OVER 50 years since they departed the area plans are under way to create a permanent memorial to a group of soldiers who were based in Pickering.

Castle Camp was used as a training facility from just after the start of the Second World War until the late 1960s.

The camp, in Whitby Road, had around 50 army huts when it was in full use housing thousands of guardsmen from different regiments and the Polish Brigade.

Local historian and trustee of Beck Isle Museum in Pickering, Gordon Clitheroe, said the people of Pickering and other supporters were now proposing to mark the Queen's 90th birthday by placing a memorial stone at the original entrance into the site of the Castle Camp which was demolished and replaced with new homes.

" The entrance in Whitby Road is now the only part of the camp that still exists," he added.

"The Memorial will record the time when thousands of guardsmen from all different regiments and the Polish Brigade, supported by the ladies who worked in the NAAFI, who were our guests in the town from 1940 until 1967, when it was used as a training camp before being closed.

"Many of the men stayed behind to play their part in the town by marrying and raising families."

Mr Clitheroe added: "This Memorial will also be a mark of respect to the men who gave their lives for our country during the Second World War, such as the famous artist Rex Whistler who died in France, and others who died in training on North York Moors."

Pickering Memorial Hall houses a mural by Whistler of "the children eating cakes" which was painted by the artist in 1943 at a Christmas Party hosted by the 2nd Battalion of Welsh Guards in the town.

During the Second World War, Whistler also completed his first big commission - a huge mural in the restaurant of the Tate Gallery, London - at the age of 22.

He later carried out other mural commissions at Port Lympne, Kent; Mottisfont, Hampshire; and the 47 - foot Claudian fantasy at Plas Newydd, Isle of Anglesy, regarded as his masterpiece.

Whistler also painted portraits, landscapes and humorous sketches, and collaborated with Geilgud, de Va lois, Cochran and others on productions of major operas and ballets.

At the outbreak of war he took a commission in the Welsh Guards Armoured Division but continued to work as a professional artist in his spare time.

Shortly after embarking for Normandy in July 1944, he was killed by a mortar shell on his first day in action, at the age of 39.

Mr Clitheroe said that while a number of Whistler's paintings remained in Pickering, including two at Beck Isle Museum, there was nothing about the artist in the town.

"We often get tourists visiting the museum asking about Whistler and the Castle Camp and at the moment there is nothing for them to see," he added.

"It was felt that now is the time to rectify this and provide a place of remembrance to all the men from the camp who gave up their lives for their country during World War Two and some during peace time.

"It will also be a place where the families of the men can visit in order to pay their respects."

Mr Clitheroe said everyone he had spoken to had felt it was a good idea.

"We should have done something years ago when most of the former guardsmen were still alive," he added.

"Sadly there are only four left in Pickering and around three in the Malton area and I am trying to contact others throughout the country and in Poland."

The memorial will consist of a large stone with a plaque providing information about Castle Camp, surrounded by smaller stones and heather representing the North York Moors.

Mr Clitheroe said: "We are hoping everyone will give this proposed project their full support in marking this important part of Pickering's past heritage.

"It will be something the town ill be proud of as well as paying homage to those who gave their lives."

Anyone who would like to make a donation towards the Camp Castle memorial can do so at Yorkshire Building Society, Bank Sort Code: 60-92-04, Account number : 16543810, Reference: 1654381007

Or contact the Friends of Castle Camp, C/O Beck Isle Museum, Pickering, phone 01751 473653 or email info@beckislemuseum.org.uk