6 March 2015

The Forgotten

 You may not realise but in amongst the graves of mere mortals in Aldridge Cemetery there are at least half a dozen Commonwealth War Graves. I do not know for definite but I should imagine they are the graves of local young men who had joined up and somehow managed to find a final resting place in their home village. Certainly some of the names are familiar to me as belonging to families that have long roots in Aldridge. All of them died during World War Two.

Aldridge Cemetery has a lovely setting. It lies high in the village, behind the church and next to the cricket field. Although many graves appear to be attended regularly the graveyard itself is in a sad state of neglect. The paths are filled with fallen logs, twigs and branches. The rabbits have done untold damage to some graves where the headstones lean heavily towards recently dug holes. Even at this time of the year, after winter, the grass is in an unkempt state although at least it is short, for in summer it is often taller than knee high. The brambles are already sending out tendrils ready to wrap themselves the feet of the unwary when attempting to walk on the pathways, some of which are now extremely narrow due to overgrown verges.

For once Walsall Council cannot be blamed for as can be seen from the notice above, the cemetery belongs to the Parish Church.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission are in theory responsible for the maintenance of the war graves however as the graves in Aldridge Cemetary are classified as 'scattered graves' in amongst non-war dead graves that are not theirs to maintain, it is a difficult mission. The information given on the CWGC web site says:

" the CWGC has had to adopt a practical approach to care. The headstone should be clean and upright and the surrounds should be tidy. The grave should be accessible but it is generally not possible to establish or maintain border planting in front of the grave "

 From the photographs that I took today it can be seen that the surrounds of these war graves are not tidy nor in every case are they easily accessible and the Church itself warns that the ground is uneven. I have visited during the summer months and the graves have at times been almost invisible through the long grass growing around them.

It's a sad state of affairs. If the crowds that gather each Remembrance Sunday at the cenotaph in Aldridge are anything to go by, Aldridge has not forgotten its war dead and those that made the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country however, just a hundred yards from the cenotaph the war dead who found a resting place at home, do indeed appear to have been forgotten.

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