THE crumbling graves of First World War Victoria Cross heroes will be restored a century after their sacrifice, the Government pledged today (Thursday, April 24).
Ministers unveiled a £100,000 fund to help ensure the resting places are a “truly fitting tribute” to those who received the highest military award for valour.
- For more on the North-East's role in the First World War, visit our centenary website - www.thenortheastatwar.co.uk
Those 209 graves include several in the North-East and North Yorkshire.
Three of the region’s VC winners served in the Durham Light Infantry - Private Thomas Kenny, pictured below, Private Thomas Young and Private Michael Heaviside – and they are all buried in County Durham.
A further two - Sergeant William McNally, buried in Sunderland, and Private Tom Dresser, born in Pickering, North Yorkshire – were members of Alexandra, Princess of Wales' Own Yorkshire Regiment.
Private Frederick Dobson, pictured below, of the Coldstream Guards, is also buried in County Durham, while the grave of Lieutenant Richard Sandford can be found in Redcar and Cleveland.
The £100,000 funding, to be matched by supporters of a national newspaper campaign, aims to restore all of the Victoria Cross graves in need of repair.
Some are said to require only minor work, perhaps involving cleaning headstones that have become illegible.
Others, meanwhile, have are in a severe state of disrepair and require extensive restoration. Stones have crumbled away and some are in danger of total collapse.
They have fallen into ruin because the heroes died after returning home, rather than in conflict – which means the graves are not maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
As a result, said Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, many people are unaware that a Victoria Cross recipient is buried in their community.
Durham Light Infantry: Private Michael Heaviside
Mr Pickles said: “An entire generation of men fought for Britain’s freedom in the First World War and all fought valiantly.
“But, for hundreds of those men, their bravery was of such an exceptional nature they were bestowed with the highest military award, the Victoria Cross.
“They should be honoured still. That is why I am privileged to offer £100,000 towards this project, to ensure that their final resting places are venerated memorials where communities can pay their respects and learn about their local heroes.”
Mr Pickles has already announced plans to lay commemorative paving stones in the place of birth of all First World War Victoria Cross recipients across the country.
The first memorials will be place in August this year – the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1914-18 conflict.