Fitting tribute to war heroes

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A STUNNING display has been unveiled in a cemetery to honour a village’s war dead and commemorate the start of the Great War.

The eye-catching piece at Wheatley Hill Cemetery, showing a soldier bowing his head, with poppies at his feet, is made out of thousands of tiny coloured stones.

They are given an extra-special touch as they are bordered by 189 hand-made crosses, completed with the names of the village’s war dead. It bears the words “Never forget 1914-2014, all give some, some give all”.

The cemetery’s superintendent, John Davies, came up with the idea for the 6ft by 9ft picture, and Wheatley Hill Heritage Society member Keith Newton made the wooden crosses.

It is the latest in a number of displays John, 52, who has looked after the cemetery for 25 years, has made in recent years, including ones for the Diamond Jubilee and Remembrance Day.

It will form the centrepiece that villagers will gather round when a candlelit vigil is held at 10.30pm on Monday, August 4, to mark the outbreak of the Great War, and a Scottish piper will play.

John, from Wheatley Hill, saw a poster on his wife’s Facebook page, printed it off and then set about tracing the outlines in the sharp sand bed of the piece.

He then painstakingly filled the shapes with thousands of tiny alpine stones, after washing and glossing them.

It took him around three weeks, working on the piece for two to three hours a day.

“It’s turned out better than I planned,” said John.

Then Keith added the crosses, which bear the names of those from the village who have lost their lives in conflict.

Keith, who is originally from Wheatley Hill but now lives in Durham, said: “I wanted to do something special for 100 years since the start of the First World War.

“A lot of men lost their lives and this was to show appreciation for that.”

Heritage society chairman Margaret Hedley said: “It’s no surprise it’s a lovely piece because the cemetery is absolutely immaculate.

“Seaham has got Tommy the soldier but we have got our little soldier in the cemetery.”

Wheatley Hill Parish Council clerk Joanne Thompson said: “John and Keith have done a fantastic job - the display is fantastic.”

Events are taking place in Wheatley Hill from July 30 to August 4 to mark the anniversary, including a flower festival and service at All Saints Church, and remembrance service in the cemetery.




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