Cemetery clear-up discovers soldier’s grave marker

SCOUT group members who keep a village cemetery tidy would like to contact the family of a First World War casualty whose dilapidated grave marker they have discovered.

The wooden cross was found in Chobham’s old burial ground during an OGLE – Old Graveyard Landscape Enterprise – working party.

Young working party members Alex, Maddie, Rupert, Abel, Anaïs, Finn and Aedan and adult helpers

It commemorates the life of William Shorter, a local man who is believed to have died of his wounds at the age of 25, some time after the war. He is known to be buried in the cemetery, in what is now probably an unmarked grave.

Scouts, Cubs and Beavers taking part in a regular clean-up session were collecting leaves and other debris when two crosses were uncovered.

“We were clearing an area in the middle at the north end which we haven’t tackled for years and there were a couple of wooden crosses in the undergrowth,” said Tony Edie, one of the OGLE organisers.

“I called over the others and we looked around for a grave but there was nothing obvious. It was in what is known as the Daborn section of the cemetery, and the other wooden cross was for a Daborn.”

A close-up of the cross and its plaque

The village scout group cuts the grass, trims trees and bushes and clears up leaves in the disused cemetery, on behalf of Surrey Heath Borough Council.

William Shorter died on 25 March 1923, four-and-a-half years after the First World War ended. His cross, made of wood that is rotting, could be the original grave marker but its inscription is on a plastic plaque. It says William died during the 1914-18 war.

Parish and borough councillor Pat Tedder, who has researched the village burial records and recorded all the graves in the cemetery, has provided information on the burial. She says William was a soldier thought to have died of a war-related injury such as lung damage caused by being gassed.

“Because it was past a particular deadline for war deaths, he was not entitled to a war grave or recognition by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission,” added Pat, a Royal British Legion member who also researched the village’s war dead for commemorations that marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

As a consequence of dying so long after the conflict, William’s name is not on the war memorial roll of honour in St Lawrence Church. A Shorter who is on the list, Edward George – a soldier who was killed in 1917 at the aged of 28 and is buried in Belgium – could be a relative.

Pat said William was recorded as living at Burnt Barn, in Carthouse Lane, Horsell, the son of Henry Shorter and Sarah Jane Smithers, two surnames that connections with old Chobham families.

Chobham Scouts would like William’s relatives to know that his grave marker is not in place and is rotting, so that they might consider replacing it with a headstone.

“It would be good for someone who gave his life in a war but does not have an official memorial like the other war graves in the cemetery to have a proper marker,” said Tony.

If you are a relative of William Shorter or know any of his relations, please contact the News & Mail – email editor@wokingnewsandmail.org, call 01483 375793.

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