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War grave cleared up after granddaughter's campaign

24 July 2015

DAVID McDOUGALL

Fitting: Private's Perry's cleaned grave   

Fitting: Private's Perry's cleaned grave   

THE churchyard grave of a casualty from the First World War, which lay neglected for six decades, has been restored after a lengthy campaign by his family.

Pte Walter Perry was wounded on the Western Front, and died of septicaemia in 1915. He was buried beside his parents at St Mary’s, Bletchley, in his home town in Buckinghamshire. The graves later fell into decay, and, in the 1950s, a brick shed was built over part of them (News, 29 August 2014). Until recently, the soldier’s headstone was overgrown and, his granddaughter Ann Dallas says, surrounded by rubbish and excrement.

Earlier this month, however, the Rector of St Mary’s, the Revd David McDougall, and about 100 people from the area spent two Saturdays demolishing the shed and cleaning up the site. Mr McDougall said this week: “This is a Grade I historic churchyard, and we wanted to make it an honouring and beautiful place. It was just inappropriate to have a shed so close to a war grave. . . When I showed Ann the faculty notice that we were going to clear the site, she was very emotional and happy.”

Mrs Dallas, who is 73, and from Aldeburgh, in Suffolk, said on Monday: “Every time my mother and I tried to do something about this, we got the brush-off. But, with the centenary of the start of the First World War, I think there was a different feeling.”

She and her niece, Susan Barrington, took part in the second day’s clearance work, and she donated £2000 towards the costs. “To have that many people, of all generations, turn up on a Saturday to clean up a churchyard was truly amazing. . . When my niece and I walked away from the grave, we looked back and saw the sun dappling through a tree on to his gravestone, and it stood proud on its own. I thought, ‘Wow! This is a good deed.’ I thank Mr McDougall, his amazing congregation, and all who contributed to righting a wrong after 60 years.”

A spokeswoman for the Oxford diocese said: “The diocese is delighted that Ann Dallas, and the community and congregation in Bletchley have worked so hard to tidy up the churchyard to make it a pleasant place.”

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