right to restore and alter the war memorial than she would have, for example, to restore and alter a house she did not own.

"She might be able to obtain the consent of the owner, of course, but that would mean either discovering who the owner was or possibly getting the consent of all possible owners." Mr Birkett, who joined the Army at the age of 16 and served in countries such as Libya and Cameroon with the Royal Engineers, does not believe that the memorial is owned by any authority.

Press cuttings from the time suggest the memorial was paid for through donations from the Tuxford community and erected by local residents before being unveiled in 1921. Mr Birkett has it in writing that the memorial is not the property of Bassetlaw District Council or Tuxford Town Council and neither would it be owned by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

People gathered around the memorial on June 6, partly for a service marking the D-Day anniversary and partly to protest the condition of the memorial. One of those attending was 81-year-old Jeff Proctor, who served 12 years in the Royal Navy as a submariner.

Mr Proctor said: "We're all really behind Norman. Memorials are focal points to remember the fallen. They are all important because we mustn't forget the past." Mr Birkett added: "I can't give up now, I've been going at this for far too long."

The diocese was approached for further comment, but its email added: "In the absence of faculty authority, any work to the war memorial is unlawful as a matter of civil and ecclesiastical law and may amount to the offence of criminal damage. It may be that the prospective contractor should be warned of that."