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Minster publican’s bid to restore heroes’ graves receives funding boost

By Emma Grove

A national campaign backed by a Sheppey publican has been given £100,000 worth of government support.

Last month we reported how Duane Ashworth, who runs the Beach pub in Minster, was made a trustee of the Victoria Cross Trust after his son, L Cpl James Ashworth, became the most recent recipient of the medal.

The 23-year-old was posthumously awarded the country’s highest military honour after he died serving with 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in Afghanistan in June 2012.

Duane Ashworth with a picture of his son, Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who was awarded the Victoria Cross
Duane Ashworth with a picture of his son, Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who was awarded the Victoria Cross

Mr Ashworth is now part of a bid by the trust to restore the graves of VC heroes across the country as many of them are neglected and there was previously no funding to keep them up to scratch.

There are 548 in the UK and almost 300 of them need maintenance work as they are not protected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Sometimes there are no living relatives, or their remaining family cannot afford to maintain them, and the trust wants to raise money so all the recipients of the medal can be properly honoured and remembered.

It can cost anything from £2,000 to £25,000 to restore one grave.

As part of the First World War centenary this year, communities secretary Eric Pickles last week announced the government had pledged £100,000 from the Department for Communities and Local Government to boost the project.

The final resting places of 74 VC heroes will benefit from the cash, including Lt Philip Neame, who was awarded the medal in December 1914 and is buried in Selling near Faversham.

Mr Ashworth says he got involved with the campaign because before his son died he had not realised the soldiers’ graves weren’t maintained by a specific group and he welcomed the funding.

“It’s a massive, massive boost,” he said. “It’s fantastic news and work has already started so we are hopefully going to have all the First World War graves done by the anniversary.

“In addition to the £100k, the government is going to match every donation pound for pound so every pound is worth £2.40 with Gift Aid.”

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