A plan to restore Reigate and Banstead borough's war memorials and trace relatives of those buried in local war graves has been unveiled.
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council has launched the drive to mark the 100th anniversary of Britain's entry into the First World War, and to commemorate those who gave their lives in the Great War and later conflicts.
The borough council said it is working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and other key partners to identify and restore the borough’s War Graves before the August 2014 anniversary. The six war memorials maintained by the borough council in Redhill, Banstead, Kingswood, Merstham, Reigate and Walton-on-the-Hill, are also to be restored.
A borough council spokeswoman said: “We have surveyed cemeteries and churchyards up and down the borough and have so far identified around 200 War Graves, mostly belonging to servicemen and women who fought in the First or Second World Wars.” She said: “A number of graves have headstones supplied and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. “Others are privately erected memorials, some of which no longer appear to be tended and are in a poor state of repair, with a few needing professional restoration.”
She added: “We are also working with owners of the borough's other war memorials as part of this project.”
Borough council leader Joan Spiers said: “Restoration of these War Graves before the August 2014 anniversary is of the utmost importance, so we can give a fitting and lasting tribute to honour those that fought and died for us.”
Coun Spiers said: “Before we start work we are keen to trace as many relatives or friends of those buried in these graves as we can, to let them know what we are planning, but also to find out more about the people buried there and their remarkable stories.“ Coun Spiers continued: “We also want to involve the local community in this important project, and so are looking for volunteers to help with ongoing maintenance of these graves.
“We are keen to hear from schools, youth groups, local organisations and businesses who would like to be involved in helping to keep them in a good state of repair over the years to come, and create a legacy for future generations.”
The council hopes to have completed the restoration by June, when the graves will be handed over to volunteer groups to take over the upkeep. The council's ‘adopt a grave’ project will involve people keeping the grass neatly trimmed, the plot weeded, headstones and surrounds clean, and generally maintaining the grave in good order. The six war memorials maintained by the borough council are at the junction of High Street, Park Road and Sutton Lane in Banstead, at the junction of Hatchlands Road and Blackborough Road at Shaws Corner, Redhill, at the junction of the A23 and School Hill in Merstham, at South Park in Church Road, Reigate, at Mere Pond in Walton – on -the -Hill, and at Chipstead Meads at the junction of Star Lane and Elmore Road in Kingswood.
The cemeteries and churchyards managed by the council comprise Redstone Cemetery in Redhill, Reigate Cemetery; St John’s Churchyard, Redhill, and both the old and new churchyards at St Katharine’s in Merstham.
The other borough churchyards not managed by the council with War Graves in are All Saints, Banstead, the former Banstead Hospital, St Margaret’s Church, Chipstead, the new and old churchyards at St Bartholomew’s, Horley, St Andrew’s Church, Kingswood, Emmanuel, Sidlow Bridge, St Peter’s Church, Walton-on-the-Hill, and St Peter’s at Woodmansterne.
Between 2014 and 2018, the council is also planning a range of activities and events across the borough in which people of all ages will be able to join together to mark, commemorate and remember the lives of those who lived, fought and died in the First World War.
Anyone with information which could help the council, who is interested in volunteering or who has planned commemorative events, can call the council on 01737 276700 or 01737 276103, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.reigate-banstead.gov.uk