Visit Commonwealth War Graves at Harrogate Spring Flower Show 2024!

For the first time in its history, the Commonwealth War Graves will have a Show Garden at this year’s Harrogate Spring Flower Show.

Commonwealth War Graves Public Engagement Coordinator Elizabeth Smith tells us more.

The Harrogate Spring Flower Show

Over 40,000 visitors are expected to visit the Harrogate Spring Flower Show, the first major event in the national gardening calendar, which runs for 4 days from the 25th – 28th April at the Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate.

Commonwealth War Graves’ first ever Harrogate Spring Flower Show Show Garden

Digital mock up of Commonwealth War Graves show garden at Harrogate Spring Flower Show.

"11,000 Miles From Home": the Commonwealth War Graves Show Garden at the 2024 Harrogate Spring Flower Show, designed by Commission gardeners Helen Gregory 

The garden design was inspired by a chance meeting at Stonefall Cemetery, Harrogate between Commonwealth War Graves gardener Helen Gregory and Kim Komene, a visitor from New Zealand.

Kim was in Harrogate to visit the grave of Flight Sergeant Sidney William Cains who served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force until his untimely death in 1943. 

Kim’s best friend is Sidney’s great-niece and the immediate family had never been able to visit his grave so she had promised to visit on their behalf whilst touring England.

As a tribute to the many Commonwealth War Graves casualties buried far from their families, Helen and Tim Lambert, Head Gardener for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the North of England, designed a show for a Harrogate Spring Flower Show Commonwealth War Graves themed show garden entitled “11,000 Miles from Home”. 

Group of people stand on an empty pitch at Harrogate Spring Flower Show

The Commonwealth War Graves team recceing the site at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show 2024. Be sure to come and pay them a visit and see their marvellous show garden.

The garden incorporates New Zealand plants with a traditional formal planting scheme that can be recognised anywhere in Commonwealth War Graves plots in UK and Northern Europe. 

New Zealanders buried far from home

A middle aged woman with tied back grey hair, wearing a blue floral top, poses next to the CWGC headstone of Flight Sergeant Sidney Cains.Image: Kim Komene visiting Flight Sergeant Sidney William Cains' war grave at Harrogate Stonefall War Cemetery

Flight Sergeant Sidney William Cains is one of 23 New Zealanders buried at Stonefall Cemetery who lost their lives serving with the RNZAF during the Second World War. 

Sidney was killed with the whole crew of a Halifax bomber, on the night of the 14th of February 1943 on an operational flight to Cologne when an engine failed resulting in the aircraft crashing near Stillingfleet, North Yorkshire.

Sadly, for Sidney’s family in New Zealand his death occurred just months after his older brother, Private James Allen Cains was killed in July 1942 serving with the New Zealand Infantry in Egypt. 

Commonwealth War Graves commemorates James alongside 11,000 other casualties on the Alamein Memorial.   

Sidney William CainsImage: Sidney William Cains

Sidney James Tubbs, who carries the names of his two uncles who never returned from the Second World War, was moved to tears when he heard about the show garden. 

His daughter, Trish Edwards, explained that when there was a death notice from the war, a policeman would ride his horse out 30 km from the nearest town to inform the families on the farms. Her Great Granny, Gertrude Cains, saw that horse coming up her driveway on two occasions in quick succession. 

With more than 1,000 war graves, Harrogate’s Stonefall Cemetery is one of the largest CWGC sites in the North of England. The majority of burials are airmen from bomber crews who died during the Second World War. 

Commonwealth War Graves gardener, Helen Gregory said, “Without the enduring work that Commonwealth War Graves does, the graves of the crews buried at Stonefall Cemetery could have become unmarked. 

“Meeting Kim last year at the cemetery brought home to me the importance of the work that all CWGC staff do in honouring, respecting and remembering the 1.7 million casualties from across the Commonwealth who served and fell during the World Wars.”

Visit Commonwealth War Graves at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show

We hope that the garden will serve as a reminder to the visitors of the Harrogate Spring Flower Show of the consequences of war and the sacrifice paid by many from across the Commonwealth during both World Wars. 

Members of staff and volunteers will be at the garden to talk to visitors so if you are visiting the show then please visit the garden at SG01.

Tags Harrogate Flower Show Stonefall Cemetery, Harrogate