Arlesey residents launch project to place crosses on fallen WW1 servicemen’s graves

Arlesey Town Council Civic Service and Arlesey Remembers You Memorial Service. Procession led by Der

Arlesey Town Council Civic Service and Arlesey Remembers You Memorial Service. Procession led by Derek Ambler before the laying of the crosses. The first 11 crosses were laid on graves in the churchyard. Arlesey Remembers You will lay 87 crosses on graves of the fallen soldiers from the 1st World War listed on the town's memorial credit: Steve Maddox - Credit: Archant

A community memorial project to place a cross on each of the 87 men from the town who died in World War I has been launched.

John Bowskill in military hospital 1916 credit: Jim Bowskill

John Bowskill in military hospital 1916 credit: Jim Bowskill - Credit: Archant

Arlesey Remembers You placed the first 11 poppies on crosses and held a civic service attended by over 300 people on Sunday at St Peter’s Church.

Each cross contains the men’s name, age and where he died and the group plan to place one on each of the 87 graves, that are scattered across multiple countries including Iraq, by Remembrance Sunday on November 9.

Jim Bowskill uncle John died aged 27 at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge in May 1923, seven years after being shot through the kidneys at the Battle of Gallipoli on October 1915.

Mr Boswkill, who placed a cross on his grave during the ceremony, said: “When the war broke out my father, William, and his three brothers all signed up and volunteered to go to the front. My uncle joined the 5th Bedfordshire infantry regiment and my father joined the navy.

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“Luckily he managed to survive the war and served for 22 years in the navy but my uncle wasn’t so lucky. He was shot through the hip by a sniper in Gallipoli while collecting firewood a day after a heavy bombardment.

“The shot damaged his kidneys and he was taken to a field hospital. As chance would have it my father was serving on the HMS Bacchanti which was in the area at the time and he was able to see his brother in hospital.

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“After the war Jim came back to Arlesey got married and had two daughters, one of whom, Olive, is still alive, but he never fully recovered and sadly died at a young age.

“The sacrifice these men made is astonishing and the stories I have heard from my cousin about him are incredible.

“The whole service at the weekend was astonishing and I felt so proud to take part in it.”

Cllr Duncan Wang, who organised the event, came up with the idea of placing the cross after hearing that the SAS do it for any of their deceased members every five years.

Of the day he said: “It’s been a lot of hard work and there’s a long way to go but it was a fitting start to a great project.”

The group made a 15 minute video on the project which can be seen on

They are also appealing for volunteers to place crosses on grave stones. Anyone interested should email

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