Campaign to relocate Leeds war hero’s statue gathers pace with fundraising bid

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Campaigners who want to see a war hero’s statue relocated from Leeds city centre to his Roundhay birthplace - and in a spot with a rich military and aviation significance - are launching a fundraising bid to pay for the move themselves, subject to getting the go-ahead from the council.

As previously reported in the YEP, the Bring Him Home campaign wants to move the statue of Arthur Louis Aaron from its present “unsuitable” location at Eastgate to Oakwood, opposite the recently refurbished clock .

Dr Stewart Manning  next to  the Arthur Aaron VC  statue on the roundabout at the bottom of Eastgate in Leeds .  PICS: Gary Longbottom/YPN

Dr Stewart Manning next to the Arthur Aaron VC statue on the roundabout at the bottom of Eastgate in Leeds . PICS: Gary Longbottom/YPN

Aaron was born and grew up in Roundhay. He volunteered to join the RAF in 1940 and died in 1943 aged just 21. He was awarded the Victoria Cross and distinguished flying medal.

Campaigners last night (Wednesday) presented a deputation to Leeds City Council urging the authority to support the move, which would in turn trigger the fundraising campaign proper.

Dr Stewart Manning, who is spearheading the campaign, said: “The story of Arthur Aaron’s heroism is deeply ingrained in my psyche.

“There are good reasons that we believe now is the right time to relocate the statue and start a new legacy

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“Since the statue was placed in Eastgate in 2001, the surrounding area has been redeveloped.

“{But} most people who pass by appear unaware of the statue and its significance

“It was hoped in 2000 that the statue would trigger Eastgate as a centrepiece for public art, but 18 years later this has not happened.”

The group believes the statue should be moved to “an area of Leeds with more historical significance”, at Oakwood close to Soldiers Fields.

“This is where the battalions mustered before going to fight in the First World War,” Dr Manning told councillors.

“From 1914 the Leeds born aviation pioneer Robert Blackburn built aircraft only half a mile away from Oakwood and test flights were carried out on Soldiers Fields.

“This became the site of the Roundhay aerodrome and the first scheduled passenger air services in Britain.

“It would be most fitting with your support to help create a legacy for the people of Leeds.”

The deputation party told councillors at Leeds Civic Hall there was “growing support” for the Bring Him Home campaign, including from Roundhay school, former pupils, and local businesses and arts groups.

Dr Manning said he has also contacted the funders and creators of the original statue , who have pledged to respect any relocation decision by the council

“The proposed new location is already visited by thousands of people each year and many school children each day,” he added.

“Our proposal entails the new site being an active educational resource,a focal point and a source of inspiration for new scholarships and a charitable trust.

“This is your opportunity to create a legacy for all the citizens of Leeds for which we can all be proud.

“Importantly this project will be delivered at no cost to the ratepayers of Leeds because we will provide the necessary funding.

“We ask Leeds City Council to give their support for this legacy by granting approval to relocate the sculpture.”

An official rpeort will now be prepared before the proposal is presented to the council’s executive board.