War graves to be restored

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GRAVES belonging to World War One soldiers which were removed from a Hartlepool cemetery over 40 years ago are to be re-instated.

Eighty-one headstones belonging to soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War were stripped from North Cemetery, off Raby Road, in the 1970s after they were repeatedly vandalised.

But the Friends Of North Cemetery (FONC) can now re-instate 42 of the graves – for which burial sites can be pinpointed exactly from records – with the help of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The other 39 soldiers, whose graves cannot be exactly located, will have their names inscribed on a memorial wall which will potentially be placed on the old chapel site of the graveyard.

Julie Rudge, secretary of FONC, said: “We’re delighted that this work is going to go ahead.

“It is important for the soldiers who lost their lives to have their graves re-instated and for their families as well.

“It’s very positive for the town, and the town’s history.”

Irene Cross, a developmental officer for Hartlepool Borough Council who works alongside FONC, said: “In the early 1970s, 81 war graves and a memorial were removed due to vandalism. The memorial is now in Stranton Cemetery.

“In July of last year we had a call from the War Graves Commission who said the North Cemetery had been identified as an area where war graves had been removed.

“He was really keen to work with the group to reinstate them.”

She added: “We’ve had discussions with the Commission and met them on site and it is going to go ahead but we don’t have a date as yet.

“Forty two graves will be reinstated because they’ve managed to find a precise location of the bodies. The other 39 names will be carved into the memorial.

“It’s just brilliant news for the town and for the group as they’ve done so much work there, and this just tops it off.

“It’s nice that there will be somewhere for families of these soldiers to visit and pay their respects, and for other people to go and reflect on what this area will represent.”

The War Grave Commission’s architect is liaising with a designer from Hartlepool Council to come up with ideas for the memorial.

Matt Morris, spokesman for the War Graves Commission which is assisting other town’s around the UK with similar work, added: “Since the days of the war graves being removed the Commission has decided to do as much as it can to reinstate as many as possible. We’re delighted to be able to help do this in Hartlepool.”

He added that the move was important to the families of the war casualties and said the Commission wants to contact as many of them as possible, as so far it has only managed to speak to one next of kin.

If one of these brave soldiers, who was buried in North Cemetery, is a relative, contact the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on (01628) 507204.