THE Burton Albion Youth Team visited Stapenhill Cemetery in Burton-upon-Trent in support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Living Memory Project yesterday.Interim England manager Gareth Southgate and three senior members of the squad Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart and Daniel Sturridge joined members of Burton Albion’s academy to learn stories of local fallen heroes.
The Living Memory Project is a nationwide initiative aimed at encouraging communities to discover, explore and remember the war graves in their local area. This November, The FA and CWGC are working together to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the defining events of WW1.
The Three Lions representatives placed red roses, symbolic of the flower that forms part of The FA and England crests, at the graves of two fallen heroes who lost their lives as a result of injuries sustained at the Somme. The group then took part in a short ceremony at a Cross of Sacrifice, including a reading of ‘For The Fallen’ and a performance of The Last Post, before all parties laid remembrance wreaths.
Academy Manager Dan Robinson said: “It’s vitally important to come here. It’s an important part of the country’s history so it’s good to come and be a part of it with the England players and the England manager.”
Gareth Southgate said: “I think it’s important for us to get a sense of perspective. We’re so held up in our own sport yet there are people that have given a lot more and they should be remembered for more significant acts than what we carry out on a football field.
“We heard a remarkable story of somebody who came from Burton-upon-Trent and went to the Battle of the Somme as a stretcher-bearer and carried some of his colleagues back off the battle field.”
Wayne Rooney added: “It’s important that stories from the war get passed down and the next generation realise what these people did for our country. It has been really humbling to be a part of this visit and it’s important for people to know that there are forgotten war graves in cemeteries across the UK."
Joe Hart continued: “As we’ve heard today, you’re never more than three miles away from a war grave or a memorial in the UK and we’re helping to raise awareness of that.
“Everybody sees the poppy and we all get the concept of Remembrance Day but it’s important to hear about exactly what happened and why we should remember these sacrifices.”
“I’ve personally learned a lot from this visit,” explained Sturridge. “It was a privilege to hear these striking stories.
“It’s important not just to pay your respects in November but all year round and perhaps do some research into local war graves.”