It’s a sorry sight, the overgrown grave of a Devizes soldier who served in the First World War.
Author Richard Broadhead, of Hilmarton, was horrified when he visited Devizes Cemetery on Monday to do research for his latest book on The Great War featuring Devizes soldiers.
He could not believe the condition of Private Herbert Ashton Gait’s grave. “I was shocked,” he said. “The headstone is laid flat and it’s been down for a while, I think a few years, and the grave is covered by weed. The headstone is supposed to be bleached white.
“It’s awful, this is a war grave that should be looked after. It’s probably one of the worst I have seen in the country.”
Mr Broadhead, 46, said Pte Gait served in the 4th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment and lived in St John’s Street with his wife, Emma. They had at least one son. Pte Gait, a fishmonger and fruiter in the town, died on February 4 1917 aged 36.
Mr Broadhead, who has written four books about Wiltshire soldiers, believes Pte Gait served in this country during World War One, possibly guarding installations. “I think Pte Gait died during training or soon after. He served enough to have a military funeral and have a headstone.,” he said.
“It’s quite a sad tale and I think quite disrespectful that we have this chap who was in the Army in Devizes, which was a military town with barracks, and nearly 100 years on he’s been forgotten.”
By contrast, in front of Pte Gait’s grave is another of Pte Henry Jordan, who died on October 25 1916. His headstone is in pristine condition.
The cemetery is run by Devizes town and parish councils but war graves are the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which inspects war graves every three years and cleans the headstones every two years.
Simon Fisher, deputy town clerk at Devizes, said he had no record of when the headstone was laid down.
A CWGC spokesman said they were taking the matter seriously and had begun an investigation into the state of the grave.