Historic memorial site in Hebburn to get £4,000 boost from ‘friends’

A memorial bench is to be permanently anchored next to the South Tyneside graves of sailors who died in battle in World War Two – after a £4,000 funding boost.

By Gareth Crickmer
Monday, 28 January, 2019, 05:00
Friends of Hebburn Cemetery. Front from John Stewart, left, and Mark Young, right. Back, from left, Trish Conway, Carol White and Judith Pickering

The metal three-seater is expected to installed within weeks following a successful grant bid by the Friends of Hebburn Cemetery.

Featuring a poppy central cast, it will be positioned next to the final resting places of 20 HMS Kelly sailors.

They were killed when the Hebburn-built destroyer was hit but not sunk in a German torpedo attack in May 1940.

Also among the collective grave block, know as Section C, are 13 other servicemen who died in the 1939 to 1945 war.

The friends’ group has been awarded the grant from insurance firm Aviva’s Community Fund, winning the entire amount it bid.

Its success was in part due to the 2,058 support votes cast by the public, who backed the application online.

The bench has been purchased for £900, and over £1,000 will pay for a sit-on grass cutter, with other equipment to support the group’s work being bought.

John Stewart, 57, who founded the group in response to a sickening vandal attack at the cemetery in February 2017, said: “This award is excellent, really smashing.

“The bench will be placed next to the Kelly graves, and is a fitting memorial. We have ordered it and are waiting for it to be delivered.

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“We applied to the fund and got everything we asked for. In fact, they said ours was a high-quality application.

“The money will support us to do our work, which also includes maintaining flower beds and cutting grass.

“I’d like to thank Aviva and all the people of Hebburn who voted for us.”

Graves, including that of a close friend of Mr Stewart, were overturned in the yob attack, sparking him into action.

Supporters weed and tidy the site once-a-month and operate a fundraising tea room every Saturday and Sunday, from 8am to noon.

They also raised £5,000 to install CCTV in a bid to prevent further attacks, and have turned flowerbeds into focal points.

HMS Kelly limped back to port at Hebburn after the German E-boats attack, where she was repaired.

The vessel was sunk at the Battle of Crete in May 1941, with half her crew lost.

Aviva’s Community Fund has given out 600 grants in the past year, in three categories - health and wellbeing, environment, and skills for life