Opening of the Veterans Memorial Garden at St Helens Cemetery
A MEMORIAL garden honoring veterans of the armed forces will be unveiled at a ceremony in St Helens Cemetery.
Veterans of the Saints Community Development Foundation, in partnership with St Helens Borough Council and Friends of St Helens Cemetery, announced the opening and dedication of an Armed Forces Memorial Garden at St Helens Cemetery in 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 3.
Veterans, their families and members of the public are all invited.
The newly announced garden is the culmination of more than three years of work initially involving a small group of veterans and volunteers who tend to the military graves in the cemetery.
Together they placed a poppy on each grave (over 600) in October each year in time for Remembrance weekend and removed them again in the spring.
The team has often braved the vagaries of the four seasons, whether baked by the sun, soaked by the rain or frozen by the winter cold.
The memorial garden itself was designed by members of the partnership and has been approved by St Helens Council Bereavement Services.
The opening ceremony will begin with Foundation veterans parading their standards.
After veterans and standards form on the paths surrounding the garden, the Reverend Rachel Shuttleworth, Vicar of St Helens Parish Church, will lead a short dedication service before the memorial is unveiled by the Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside, David Steer QC.
The mayor, other civic dignitaries and distinguished guests will be present.
Visitors are encouraged to park in the sixth grade car park at Cowley International College and enter the cemetery through the Hard Lane entrance.
Stewards will be on hand to direct everyone to the garden location.
Since the partnership has collaborated, there have been several milestones on the way to Saturday’s ceremony.
In October 2019, a veterans parade and memorial service was held at the Cross of Sacrifice in the cemetery.
COVID-19 restrictions limited partnership activities in 2020, but small groups still managed to put poppies on graves, reinforcing our commitment to ensure the sacrifices made on our behalf are never forgotten. .
In 2021, the team inspected and cleared all Commonwealth War Graves Commission graves in the cemetery, making a total of 325 graves.
This year has seen no letup in efforts to provide a permanent and appropriate memorial. Foundation veterans, together with our key partners, have worked hard, not only to care for the war graves in St Helens Cemetery, but also landscaping to ensure that the Memorial Garden is fantastic.
Going forward, the Memorial Garden will be maintained by Foundation veterans.
Many veterans have been interred in the cemetery since it opened in 1858, including two Victoria Cross holders and a headstone dedication in remembrance of a local First World War Victoria Cross holder commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres.
St Helens Cemetery has over 325 Commonwealth War Graves Commission graves as well as a Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cross of Sacrifice, which honors the dead of the First World War.
The garden has seating to provide a place for quiet reflection in this beautiful part of the cemetery and everyone is welcome to visit, sit down and rest for a while.
Steve Leonard, director of the Saints Community Foundation, said: “The Memorial Garden is dedicated to all the veterans buried in the cemetery, from our city and around the world. It will also provide a lasting legacy in honor of all who have served their country.
“Saints Community Development Foundation would like to extend a huge thank you to the Foundation veterans, Friends of St Helens Cemetery and St Helens City Council who have all dedicated their time and effort to this exciting project and we couldn’t be more proud.
Cllr Lynn Clarke, St Helens Borough Council Armed Forces Champion, said: “We are extremely proud of our Armed Forces and Veterans communities, Friends of St Helens Cemetery and Saints Community Foundation.
“The memorial garden they have created is a beautiful space for reflection and relaxation, and I am delighted to see the project unveiled to the public for residents and visitors to enjoy.”