War graves campaign led by Colchester MP

Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell speaking in the House of Commons

Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell speaking in the House of Commons - Credit: Archant

A campaign to get all military graves maintained to the same standards is being spearheaded by Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is responsible for the upkeep of all memorials across the globe to those who died for the Commonwealth in the First and Second World War, but not for the graves for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in other conflicts.

The garrison town MP was made aware of the difference during a visit to military graves in Colchester Cemetery earlier this year, after the CWGC invited MPs to find out more about it ahead of the centenary of the First World War.

Sir Bob noticed that although the graves all have the same headstones, those maintained by the CWGC had rose bushes and other planting around them and were generally of a better standard than others.

He was also made aware of the issue separately by a widow who contacted him through the garrison.

Sir Bob said: “I noted those of the Ministry of Defence were of a different standard, with flowers and things planted around the CWGC graves but a complete lack other than where descendants have visited on the non-world war plots.

“I have raised the issue with the Defence Secretary and on the floor of the House of Commons during defence questions. This is very much a live issue

Most Read

“As I understand it the MoD look after around 6,500 graves, it is a reall small number. Common sense would suggest to hand them over to the CWGC and have them all maintained to the highest standard.

“The widow who contacted me is very supportive of what I am doing and it most grateful for the campaign.

“I am optimistic of success but I cannot say it will be sooner rather than later. It may be the MoD will have to wait for contracts to run out, and we don’t have that detail yet.”

Sir Bob is set to have a meeting with Anna Soubry, the veterans’ minister, in the near future to discuss the issue.

A spokesman for the CWGC said its world war remit was governed by its Royal Charter, but added it did maintain other graves as a contractor in some places, such as in Singapore.

He said it would be inappropriate to comment further on the campaign at this stage.

The MoD said it was unable to comment.