Summer War Graves Project
Our partnership with the German War Graves Commission
SCVYS has hosted an annual project in partnership with the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) since 2015. Prior to that, the project began in 1962 and was organised by Staffordshire County Council’s Youth Service.
We were pleased to be able to return to a residential camp in 2022 to celebrate 60 years of the partnership between Germany and Staffordshire and look forward to another successful year in 2023.
Young people from Germany and Staffordshire have been working together for 60 years to find out about each others cultures, learn about reconciliation and remembrance and take part in fun activities.
Every year, around 30 young people from both countries spend two weeks in Staffordshire, taking part in a packed programme including things like:
- Trips and visits – Coventry Cathedral, National Memorial Arboretum, Imperial War Museum.
- Leisure Activities – trampolining, City visits, sports.
- Working at the German Military Cemetery on Cannock Chase and learning about the history of the site.
- Spending time with veterans from local branches of the Staffordshire Regiment Association and Royal British Legion.
- Attending a high profile remembrance ceremony alongside the Chairman of Staffordshire County Council and other dignitaries.
- Hosting a cultural evening for friends of the project
Register your interest for next year using the form below
During World War One a large military training camp was situated on Cannock Chase, later in the War it became a German Prisoner of War Camp with around 6,000 prisoners.
World War Two claimed the lives of an estimated 60-80 million people globally.
German military personnel and civilians who died in the UK were buried at various cemeteries throughout the Country.
The governments of the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany agreed that the remains of German Military Personnel and Civilians of both world wars would be transferred to a single central cemetery established on Cannock Chase.
It is said that Cannock Chase was chosen as the location due to it’s resemblance with heathland in Germany.
Young people from Bremen (Germany), France and Staffordshire came to Cannock Chase where they began preparing the ground for the new Cemetery.
A dedication ceremony for the cemetery took place in June 1967 with important guests from Germany and Staffordshire.
Almost 5,000 people buried at the cemetery including military personnel and civilians who died in the UK as a result of both WWI and WWII. A further 1,000 casualties remain buried elsewhere in the UK.
Newpaper articles from 1967 write about how hundreds of visitors from Germany travelled to the dedication ceremony, so much so that it was delayed because of traffic.
Young people from Bremen continued to travel to Staffordshire every summer to tend to the graves, meet local young people and take part in social activities.
As well as the usual visit from young people, in the summer of 2012 a series of events took place to mark the 50 year partnership between Bremen and Staffordshire. This included a remembrance ceremony with music from the German Military Band.
In recent years, the camp is open for young people from all across Germany, not just Bremen. Even so, Staffordshire continues to have a close relationship with the staff and officers at the Volksbund, Bremen area.
To commemorate 50 years since the Cemetery was complete, SCVYS commissioned Staffordshire artist Philip Hardaker to work with young people during the 2 week camp to create an elaborate mosaic highlighting the importance of friendship and reconciliation.
More than 40 people contributed to the piece which now hangs in the welcome foyer at the German Cemetery.
The global pandemic meant that young people were unable to travel from Germany to the UK. This is the first time in almost 60 years that the camp has not taken place.
SCVYS, Staffordshire County Council and the Volksbund wanted to maintain our close links and therefore arranged a virtual get together for young people from the two countries.
As well as online sessions, we travelled to the Cemetery with a small group of young people to tend to the graves and learn about some of the people buried there. The Chairman of Staffordshire County Council, Kath Perry, and a few other guests, joined us for a short wreath laying ceremony at both the Commonwealth and German Cemeteries.
Once again, travel restrictions due to Coronavirus mean that the Summer Camp could not take place.
Instead, a small group visited the cemetery to tend the graves, learn about the history of the project and take part in a short remembrance ceremony alongside the Chairman of Staffordshire County Council.