Recognition for Swindon’s victims of the war

This Is Wiltshire: Andy Knowles of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at the cemetery in Kingshill Andy Knowles of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at the cemetery in Kingshill

RADNOR Street Cemetery’s status as the final resting place for many of Swindon’s war dead has been recognised with new signs installed at the gates.

The graveyard is now marked out as a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery ahead of the town’s programme to mark the First World War centenary.

The grounds and chapel in Kingshill will form one of the focal points of the four-year commemoration with exhibitions and services.

The three signs were installed on Monday by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) after the organisation was contacted by the Swindon in the Great War group and received the go-ahead from Swindon Council.

Andy Knowlson, the CWGC’s regional supervisor for the west, said: “The signs are one of the ideas we have had to mark the centenary of the First World War. “We want to highlight to members of the public that there are war graves maybe just behind peoples’ garden wall or in their local churchyard or cemetery. The signs bring this to their attention and if they want more information they can contact us directly. “People tend to associate our work with France and Belgium but people often don’t realise we have slightly over 13,000 locations In the UK.”

The cemetery in Kingshill contains 104 Commonwealth War Graves.

They include the final resting place of Private Charles Haggard, who survived four years in a German prisoner of war camp after being taken prisoner at Ypres in 1914.

When the former GWR fitter knocked on the door of his family home in Swindon his father failed to recognise him and he died a little over a week after returning to the town.

The new green markers have been fitted as part of a project by the CWGC to signpost 3,000 graveyards containing war dead across the UK.

Mr Knowlson said: “From the First World War and the Second World War we are the custodians of the remains of the casualties on behalf of the families. “We help to maintain that memory and I think in all towns, villages and cities it’s an important part of the heritage to remember that these people gave their lives for what we have today.”

Mr Knowlson also installed a sign at Whitworth Road Cemetery in north Swindon.

Military historian and author Mark Sutton, a member of the Swindon in the Great War group, which is organising the town’s centenary events, said: “It’s brilliant to have these signs installed as it gives the cemetery a bit more official recognition and helps lift its status. People will notice as we do get a lot of people saying they didn’t realise it was a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery. Now hopefully this will open peoples’ eyes a bit.”

l The Swindon in the Great War project will mark the town’s war effort with a series of events 100 years on from the start of hostilities. For more information visit www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/swindon_great_war or swindoninthegreatwar.wordpress.com/ or follow @swindongreatwar on Twitter.

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