Respect our war heroes: Calls to restore neglected Sheffield graves

Calls for action: Gary Stapleton, second right, Chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust, with left top right, Christine Steers, Stephen Cooke and David Yates, of the Friends of Burngreave Chapel and Cemetery - pictured at the grave of James Firth VC, in Burngreave Cemetery.
Calls for action: Gary Stapleton, second right, Chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust, with left top right, Christine Steers, Stephen Cooke and David Yates, of the Friends of Burngreave Chapel and Cemetery - pictured at the grave of James Firth VC, in Burngreave Cemetery.
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GRAVES of some of Sheffield’s bravest war heroes are falling into rack and ruin - with one so neglected his name has partially crumbled from the headstone.

Campaigners are calling for urgent action to restore the forgotten graves of the three men, who were awarded the Victoria Cross in the Indian Mutiny, Boer War and World War One.

Lieutenant George Lambert, Sergeant James Firth and Sergeant Arnold Loosemore were awarded Britain’s highest honour for courage in the face of the enemy - but their gravestones, which date back between 88 and 152 years, are deteriorating dramatically.

The masonry on Sgt Firth’s headstone at Burngreave Cemetery is in such a state, half his name and inscription have gone.

Lt Lambert’s headstone at Wardsend Cemetery has a crack down the centre.

And Sgt Loosemore’s gravestone at All Saint’s Church Cemetery, Ecclesall, has sunk and is overgrown by grass.

Gary Stapleton, founder of the Victoria Cross Trust has joined forces with groups including the Friends of Burngreave Cemetery to campaign for the graves to be restored and kept tidy.

He said: “I appreciate that in normal circumstances it is not the council’s responsibility to maintain individual graves but these three are of historical importance.

“They are all in poor order and I am sick of local authorities saying they have no money. Surely the council should feel some sense of responsibility.

“I made tentative enquiries with the council about what help they could provide and I got no response.

“The Friends of Burngreave Cemetery have tried to look after one of them but it shouldn’t always be community-led. Part of Sheffield’s heritage could be lost to the city if nothing is done.”

He added: “One of the graves, that of Arnold Loosemore, has subsided and might have to be laid down if it is deemed dangerous.”

Sgt Firth and Sgt Loosemore were in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.

Pete Holden, of the Sheffield branch of the Duke of Wellington’s Old Comrades Association, said: “This does not surprise me but funding should be there to keep them in order - we pay enough council tax.”

“Memorials to people as historically-important as these should not be allowed to fall by the wayside.”

Mr Holden said he would investigate through his regimental association whether any funding could be found to help restoration work.

Sheffield Council is now looking into the trust’s concerns - but has not committed any money.

Paul Billington, director of environment, said: “Our war memorials officer is arranging to inspect the graves to assess their condition.

“We agree we should remember those who have been honoured for service to their country, and we will do what we can to identify organisations which may be able to provide funding to maintain them.

“There are already plans to make sure our larger war memorials are in the best condition in time for 2014, which will be 100 years since the outbreak of World War I.”

■ The Star would like to hear from relatives of VC heroes Lt Lambert, Sgt Firth and Sgt Loosemore. Email news@thestar.co.uk or call 0114 2767676 ext 3510.