Veterans and young people from Staffordshire and Germany came together to tend to the war graves on Cannock Chase.
Having started in the early 1960’s, with young men from Germany arriving in Staffordshire to build German graves, the project has now culminated into a learning experience for young people and a way to exchange stories across generations and cultures.
The young people, all aged 16 and 17 use this opportunity to improve their language skills, build new friendships, learn more about the history of the World Wars, and be involved in projects that concentrate on the theme of peace and reconciliation.
The sense of harmony and unity since the wars is central to the project. This year, the war graves on Cannock Chase in the German Military Cemetery were tended to by the volunteers, the exchange students, the veterans, and members of the Staffordshire Regimental Association (Hednesford Branch). Other activities highlighting this spirit of reconciliation included a Wreath Laying Ceremony both in the German and the Commonwealth cemeteries; a trip to the National Memorial Arboretum; and a Litany of Reconciliation at the Coventry Cathedral.
“The project gives us a chance to explore local history on a new level as well as allowing us to make friends for life from new parts of the world,” said Joe, 17, from Stafford. “This is truly a one of a kind experience that I would not change for the world.”
One of the veterans, meanwhile, called the project the highlight of his year. Truly, the project does “build on friendships, peace and ongoing collaboration between Staffordshire and Germany,” as SCVYS Chief Executive says.