Candlelit Christmas Remembrance at Stonefall Cemetery

19 December 2022

Sunday 18th December, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was pleased to host a Candlelit Christmas Remembrance at Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate.

The now-annual event was the inspiration of local mum Benji Walker who had seen images of CWGC cemeteries in Europe lit by candlelight. She said:

The Candlelit Christmas Remembrance is a chance for the local community to gather to remember the sacrifice of the hundreds of CWGC casualties buried at Stonefall, many of them thousands of miles from home. I am delighted so many people attended to pay their respects today to mark the sacrifice of these brave heroes.

At the event, members of the public placed tea lights on the graves of the fallen, and this was followed by a short service of Remembrance. Local Sea and Army Cadets took part in the service with a choir of carol singers providing the music.

Andrew Jones MP attended and said:

At this time of year as we celebrate our religious and cultural freedoms it is important that we do not forget those who gave their lives so that we could continue to enjoy those freedoms. That is why the candlelit Christmas remembrance at the Commonwealth War Graves in Harrogate is so important. Many of the graves in what is one of northern England’s largest commonwealth war graves are of young Canadians.

The Harrogate community has adopted those graves and honours those who came from across the globe to protect freedom as well as our own servicemen and women. Joining this act of remembrance was a humbling and poignant experience and I thank local woman Benji Walker, whose son is in the armed forces, for starting this annual service.

Benji, who has a son serving in the Yorkshire Regiment, also used the event to raise money for the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation and Help for Heroes. Over £350 has been raised and members of the public can still sponsor a candle with the profits being split between the charities Crowdfunding to Candles for Heroes is organising a Christmas Remembrance Candlelight Vigil at Stonefall Cemetery, Harrogate on 18th December 3.30pm. on JustGiving

Crowdfunding to Candles for Heroes is organising a Christmas Remembrance Candlelight Vigil at Stonefall Cemetery, Harrogate on 18th December 3.30pm. on JustGiving

With more than 1,000 Commonwealth war graves, Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery is one of the largest CWGC sites in the North of England. The majority of burials are airmen who died during the Second World War when bomber command bases were established across Yorkshire. More than 600 of the casualties served with the Royal Canadian Air Force and they include two seventeen year-olds.

CWGC Public Engagement Coordinator, Elizabeth Smith, said:

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cares for 170 000 war graves from both World Wars at more than 12,500 locations in the UK. The Air Force plot at Stonefall Cemetery is unique in the North of England due to its size and resemblance to our sites overseas.

At the end of the Second World War local people were encouraged to adopt the war graves of the Canadian servicemen and lay wreaths on behalf of their families at Christmas. It is wonderful to see, more than 70 years on, that the people of Harrogate continue to remember the fallen from across the Commonwealth at Christmas time.

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