Meet the Telford mum who looks after the war graves of local fallen heroes

A Telford mum has become so dedicated to remembering the lives of war heroes that she spends hours cleaning their graves with a toothbrush.

Claire Doherty and costumed re-enactor Ben Kubiak at the Jensen memorial
Claire Doherty and costumed re-enactor Ben Kubiak at the Jensen memorial

Claire Doherty, 38, from The Rock, in Lawley, originally wanted to answer the questions of her inquisitive son, Khristian, aged 10, who is interested in history.

"He is open to learning, likes history and was and asking all kinds of questions," said Claire. "I did not know the answers and set about finding out."

The more Claire and Khristian found out about the lives and deaths of local service people, the more she wanted to make sure that the memory of their sacrifice lives on.

As well as publishing moving accounts of their lives on her Facebook page, called "keep our war heros seen", she set about cleaning the dirt from the Commonwealth War Graves.

"Their real colour is a stunning grey white, which makes them stand out even more," said Claire.

She uses only a natural brush, bamboo toothbrush and water to clean off the accumulated gunk as she fears that chemicals would damage them.

"I spend the occasional hour cleaning them and the rain can help too," said Claire.

"It is important to keep their memories alive," she added.

"I am worried that people are forgetting and I am aiming to do more. It is important to know them as people who had lives."

Claire wants to clean up the Commonwealth War Graves in the Telford and Shrewsbury area but adds that "I would do the whole country if I could".

Claire receives supportive comments and messages each week on social media and has followers in France, America and elsewhere.

"It truly is rewarding work, to be able to give these fallen heroes something back by taking care of their graves is not much but its something we all can do if we find the time to donate or do," she said.

Claire also has the satisfaction of knowing that the memories of the fallen heroes will be remembered in not only her life, but son Khristian's too.

Even her five-year-old daughter, Kourtney, is starting to show an interest in the subject, and helps out cleaning the gravestones.

After moving to Dawley Bank in December, Claire found the war grave of an RAF volunteer called Charles Taylor.

Her research unearthed that he was just 24 when he died in the Second World War as a radio operator and air gunner in Bristol Beaufighters. But as a local in Dawley he had a bicycle shop in High Street.

None of the graves she found had any poppy remembrance items, some had crosses that had been left to rot. Wreaths had faded and needed replacing.

She said: "I decided to create social media pages and a GoFundMe page to raise donations that mostly go towards the poppy shop aiding the Royal British Legion."

Claire applied to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for a sign for Charles Taylor, to acknowledge he is there. And now she's part of their volunteer project to take care of more war graves across Shropshire.

She also takes care of an American fighter pilot's memorial in Lawley Bank to second lieutenant Clifford Wallace Jensen.

He crashed his P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plan on June 20, 1944, in Lawley Bank aged only 22, while on a training mission. Sadly he died on the spot where his memorial stands.

An eye witness, Ivor Jones, who died in 2020, got Jensen’s memorial and bench put in and maintained it.

Jensen is now buried in Golden Gate national cemetery in California.

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