War graves to be restored under £100,000 project

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THE graves of Wearside war heroes will be restored as part of commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

A £100,000 project will support the restoration of graves belonging to those awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military honour.

They include Sunderland-born Third Lt George Maling, of the Field Company, Royal Engineers; Sergeant William McNally, of the Prince of Wales Own Yorkshire Regiment; Durham-born Private Michael Heaviside, Durham Light Infantry (DLI), and Private Thomas Young, also of the DLI, from Boldon.

Their headstones and eight others will be cleaned or replaced to ensure they are in the best condition possible. The funding, announced by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, will give a boost to the Victoria Cross Trust’s work to ensure the graves are maintained.

Mr Pickles said: “An entire generation of men fought for Britain’s freedom in the First World War and all fought valiantly.

“But for hundreds of those men their bravery was of such an exceptional nature they were bestowed with the highest military award, the Victoria Cross.

“As these men were honoured then for their extreme bravery on the battlefields, they should be honoured still. That is why I am privileged to offer more than £100,000 towards this project, to ensure that their final resting places are venerated memorials where communities can pay their respects, and learn about their local heroes.”

George Maitland, of Murton Heritage Society, is among those to research Sgt McNally’s army career, with a memorial unveiled in his name and a community centre named after him.

He said: “I’m for anything which preserves the past of these heroes, so a lot of people will know about them in the future.”

The Government has previously said it was launching a project to install paving stones to highlight the stories of VC winners.