This Article first appeared in Our Town the newsletter of Cheltenham Civic Society by Freddie Gick
Visitors to Bouncers Lane cemetery pass close by a group of modest crosses just inside the entrance. You may not even have noticed them. But they are a powerful reminder of the town’s sacrifices in the First World War.
These 22 crosses, made from odd bits of wood retrieved on the battlefield, were originally erected on temporary graves by friends and comrades of the men of Gloucestershire killed during the conflict.
Later, when the remains of the fallen were re-interred in more seemly graves maintained by the War Graves Commission, the wooden crosses were brought to England, to the county where the men had been recruited.
When the 22 Cheltenham crosses were surveyed in 2016, as part of a programme managed by Civic Voice, the national organisation for the entire Civic Society movement, it was observed they had started to deteriorate. With only a modest wooden awning to protect them, the weather had taken a heavy toll.
If they are to be preserved, these tangible tributes to the men of the county who gave their lives 100 years ago, are now in serious need of urgent conservation.
With the support of the Borough Council Cemeteries and Crematorium Department, the Civic Society has launched a fund-raising initiative to conserve the crosses, and ultimately relocate them to a more appropriate position.
Their final destination is yet to be decided, but it is likely to be in, or alongside, the projected new crematorium. There they will be protected from the weather, and far more visible to visitors.
It is also planned that each man’s life story will be researched, and biographical information panels incorporated in a new display.