THE roots of Muslim heritage in Woking were again the focus of military and classroom attention this month.
Students from Bishop David Brown School joined serving soldiers of the British Armed Forces, including members of the Armed Forces Muslim Association, and Imam Hashmi from the Shah Jahan Mosque, to plant the final silver birch tree at Woking’s Muslim Burial Ground Peace Garden.
The garden features 27 Himalayan birch trees – representing the original number of servicemen buried at the site.
Woking Borough Council Leader John Kingsbury said: “We were delighted to welcome members of the British Armed Forces and local schoolchildren along to mark this symbolic occasion.
“The silver birch trees are a fitting way to commemorate the final resting place of the 27 brave soldiers who were originally buried at the site. The Muslim Burial Ground is an important heritage site for both the Armed Forces and members of the local community.
Once completed,it will provide a place of quiet contemplation, remembrance and for acts of commemoration, while enhancing pride of place.”
Lieutenant Colonel John Kendall, Headquarters Support Command, hailed the community-focussed initiative, saying: “The burial ground was built during the First World War. It is very much part of our heritage, and something that we must preserve in memory of the sacrifices made for us. It is also a reminder to new generations of our shared heritage.”
The garden also includes a water feature incorporating a memorial stone bearing the names of those once buried at the site; bold strips of pink and white heather orientated towards Mecca; two stone ceremonial prayer mats,; and benches for quiet contemplation.
A footpath to Monument Road will be created and CCTV cameras are to be installed as part of the project.
The first phase of renovation works to the Muslim Burial Ground was successfully completed in June last year, when a gilded finial adorning the top of the entrance Chettri and ornate gates were installed. It is anticipated that works will complete this summer, and an official opening ceremony is planned for later on in the year.
Bishop David Brown School’s Clive Whittington said students were delighted to be involved with such an important local project: “It gave them an invaluable opportunity to learn about their local heritage and consider the sacrifices their forefathers made during the First World War,” he explained.
Funding for this final phase of the project was obtained from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme; the Department for Communities and Local Government; the Shah Jahan Mosque; the Government of the Sultanate of Oman; Surrey County Council’s Community Improvements Fund; and Woking Borough Council.
The project is run by a partnership of the Horsell Common Preservation Society, which owns the site, and Woking Borough Council.