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England Team Pay Tribute At Commonwealth War Graves In Burton

09 November 2016

Interim England manager Gareth Southgate and three senior members of the squad visited Stapenhill Cemetery in Burton-upon-Trent in support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Living Memory Project.

Captain Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart and Daniel Sturridge joined Southgate and members of Burton Albion’s academy to learn stories of local fallen heroes.

The Living Memory Project is a nationwide initiative aimed at encouraging communities to discover, explore and remember the war graves in their local area. This November, The FA and CWGC are working together to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the defining events of WW1.

The Three Lions representatives placed red roses, symbolic of the flower that forms part of The FA and England crests, at the graves of two fallen heroes who lost their lives as a result of injuries sustained at the Somme. The group then took part in a short ceremony at a Cross of Sacrifice, including a reading of ‘For The Fallen’ and a performance of The Last Post, before all parties laid remembrance wreaths.

"We are here to support the Living Memory project – looking at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the fact that in everybody’s town there are people that died in the Battle of the Somme and died across the two world wars who are being remembered," said Southgate.

"I think it’s important for us to get a sense of perspective. We’re so held up in our own sport yet there are people that have given a lot more and they should be remembered for more significant acts than what we carry out on a football field.

"We heard a remarkable story of somebody who came from Burton-upon-Trent and went to the Battle of the Somme as a stretcher-bearer and carried some of his colleagues back off the battle field."

Rooney added: "It’s important that stories from the war get passed down and the next generation realise what these people did for our country. It has been really humbling to be a part of this visit and it’s important for people to know that there are forgotten war graves in cemeteries across the UK."

Hart continued: "As we’ve heard today, you’re never more than three miles away from a war grave or a memorial in the UK and we’re helping to raise awareness of that.

"Everybody sees the poppy and we all get the concept of Remembrance Day but it’s important to hear about exactly what happened and why we should remember these sacrifices."

"I’ve personally learned a lot from this visit," explained Sturridge. "It was a privilege to hear these striking stories.

"It’s important not just to pay your respects in November but all year round and perhaps do some research into local war graves."

While the CWGC’s sites on the continent are well-known and visited, few people are aware that the commission cares for 300,000 graves and memorials throughout the UK in more than 12,000 locations.

The FA has encouraged football clubs at every level of the game to unite behind the Living Memory Project and remember all of those buried in CWGC graves in the UK.

Colin Kerr, Director of External Relations for the CWGC, explained: "We are delighted that The FA and England players are helping us to raise awareness of the ongoing importance of visiting these places and remembering those who died.

"We’re asking people connected to football at all levels to engage with us and The FA on this initiative by going to cwgc.org to find a cemetery near them simply by inputting their postcode and then visiting the graves between 1 and 18 November, which marks the centenary of the last day of the Battle of the Somme.

"We'd urge visitors to lay flowers as a mark of remembrance but, most of all, we want people to share their experiences by tweeting photos using the handle @CWGC plus hashtag #LivingMemory. That way, we keep the spirit of these brave men and women alive and the war graves are never forgotten."