Peter Smith, recent vice president of The Fell and Rock Climbing Club, tells how a memorial to climbers who died in the First World War came to be on Great Gable

The Fell and Rock Climbing Club recently strengthened its links with The Armitt Museum in Ambleside by depositing its extensive library, along with many artefacts, among which is the original Memorial Plaque from the summit of Great Gable.

It proclaims: ‘In glorious and happy memory of those whose names are inscribed below – members of this club who died for their country in the European War 1914-1918.’

Gazing in all directions from the rock-strewn mountain top the extensive view embraces the most delectable scenery in the Lake District; a magnet for walkers and climbers.

Twelve fells in particular form part of the nation’s heritage: Kirkfell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Brandreth, Grey Knotts, Base Brown, Seathwaite Fell, Glaramara, Allen Crags, Great End, Broad Crag and Lingmell.

Attempting to buy the whole of this land mass from private owners was a curiously ambitious venture for a small club with minimal finances yet that rare opportunity was put to FRCC members in 1923: “It has been considered desirable definitely to associate with this most appropriate memorial the names of those members who gave their lives in the War, and for this purpose a bronze tablet will be placed on, or near, the summit of Great Gable ... The Committee confidently invite all members to support this memorial as generously as they can, realizing that in so doing they do honour to their comrades, while preserving to their successors for all time the finest area of fell and rock in England.”

Let us bear in mind that this was nine years before that notable act of wilful Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout to highlight the fact that walkers in England and Wales were denied access to areas of open country and 77 years before The Countryside Rights of Way Act.

The club bought all 12 summits for an unknown amount. The purchase far exceeded the initial ambition of buying a single mountain, namely Great Gable. These tops were then gifted to the National Trust to hold on behalf of the nation to allow us all the enjoyment of free access to these mountains. This is their true memorial.

I have climbed those fells many times, including complete rounds, without let or hindrance, relishing the freedom to roam.

The Centenary of Great Britain entering the war was a time for deep reflection and accordingly the FRCC had commissioned a splendid re-cast of the plaque to maintain the honour bestowed.

A timely request by the Imperial War Museum in Salford resulted in the original plaque becoming a centrepiece for the major WW1 Exhibition where a record 425,000 visitors admired the plaque.

It is now being toured throughout Cumbria. In can be seen at The Armitt until the end of October and will then be displayed for about three months at Kendal Library, Carlisle Archives, Ruskin Museum Coniston, Keswick Museum, Carlisle, Barrow, Kendal, and finally, up to November 2018, at Penrith and Eden Museum.

Its eventual resting place will be in Wasdale appropriately in the valley below its former setting on the summit of Great Gable. The Memorial Fells and the Plaque are now symbolic of all loss during conflict.