On Thursday 20th April 2023 at Sittingbourne Cemetery, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) marked the previously unmarked final resting place of 23 year old Private Leslie Anderson, of the East Kent Regiment, with a CWGC headstone.
At the same time they installed a CWGC Pedestal Marker on the grave of 33 year old Royal Navy Petty Officer Stoker Harry John Baker, who was commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
Both installations were the result of an appeal to the CWGC, following research by Stephen Palmer, a volunteer for the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne (HRGS), whilst he was researching into the lives of Sittingbourne’s First and Second World War casualties for the HRGS’s inter-active display, in the Heritage Hub in The Forum Shopping Centre here in Sittingbourne.
Stephen’s research identified that Leslie Anderson had enlisted as a Private with The Buffs, East Kent Regiment on 22nd August 1914 and was discharged less a year later on 27th July 1915, with tuberculosis of the lung. He was regularly assessed for his Army pension, the last time being 16th October 1918, which stated his illness was aggravated by war service and was also permanent. He died on 23rd October 1918 from Pulmonary Tuberculosis. As his illness was aggravated by war service Leslie met the criteria to be recognised as a war casualty and therefore entitled to a CWGC headstone. HRGS provided the funds to make copies of his service record and death certificate available to the CWGC to appeal for this recognition, and his appeal was accepted in November 2021.
Petty Officer Stoker Harry John Baker was commemorated on CWGC’s Chatham Naval Memorial to the Missing, which records service personnel who have no known grave and normally lost at sea. This conflicted with Harry’s situation, as he died at home after he had been discharged from the navy on 14th July 1915 due to influenza and died on 8th November 1918. Like Leslie, he died from Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Stephen’s research identified that Harry was buried in Sittingbourne Cemetery in a privately marked grave, which was covered in brambles and as his headstone was not clearly readable a CWGC pedestal marker was installed.
As a spin off to Stephen’s HRGS research, he became a volunteer for the CWGC Eyes On Hands On Programme (EOHO), which allows volunteers across the country to reconnect with the war grave history and heritage on their doorstep and help CWGC to ensure these war graves – scattered across more than 12,500 locations – are clean and well-tended. This regular information from local volunteers ensures CWGC’s professional teams can be better directed and allows us to act fast if an issue is found.
There are still more CWGC headstones that the HRGS are still working on, and they are thanking all those who have been involved in the project since 2012 along with those who continue to give them encouragement and support. If you have information or wish to be involved in the War Memorials Project, you can contact: email@example.com .