HMS Drake Sailors Clean Up War Graves

A group of sailors from HMS Drake have spent a day working in a Plymouth graveyard, tackling the weeds and brambles covering many military...

A group of sailors from HMS Drake have spent a day working in a Plymouth graveyard, tackling the weeds and brambles covering many military graves.

There are more than 4,000 graves across the Plympton St Mary's Church in Devon - with 19 of those registered as Commonwealth War Graves.

The group of sailors from the Unit Pay Office at HMS Drake spent the day pulling up weeds, strimming and tidying the headstones of many fallen soldiers - some around the ages of 18 and 19.

Leading Writer Suzy Simpson, from HMS Drake's Unit Pay Office, said when she saw the graves it was "upsetting to see it's all overgrown."

She added:

"We're focusing on clearing around all of the commissioned Commonwealth War Graves and other war graves that aren't actually on the list."

War grave clean up
During the cleanup operations, there were some discoveries made.

Phil Smith, the Churchwarden said: "There are a few war graves which we found that aren't listed on the Commonwealth War Graves site.

"For example, one from the Saudi War from 1990, it's a Commonwealth headstone but it's not looked after by the war graves at all - so they've made a special job of looking after that.

"Particularly from the First World War, we found a number of headstones which were different and we didn't realise were war graves and so we were able to address those as well."

Some of the military graves dated back to the 1800s; they ranged in rank from Commander to Able Seaman.

In a statement, the Commonwealth War Grave Commission said that the unkept grave featured in the report is not a WWI grave and so falls outside their remit. 

They added: "The Commonwealth War Grave Commission has a responsibility to maintain the casualties of the First and Second World War. 

"The Commonwealth War Grave Commission has a maintenance agreement with St Mary’s church cemetery, to ensure the graves of the fallen are properly cleaned and maintained.

"The CWGC regional team inspected and cleaned the graves earlier this year in July. 

"We welcome and commend the commitment of the Navy, to help maintain the graves of fallen servicemen and women."

War grave clean up
The sailors said they wanted the graves to look tidy to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War.