Forgotten Soldiers… Forgotten No More

REMEMBRANCE projects at Bacup Cemetery and Whitworth Memorial Gardens have been completed in time for the Armistice commemoration.

Rossendale-based charity Veterans In Communities has worked with a number of local groups including Lancashire Community Pay-back, the Prince’s Trust and local Beavers and Cubs to complete the projects.

In Whitworth a dry stone wall behind the Memorial Gardens was rebuilt, a willow tank and soldier planted in Whitworth and countess poppies sewn. While in Bacup Cemetery many of the headstones of First World War soldiers had disappeared and were no longer visible, each grave has now got a headstone.

Some of the soldiers buried and remembered in Bacup had never had a proper gravestone, just a keystone with their initials and plot number. Over the years most of these stones had been buried under grass.

War Graves 100 Project co-ordinator Peter Webster is a former military musician.

He said: “I thought I learnt a lot of history in school, but carrying out this project I have learn more about the First World War than I ever knew.

“I feel I have personally got to know every one of the 119 soldiers we have remembered.

“It has also been an emotional rollercoaster ride.”

The project began with a list from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission of soldiers who fought in the First World War and who were buried or remembered in Bacup Cemetery.

Peter used this, along with maps provided by Rossendale Council and information provided by Wendy Lord, to locate the graves or keystones. Originally there were 109 soldiers to find but in the end 119 have been identified.

“I am delighted to have got this part of the Heritage Lottery funded project finished for Armistice Day,” said Peter. “I am very grateful to everyone who has helped along the way.

“Each of the stones has now had poppy seeds sown around the base and because the seeds only flower once every two years, we will return in March to sow more seeds. Hopefully that will mean there will always poppies blooming.

“This project has given me so much. At times it has upset me and I have gone home and carried out research on the soldiers we have found, but being project manager has also helped with my own issues and it has boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem.”

He was particularly proud of the young Prince’s Trust volunteers who worked tirelessly at the start of the project locating hidden keystones and preparing the ground for the memorial stones, which were made by Bacup firm Chislestone Memorials.

Two gravestones that had fallen and been covered over with grass were also found and uncovered.

Peter added: “People have said that it shouldn’t have taken 100 years for these soldiers to be properly recognised, but at least now they have been and we have also been thanked for the work that we have done.”

For more information call 01706 833180.

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