The Royal British Legion has created a sponsorship scheme in the local area, whereby members of the public and organisations have paid a nominal amount to cover the cost of a spray of poppies which will be laid on the grave of a veteran.

This perpetrates the original concept of ‘Dressing of Graves’. The Branch then issues a history card giving details of their veteran and a thank you card to show their appreciation of the sponsorship.

Over the past two years, the branch have organised and attended each of the sixteen cemeteries in the area where veterans have been laid to rest or remembered. This year sees many Parish and Town Councils taking on the role of carrying out the ceremony of Dressing of Graves as the Branch were finding it increasingly difficult to ensure a Branch member could be present.

Generally, these ceremonies will occur on Saturday, 12th November between 10am and 12pm. The exception will be Kilmersdon who will perform their ceremony on Sunday, 13th November after their Church service. The public are welcome to attend, especially if you sponsored a grave.

The Parish Council in Peasedown St John is just one Council who have elected to continue the ceremony and hope to make it a tradition in years to come. Likewise, other Parish Councils, as well as Downside School, have stepped up to the mark and will be holding a short service and lay the spray of poppies on the grave.

Whilst every Parish Council have an equally important part in the ceremony, two cemeteries have an unusual aspect and these are Downside School and Paulton. Downside School is poignant in that one of the two veteran graves is for Sub Lt A. McCracken Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, who crashed his Hawker Hurricane onto the School Cricket field and which also took the lives of nine students.

Paulton cemetery has five veteran graves and one of them is for Pte G E Orchard. He took part in the defence of Rorke’s Drift.

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift (1879), also known as the Defence of Rorke’s Drift, was an engagement in the Anglo-Zulu War. He received the South African Medal with clasp 1877-8-9 which is now owned by the Regiment.

He died of Myocardia on the 13th February 1940 and was buried with military honours in a marked grave at Paulton Parish Cemetery near Bristol on the 19th February 1940. Whilst he died of what could be called old age rather than during military service, it was felt that as he was buried with miliary honours, it wasn’t right to not recognise his service. Geoff Wilson,

Midsomer Norton and Radstock Branch President