AN army of spirited volunteers dug into the history of Woking’s Muslim Burial Ground as they brought a new lease of life to the memorial.
Serving soldiers of the British Armed Forces, including members of the Armed Forces Muslim Association, were getting fully involved in the community as they assisted with renovation works last week on Wednesday.
The Muslim Burial Ground was originally built as a tribute to the members of the Indian military who had fought beside the allied forces throughout the First and Second World Wars. It was built during the Great War in honour of the Muslim soldiers who had died at the Indian Army Hospital in Brighton Pavilion and had a total of 27 burials by the end of 1945.
The Horsell site soon fell out of use, however, due to later burials taking place in the Brookwood cemetery. It’s brief period of victimisation to vandalism during the 1960s lead to the removal of the bodies (relocated to the Military Cemetery section at Brookwood) and is now part of the reason it is in need of restoration.
The soldiers, from regiments across the country, joined Horsell Common Preservation Society’s Paul Rimmer for the first of a series of voluntary community involvement days. The works involved reinforcing the perimeter walls and distributing top soil across the site in preparation of phase two of the project to create an Islamic-style peace garden.
The peace garden will be a place to reflect on the bravery and sacrifice shown by the soldiers who fought during the wars, featuring 27 Himalayan Birch trees to represent the original number of servicemen buried at the site.
There are also plans for a water feature incorporating a memorial stone bearing the names of those once buried at the site, vivid ribbons of pink and white heather orientated towards Mecca, two stone ceremonial prayer mats, and benches for quiet contemplation. A footpath leading to Monument Road will be created and CCTV cameras installed as part of the project.
“The Muslim Burial Ground is an important heritage site for the Armed Forces and their support and good-will in assisting us to restore the site to its former glory is greatly appreciated,” said Leader of Woking Borough Council, John Kingsbury. “We look forward to their further involvement during the construction of the peace garden. Once complete, the site will host annual memorial services for the local community and Armed Forces.”
The first phase of renovation works to the Muslim Burial Ground was successfully completed on Tuesday, June 10, when a gilded finial adorning the top of the entrance Chhetri and ornate gates were installed.
Funding to enable the next phase of the project was obtained from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme; Department for Communities and Local Government; Shah Jahan Mosque; Government of the Sultanate of Oman; and Surrey County Council’s Community Improvements Fund. The project is being run in partnership between Horsell Common Preservation Society, owners of the site, and Woking Borough Council.