Graves shame at our war heroes' cemetery

By Ian Dipple Friday 11 July 2014 Updated: 15/07 11:39

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Buy photos » Below - The grave of William Prescott which has almost disappeared from sight. (s)

THESE shameful images show the way the graves of Redditch's war heroes are being neglected and forgotten.

Borough council bosses have been slammed for the condition of the final resting place of some of the 22 men killed in the First and Second World Wars buried in Plymouth Road Cemetery.

Some are so badly overgrown by grass and brambles they are barely visible to the public and inaccessible to loved ones or those visiting to pay their respects.

Among those worst affected is the grave of Britten Street resident Francis John Steward, who was a private in the Worcestershire Regiment 13th Battalion and was killed on January 31, 1916 aged 19. Another is that of labourer William Prescott from Walford Street who was a private with the Worcestershire Regiment 11th Battalion and died aged 52 at home on May 16, 1915. His son Leonard was also killed in the conflict.

While the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible for maintaining the graves themselves, Redditch Borough Council is in charge of the upkeep of the cemetery.

Barry Tansley, secretary of the Redditch branch of the Parachute Regiment Association, said maintenance of the area around the graves had been raised with the council as an issue in the past and he had been told it was being dealt with. He said it was particularly disappointing considering the centenary of the anniversary of Britain's involvement in the First World War was just weeks away.

"I'm absolutely disgusted. The council promised me faithfully they would tend to them and clearly they haven't done that," he said.

Mr Tansley said he would be willing to organise a community group to take on responsibility for maintaining the graves if the council was unable to do so.

It is not the first time the council has been criticised for the condition of the graves. In 2012 it was slammed for allowing the grass to grow around them so they were partially obscured but at the time an extended period of wet weather was blamed for delaying grass cutting.

A spokeswoman for the council said the site was monitored regularly but due to a lack of resource the bereavement services team had to prioritise what tasks they carried out and when. She added they were also trying to manage the cemetery in a more environmentally and ecologically friendly way.

"It is our job to target resources where they are needed most and the main priority in the first instance will be imminent burials however we will make suitable arrangements to manage the site," she said.

"These and every other grave in our cemeteries are managed to the best of our ability where resources allow.

"Maintaining older cemeteries and older sections in newer cemeteries will always be more challenging due to the type of memorials historically placed in these areas."

* What do you think? Write to or email the editor at the addresses on page 14.

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Buy photos» The grave of Edwin Parsons, who died on August 6, 1915.

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Buy photos» The grave of Francis John Steward is barely visible. (s)

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