Bid to clear graves of the lost children in Plymouth
A WOMAN who discovered a "mass grave" thought to contain the bodies of more than 40 babies buried in the 1950s wants to tidy the site so she can pay her respects.
Yesterday The Herald revealed that an area of Ford Park Cemetery is believed to contain the bodies of dozens of children who died within hours of birth in 1954.
Wendy Sophola, who made the discovery while looking for information about her sister Mary, wants people to help cut back the overgrown trees and bushes covering the grave site. She plans to work with the trust that maintains the cemetery to do the work in the right manner.
Ms Sophola said: "It would be important to me and my family to be able to visit the site on a regular basis and put things down and tend the grave. We need to pay our respects to Mary, and with the story going in the paper maybe other people will come forward."
Ms Sophola plans to place a plaque at the site in memory of her sister, and is keen to work with Ford Park Cemetery Trust to clear the land.
All the babies were laid to rest between January and December 1954 after being born at the city's Freedom Fields Hospital or the Alexandra Maternity Home – except one, apparently born at home.
Yesterday The Herald was inundated with calls from people who believe their relatives may be buried in the same place.
Anne Butler, of Southway, whose mother had a stillborn baby in 1952, said: "We were surprised to read about it, very shocked really.
"My mum's baby was just taken from her and that was it, it was quite different in those days. We didn't even have a death certificate."
Diane Burnett, 65, who lives in Peverell, said: "My sister and I had a brother who was stillborn in 1955 or 1956. We never knew what happened to him.
"Mum never talked about it and it's very hard to get information. I never knew it existed, this sort of grave."
A local funeral director, who did not want to be named, said: "I am not surprised by it. In this business you realise that years ago things were not done the way they are today.
"We do our utmost to give parents something to remember their children by. Years ago they did not get that."
John Boon, chairman of the Ford Park Cemetery Trust, said: "With a small staff and limited resources the trust has achieved so much in managing the 34-acre grounds, not only as a place of burial and remembrance steeped in history, but also as a haven of peace and quiet recreation.
"It is an historic cemetery where those buried, including many who died serving their country, and young children, are all remembered and treated with respect."
Mr Boon said if and when relatives identify the grave of a loved one it is immediately cleared and maintained.
He said: "I feel it right to point out that staff and volunteers, whether working on the grounds, in the office or in historical research, work extremely hard in the difficult task of keeping Ford Park Cemetery safe for the future."
If you would like to help with the clean-up effort, call Wendy Sophola on 07973 953115.
Opinion – Pages 10 & 12