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Carleen, James and Luca all ages 16 from Germany with Mark Sutton, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Staffordshire County Council and Phil Pusey, Chief Executive of SCVYS (Staffordshire Council of Voluntary Youth Services)

Young people unite to tend to German war graves for the 57th year

Teenagers from across Staffordshire and Germany have teamed up to tend to the war graves at the German Military Cemetery on Cannock Chase.

24 young people, along with representatives from the Royal British Legion and Staffordshire Regiment Association spent time cleaning and tidying the graves ahead of a special wreath laying ceremony held on Wednesday 24 July.

The annual exchange forms two weeks’ worth of commemorations between the German War Graves Commission and Staffordshire County Council and has been running since 1962.

While in the county, the young people, all aged 15 to 18 got the chance to improve their language skills, build new friendships, learn more about the history of the World Wars, and be involved in projects that concentrate on the theme of peace and reconciliation.

Cllr Mark Sutton, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Staffordshire County Council has been involved in the activity for a number of years.

Mark, who attended the special wreath laying ceremony said:

“Once again it’s wonderful to welcome the young people from Bremen and to see young people from Staffordshire getting involved in the activity too.

“This is a very special partnership for the county council which has now been running for 57 years. It’s a special friendship that allows both groups of young people to get together, make new friends, learn from each other and all in the name of peace and reconciliation.”

Phil Pusey, Chief Executive of SCVYS said:

“SCVYS is delighted to be working with the German War Graves Commission to deliver this busy fortnight of international youth exchange. The mix of remembrance and fun-filled activities, aligned to social action themed on peace and reconciliation makes this a unique summer camp.

“We know from experience that participants benefit massively both now and in the longer term through the development of their character and values.”

The wreath laying ceremony is an important part of the young people’s visit and was also attended by representatives from the German Embassy in London as well as the High Sheriff of Staffordshire and Chairman of Staffordshire County Council.

During the two-week camp, the young people also took part in different activities including outings to the National Memorial Arboretum and Coventry Cathedral as well as visits to the Trentham Estate and Alton Towers.