Three cemeteries in Swindon now have, or will soon have, new signs recognising that they are the final resting place of servicemen from the town who died after returning from defending their country, or whose remains were returned to their families for interment locally.
The signs indicate that Radnor Street cemetery off Kingshill and Whitworth Road cemetery are official Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries. A similar sign will also be erected at Christ Church cemetery in Old Town when the church council have agreed arrangements.
Kingshill has the largest number of Commonwealth War graves with 104 dotted around the grounds. The cemetery and chapel is the focal point of activities of the Swindon in the Great War project to mark the conflict between 1914 and 1918.
Andy Knowlson, west of England regional supervisor for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, is pictured at Radnor Street by Richard Wintle of Calyx, put up the signs on Monday 7 April.
He said: “People tend to associate our work with France and Belgium, and other far away lands, but people often don’t realise we have over 13,000 locations in the UK.
“To mark the centenary of the First World War, we want to highlight to the public that there could be war graves closeby in their local churchyard or cemetery, often just behind people’s garden wall.
"The signs bring this to their attention and they can contact us if they want more information about the service people buried at a particular site."
The CWGC was set up after World War I to be the custodian of the remains of the casualties on behalf of the families and to tend the sites where they are buried.
Historian and author Mark Sutton, a member of the Swindon in the Great War group, welcomed the new recognition for the three cemeteries in the town. “These signs give them more official recognition and will raise awareness amongst the people of the town as we remember events of a century ago."
Mark and volunteers have been decorating Radnor Street chapel after Swindon Council gave permission for the building to be used as a remembrance centre. Offenders on the Wiltshire Probation Community Payback programme have cleared areas around the Commonwealth War Graves and will carry out regular ongoing maintenance work so that guided walks can take place safely.
Swindon in the Great War plan exhibitions using items from Mark’s extensive collection of military artefacts with display boards telling the stories of those soldiers buried at Radnor Street. There will also be talks and presentations by other local history groups.
Find out more at swindoninthegreatwar
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The Swindon in the Great War team will begin guided tours of the cemetery on 22 May with local military historian Mark Sutton talking about Swindon men who fought and fell, and Frances Bevan will be looking at some of the other memorials and the stories behind the families.
Thursday, May 22 – An Evening Walk through Radnor Street Cemetery – 6.30 pm.
Saturday June 21 – Swindon in the Great War display and guided cemetery walks at 11 am and 2 pm.
Sunday August 17 – Swindon in the Great War Exhibition – local historical societies gather to remember – guided cemetery walks at 11 am and 2 pm.