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Youngsters from Germany help tend to war graves on Cannock Chase

Young people from Germany have travelled to Staffordshire to tend to war graves as part of an event which has been running for 60 years.

Youngsters from Germany have helped tend to the war graves on Cannock Chase.

A total of 33 teenagers – including youngsters aged between 15 and 18 in the county – tended to the German war graves on Cannock Chase.

The German Military Cemetery in the area is the only German cemetery in the country and is situated next to the Commonwealth graves.

Councillor Mark Sutton, cabinet member for children and young people at Staffordshire County Council, said: "Young people have been visiting Staffordshire from Germany to help tend the military graves for 60 years now.

"The trip is all part of the Bremen Exchange which brings together young people to commemorate the many years of friendship between Staffordshire and the German state of Bremen. The initiative gives the young people the opportunity to make new friends and share experiences, as well as remembering those who lost their lives in the world wars."

The youngsters were joined by representatives from the Staffordshire Regiment Association (Hednesford Branch) and Staffordshire Council of Voluntary Youth Services (SCVYS) to clean the graves up on July 26.

The annual event formed part of two weeks’ worth of commemorations between the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V.) and Staffordshire County Council which has been running since 1962. The project is organised by SCVYS in partnership with Staffordshire Clubs for young people and is the eighth year SCVYS have have led on it.

A spokesman for SCVYS said: "We are very proud to be part of something so important. The young people learn so much during the two weeks about the two World Wars. They also learn about some of the people buried at the cemetery through personal letters from families. Lifelong friendships are formed, whilst learning new skills and also having fun with other activities.”

One of the young people from Staffordshire said: “This project is an opportunity to gain an insight into other people’s perspective on war. It also allows us to develop an understanding on the similarities between our two countries and to form new bonds of friendship with other people we would not normally meet.”

The young people receive the chance 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.

One German teenager said: “This project is important to us, to secure peace from countries and to not forget the past. We want to form new friendships and to work against prejudice. It is part of our history and a different learning experience to what we have in school.”

Over the two weeks the young people will be taking part in different activities including a visit to Bletchley Park 'The home of the Codebreakers', Imperial War Museum North and the National Memorial Arboretum.

An important part of the two weeks will also include a poignant wreath laying ceremony at the German Cemetery on August 4 and also at Coventry Cathedral on July 29.

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