Relatives’ war tribute fury at ‘disgrace’ cemetery discovery

Eddie and Rita Wright. (s)
Eddie and Rita Wright. (s)

A couple’s 200-mile trip to honour a relative who died in the Second World War ended in heartache and fury at the state of the “disgraceful” cemetery they found.

Eddie and Rita Wright travelled from Carluke, Lanarkshire, after discovering that Rita’s uncle was buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery near Calderstones, Whalley.

But to get to the “immaculate” war cemetery, they had to walk through the unkempt and overgrown former hospital cemetery where some 1,000 patients of the former mental institution are buried in unmarked graves.

“I was absolutely furious,” said Mr Wright (63), who runs a sportswear company.

“The war graves are immaculate, as you would expect, but to get to them you have to ask at the hospital for the key to the gates, then you have go through this utterly disgraceful hospital cemetery.

“There’s grass two or three feet high, and I was amazed when I was told the cemetery had been sold in the past and all the gravestones taken away.

“It’s an insult to hospital patients who are buried there, and an insult to the servicemen who lie in the war cemetery next to it.

“I’m writing to the MP, Nigel Evans, to see what he can do.”

The couple had unsuccessfully tried to trace the grave of Rita’s uncle, John McCutcheon, a Royal Engineer whom they believed was killed during the retreat to Dunkirk in 1941.

They eventually discovered that he had been badly wounded, brought to England and died at Calderstones, which at the time was a military hospital. He was buried in the war graves cemetery with the wrong name, James McCutcheon, on the headstone.

The couple enquired with war historian Mel Diack, of Whalley, who took them to the cemetery where they held a short service at the grave side with Whalley Church warden Cliff Ball.

Mr Diack, who has been campaigning to have the hospital cemetery cleared up, said: “It’s a shambles, and to have this in front of men who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2 makes it even worse for the servicemen laid to rest there. In fact it’s all just a disgraceful situation.”