Thanks to Forces Support, Bereavement and Veterans charity, visitors to Tower Hill cemetery are now able to take a seat in the old section of the cemetery while visiting the Commonwealth War Graves. The cemetery contains around a dozen war graves and the beautiful steel, handmade bench is sited in a section which contains 4 marked graves and one unmarked. The generous offer of the bench by Forces Support who have recently moved their HQ into West Oxfordshire, was made during last year’s WWI centenary year which saw the war graves covered in blankets of scarlet poppies.
It’s very fitting that the bench which features a poppy and the words ‘Lest We Forget’ overlooks the single unmarked war grave in the section, which is that of American, John Christiansen. Christiansen, a member of the RAF, died thousands of miles from his homeland in an accident at Witney Aerodrome aged just 28 years old in September1918.
The Witney Gazette report of his funeral states that, ‘In the pretty little cemetery at Witney he lies and his family can be assured that his last resting place will be carefully tended by the inhabitants for whom he gave his life.’
One hundred years on the grave is the focus for the new bench, along with a Centenary Oak tree sapling given by Oxfordshire County Council, in partnership with The Woodland Trust. Snowdrops surround the bench and make it the perfect stopping off point for those wishing to pay their respects.
Mayor of Witney Cllr Brenda Churchill, thanked Forces Support for their generous gift saying;
‘It’s the perfect bench to have there among the War Graves, a very thoughtful donation at an appropriate time by Forces Support and I am sure that it will be appreciated by everyone that visits. The location of the bench at that particular spot means that the town of Witney continues to fulfil this most honourable of obligations to Corporal Christiansen and his family’.