Press release

Pickles backs campaign to restore Victoria Cross hero graves to former glory

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announces £100,000 towards the restoration of the UK graves of First World War Victoria Cross heroes.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

WWI: third battle of Ypres, September 1917

This new funding provides a significant boost to the ‘Honour Our VC Heroes’ campaign launched by the Sun newspaper, in association with the Victoria Cross Trust.

The project aims to restore all of these graves in need of repair. Headstones will be cleaned or replaced so that the final resting place of those who received the highest military award for valour is a truly fitting tribute to their sacrifice.

While some graves only require minor work, others have fallen into a severe state of disrepair and require extensive restoration. Headstones have become illegible; stones have crumbled away leaving them unstable; and some are in danger of collapse. As a result many people are unaware that a Victoria Cross recipient is buried in their community.

Communities Secretary Eric 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. That is why I am privileged to offer more than £100,000 towards this project to ensure that their final resting places are venerated memorials where communities can pay their respects and learn about their local heroes.

The Sun newspaper’s outstanding campaign will make sure the graves of our Victoria Cross heroes become places to reflect on their selfless service to the nation. I hope that readers of the Sun will be inspired to contribute and return these historic sites to their former glory.

Funding provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government will also match the money raised by readers’ donations.

The government is leading on commemorations to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Last year the Communities Secretary announced a national campaign of commemorative paving stones to be laid in the place of birth of First World War Victoria Cross recipients across the country so that communities will have a permanent memorial of their local heroes.

The design of the stone was decided by a national competition and the winning entry was unveiled by the Secretary of State and the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross, Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry, in November 2013.

Read Eric Pickles’ article on honouring our Victoria Cross heroes.

Further information

The Victoria Cross Trust is a charitable organisation that works to ensure the graves of every Victoria Cross recipient are maintained. They fundraise to generate income to subsidise the grave upkeep and preservation.

A list of the First World War Victoria Cross recipients who are buried in the UK. (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 47.6KB)

For more information about this project and how it will run please contact the Victoria Cross Trust.

The Department for Communities and Local Government will match the money donated by readers of the Sun up to an agreed limit.

The commemorative paving stones will be laid in over 400 communities across the UK, the first of which will be laid in August 2014.

Seven judges were on the panel who decided on the winning paving stone design, these were: Lord Ashcroft, Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry, Michael Burleigh, Major General Patrick Cordingley, Sebastian Faulks, Dame Helen Ghosh and Diane Lees.

All Victoria Cross heroes of the First World War will be commemorated; for those born overseas but who have a local connection in the UK, the relevant local council will be offered a paving stone; we are also working on plans to ensure that all heroes who were awarded the Victoria Cross, but who were born overseas, are commemorated.

Find more information on government’s plans for the First World War centenary.

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Published 24 April 2014