The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has issued a call for volunteers to help it continue to remember the war dead on home soil in its brand-new volunteering scheme – Eyes On, Hands On…
The project will see the creation of a nation-wide army of volunteers equipped with the know-how to play their own part in the remarkable work of maintaining the memory of some 300,000 war casualties in the UK. CWGC hopes that Eyes On, Hands On will raise awareness of these war casualties and provide a structured way for volunteers to make a real difference.
It will allow those with an interest in their work to act as ‘eyes’ in their local area. They can feed back information about the condition of war graves and undertake minor work such as headstone cleaning and weeding in between CWGC staff inspections.
The spread of UK war graves – across more than 12,500 locations – provides the Commission with a huge challenge in its global remit. By engaging with local people CWGC hopes to reconnect communities with the World War history on their doorstep.
Many approaches have already been made to CWGC offering to conduct minor cleaning works to UK war graves. Eyes On, Hands On will allow them to harness that existing support and grow it.
Victoria Wallace, Director General of CWGC, said: “This is a fantastic way for people to show they care for our war dead, without having to travel to the far-off battlefields. Almost every community lost men and women, and in keeping an eye on their graves, and tidying them up, we honour them every day, and not just on Remembrance Sunday.”
Volunteers’ work will be focused on what are known as ‘scattered graves’. These are small numbers of headstones, at times just one or two, which lie in a churchyard or burial ground. CWGC does not own the land and relies on staff inspection tours and making local connections in almost every town and village in the country to ensure they are properly maintained.
After the first year in South-West (Cornwall to Oxfordshire) and East England (Lincolnshire to Essex), Eyes On, Hands On will roll out to other parts of the country, covering the whole of Great Britain by 2020. The first four years of this project have been funded following a generous donation from Annington to the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation.
For more information on how to sign up to the scheme please go to CWGC’s website where you can do a postcode search to and learn about War Graves in your area.