LOCAL stonemason Mark Brady, who has now been given the job by the Victoria Cross Trust of restoring every one of the nation's 544 VC graves, told The Bugle: "It is an honour to be involved and a privilege to work on behalf of the VC Trust."
In recent weeks the front page of The Bugle has highlighted the unfolding story of the repair and restoration of the grave that belongs to Bilston-born George Onions VC in Quinton Cemetery, Halesowen, and there has been a terrific response from readers to its wonderful transformation.
Typically the comments have been: "They've made a really good job and now his last resting place is fit for a hero." But the identity of the stonemason who carried out such a professional job was unknown to us until Mark Room , of Remembering You Grave Tendering, who has also cleaned and restored war graves, told us all about Mark Brady. A meeting with Mark was arranged and appropriately took place near the graveside of George Onions VC.
Mark Brady said he had been made aware of the state of George's grave over a year ago and through a local newspaper had been advised to contact the Victoria Cross Trust. "After three months I still hadn't received a reply. All I wanted to do was restore the grave to a standard befitting a national war hero and began the process of talking to the local authority and trying to trace any potential relations that may have had objections to any interference. A misunderstanding had led to the VC Trust's delayed response, but after they heard my story they gave me full backing and all the support I needed.
"I had already indicated I would pay for the repair and restoration myself. After all, what I was doing was a drop in the ocean compared with the courage and valour George and all the other VCs had displayed serving in this country's armed forces. Since my initial contact with the VC Trust they have now given me the green light to restore all the other VC graves which have fallen into disrepair, a great honour indeed.
"I'm aware of the grave in Brierley Hill belonging to Anthony Booth VC, and hopefully over the next few months I will be able to restore it to its former glory.
"All the restorations take time, but at least with the backing of the VC Trust, the recent national coverage of the campaign led by The Sun newspaper, the pledge of £100,000 by the Government to help towards the costs, and the local backing of the Black Country Bugle, every VC's grave will once again be honoured."
The grave of Anthony Clarke Booth lies in St. Michael's churchyard, Brierley Hill.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Anglo/Zulu War, when on March 12, 1879, on the Intombe River in South Africa, he rallied a few men and covered the retreat of 50 soldiers and others for a distance of three miles.
Had it not been for the courage shown by 32-year-old Sergeant Booth, no one would have escaped alive.