To mark the 70th anniversary of the unveiling of the Cross of Sacrifice at Stonefall Cemetery, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) will be offering free guided tours at the site in July.
During the Second World War almost 1,000 servicemen and women were buried at Stonefall Cemetery. Around 900 served with the flying services and were laid to rest here in a large Air Forces plot which was established in 1943.
The men and women buried at Stonefall came from across the Commonwealth.
Today, you will find over 600 Canadian and almost 100 Australian service personnel at rest here alongside casualties from New Zealand, Fiji and the Caribbean.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission took over the maintenance of the cemetery from the military authorities soon after the end of the Second World War. Temporary wooden crosses were replaced with Portland headstones and horticultural features were added, including several maples trees which were donated from Ontario in Canada. The unveiling of the Cross of Sacrifice took place on July 8th 1951, once all the headstones were in place.
The presence of so many Canadian casualties was reflected in those attending the service. His Excellency, the High Commissioner for Canada, Mr L D Wilgrass unveiled the Cross of Sacrifice.
Following the Second World War, the Victory Branch of the Royal British Legion organised an adoption scheme whereby local families agreed to lay wreaths on the graves of the fallen from across the Commonwealth.
The High Commissioner of Canada paid thanks to the men and women of Harrogate who visited the graves of the Canadian fallen saying, ‘The evidence of your continued kindness strengthens those indivisible links which bind us together in common ideals.’
Elizabeth Smith, Public Engagement Coordinator for the North East of England said, ‘The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cares for 170 000 war graves from both World Wars at more than 12,500 locations in the United Kingdom.
The Air Force plot at Stonefall Cemetery is unique in the North of England due to its size and resemblance to our sites overseas.
The guided tours at Stonefall Cemetery will give local people a chance to reconnect with their history, to learn about the work of the CWGC, and discover the stories of the men and women buried there.’
The free guided tours will take place between Thursday 8 July and Sunday 14 July.
Bookings can be made via https://www.cwgc.org/our-war-graves-your-history/what-s-happening-near-you
If your family was one of those involved in the Stonefall Adoption Scheme and you would like to share their story, please contact: Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org