South Yorkshire VC heroes’ graves boost

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Crumbling graves of war heroes in South Yorkshire are to be restored after the Government pledged £100,000 to help.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he was ‘privileged’ to offer the money, which will be used by the Doncaster-based Victoria Cross Trust to restore 16 crumbling gravestones of VC holders across Yorkshire and the Humber.

The graves of another 10 soldiers born in the county but buried elsewhere, including two from Sheffield, will also be restored or replaced.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has said it will match any money donated to the trust.

Gary Stapleton, founder of the Victoria Cross Trust, said it was a special day for everyone involved.

He said: “It is amazing that the Government has recognised the work we do and have blessed us with this money.

“It’s a massive help to us to transform the graves in this special year, the anniversary of the World War One.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for everyone to get behind us and donate.”

While some stones will need minor repair, others have crumbled away and some are may collapse.

In Sheffield, the grave of Private Arnold Loosemore, at All Saint’s Church Cemetery, Ecclesall, which is sunk and is overgrown by grass, is due to be restored, along with that of Sergeant James Firth in Burngreave Cemetery.

Other headstones include those of Acting Sgt John Raynes and Captain William Allen – both born in Sheffield – and the grave of Lance Corporal Thomas Bryan, in Arksey Cemetery, Doncaster.

Announcing the money, Mr Pickles said: “An entire generation of men fought for Britain’s freedom in the First World War and all fought valiantly. But for hundreds of those men their bravery was of such an exceptional nature they were bestowed with the highest military award, the Victoria Cross.

“As these men were honoured then for their extreme bravery on the battlefields, they should be honoured still.”