The six cemeteries that are run by Liverpool City Council contain over 2,500 headstones that are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). These are graves marked by the recognisable white headstone, which is more often than not made from Portland stone.
The CWGC was formed as the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1917 to ensure all those service personnel lost in the Great War would have their graves marked and maintained in perpetuity. This was later extended to the Second World War and the CWGC now maintains 1.7 million grave sites in 150 countries across six continents.
The CWGC employ strict qualifying criteria. Their policy states that they will commemorate people who served in the Commonwealth armed forces during the First or Second World War, whose death occurred during the official war period and
was the result of wounds inflicted or accident occurring during active service, disease contracted or commencing while on active service or disease aggravated by active service.
When thinking of war deaths, cemeteries in Northern France consisting of row after row of pristine white headstones may spring to mind. However if you take a walk around any Liverpool cemetery, or indeed most churchyards , it will not take long to spot a CWGC headstone.
It is an extremely sad fact that so many of those killed in active service did not die on the battlefield. Royal Air Force deaths during military training exercises were not uncommon in the Second World War and this is reflected in many of the Liverpool war graves. An example in Anfield Cemetery is William Geoffrey Walker, who in 1944 was the co pilot of a Horsa glider involved in exercises in Wiltshire preparing for the Allied invasion of Europe. The glider crashed on hitting a tree in low cloud as part of Exercise Dreme in Wiltshire. All 27 on board the glider were killed, wiping out a whole platoon of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. Also in Anfield is 17 year old Mabel McDonald of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, who was knocked down and killed by a car during the blackout.
During the First World War many died of illnesses picked up in cramped conditions in the trenches or on board ships. Many of these will have been sent away from the Front for treatment nearer home, but failed to recover. With Liverpool being a port city, there are casualties from Commonwealth countries who have been admitted to hospital on arrival in the city rather than continue their journey to France of Belgium. An example in Kirkdale Cemetery is Rangitauwira Wiremu (pictured), of the New Zealand Maori pioneer battalion. He was a 24 year old married farmer from Wanganui who enlisted in February 1918 and sailed for Liverpool on the Ulimaora. However he got sick on the voyage and died just two days after its arrival.
A network of volunteers inspect CWGC’s headstones on a cyclical basis. At Sarsfield Memorials any enquiries we receive regarding maintenance or repair of a CWGC headstone would always be referred to them. It goes without saying that they use in house specialists or approved contractors for any work carried out on their headstones. Sustainability is another key concept for the CWGC, using environmentally friendly materials and always looking to repair, only replacing if absolutely necessary. Further details about the methods used for headstone maintenance can be found here.