Members of Corton Denham church say they are “puzzled” by claims the village grave of a war hero has been “neglected”.
On Saturday, an article in the Daily Mail slammed cemeteries for “shameful neglect” of graves belonging to soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). The medal is the highest military decoration awarded to members of the armed forces.
The report claimed 1,000 graves of VC winners across the country are in disrepair including that of Godfrey Place, who is buried in the village’s St Andrew Church cemetery. The Daily Mail claimed the stone was “dirty” and “falling over”.
Carole Carter, secretary for Corton Denham parochial church council, disagreed.
Mrs Carter, who with her husband Barry and other volunteers, maintains the church and cemetery, said she was left “open-mouthed” by the report.
She said: “The gravestone is certainly not falling over. It is firmly fixed, it is not dirty and the epitaph is also perfectly legible.
“It is a mature stone so it is covered in a natural moss and lichen.”
Mrs Carter said the stability of the graves is checked every six weeks.
Mr Place, a former village church warden, was awarded the VC in Norway in 1943.
He was involved in piloting miniature submarines across the North Sea to attack the Tirpitz, the German battleship, at its base in a Norwegian fjord. Members of the mission attached explosives to the vessel which detonated, but they were captured and taken prisoner when the submarines were unable to retreat. The Tirpitz was out of action for months.
Mr Place later joined the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot and served in the Korean War. He died, having reached the rank of Rear Admiral, in London in 1994, aged 73.
The recently formed Victoria Cross Trust is now campaigning to maintain memorials of medal winners and survey their graves.
Mrs Carter said: “Godfrey’s site is very much cared for by the people in the village who knew him and until she passed away his wife, Althea, would tend to the grave and visit it with her family.
“I don’t think the village has forgotten the bravery of Mr Place or any of the others who were awarded medals for gallantry and are buried in the church yard.”
Reverend Mike Perry, rector at Corton Denham, said: “We have a team of dedicated volunteers to help look after the church and as far as I understand the grave, as with all the graves at the cemetery, are well maintained. Mr Place loved Corton Denham and he chose his resting place in a country church yard.”
Corton Denham church will host a patronal concert on Saturday, December, 1, at 7pm, to commemorate Saint Andrew. Funds raised go towards general up keep of the church and cemetery.