BEING A VOLUNTEER
Before I retired I was concerned about having enough to do to fill my time as I get bored easily and hate sitting around doing nothing. I do a bit of family and local research and often use the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to try and track down soldiers killed in the Great War. On one occasion I noticed they were advertising for “Hands on, Eyes on” volunteers. If you signed up you would be given a number of graveyards, where there are CWGC graves, to check and report back to a supervisor on the condition of the stones. Being very interested in and regularly using their website I thought that this would be a very worthy organisation to do some volunteering with.
I filled in the application form online and sent off to let them decide whether I was suitable for the task or not. This “Hands on, Eyes on” scheme was brand new as like all Government departments at this time they had very limited resources. With this scheme the volunteers report any defects/issues with the gravestones and then the full time stone masons and maintenance staff can deal with the problems. If there are no problems then there are no wasted journeys checking the hundreds of graveyards in the UK.
I received a reply and was signed up as a CWGC volunteer and was given five graveyards to check; Abernethy, Dunbarney, Arngask Old and Arngask New and Kirkton of Mailer. In all there are 17 stones to check and clean, with water and a stiff brush, and these checks are carried out every six months. It is a very interesting pastime and it takes longer than it should as I end up reading other private memorials whilst I am there. It is a very humbling experience when you read some of the ages of the men that volunteered to fight in various wars and are laid to rest in our local graveyards.
I must at this point explain that the men interred in the UK under the maintenance of the CWGC are soldiers who died of their wounds after returning home. Those who were killed in action are laid to rest where they fell in foreign fields all over the world and their graves are also very well looked after by the CWGC.