28 November 2018

Public invited to Arnos Vale ceremony after restoration work

Visitors are invited to attend a special ceremony at Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol, to mark the completion of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) restoration work to preserve grave markers and memorials to the war dead.

Arnos Vale Cemetery 

It was the CWGC’s largest UK project of the year and among those being invited to see the final results are the families of some of those buried there.

Anyone else with a connection or interest in Arnos Vale is invited to attend the ceremony, which starts at 2pm on Saturday 8 December.

A new exhibition has also opened at the site about the Commission’s history the stories of some of those commemorated at Arnos Vale.

The Soldiers’ Corner plot at the cemetery had fallen into disrepair due to the neglect of the cemetery in the 80s and 90s under a previous owner. Some of the original grave markers had been removed or were in poor condition. When the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust took over the site after a local campaign, the stones were put back on the memorial with the help of the local army reserves. However, many of the marker stones had been significantly damaged and others were beyond repair. 

More recently, the CWGC and Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust have worked in partnership to ensure the historic memorial and marker stones could be improved. The CWGC is now responsible for their maintenance and earlier this year the Commission’s expert stonemasons restored grave markers where possible and created 40 new ones from Portland stone to replace those that were missing or beyond repair.

Among those replaced was the grave marker of Private William Walker of the 6th Australian Infantry, who died in Bristol on 11 December 1918. Private Walker’s family have been invited to attend the special ceremony at Arnos Vale after their correspondence with CWGC helped to kick-start the restoration project.

During both World Wars there were several military hospitals in Bristol. Many of the First World War casualties buried in Arnos Vale were treated at these after returning to the UK from the Mediterranean on hospital ships, only to succumb to illness or injury on British soil. There are 514 burials in the whole cemetery from across the UK and the Commonwealth including men from the Australian, Canadian and South African Forces.

The three-month restoration project involved the use of archive photographs and old cemetery plans to locate unmarked graves and ensure every war grave in Arnos Vale was properly marked. The Portland stone used on new markers was sourced from the same quarry as when the Red Cross first built the site a century ago.