A VETERAN is honouring those who died in combat by cleaning the area’s war graves - and is encouraging others to join in the task.

Andrew Thomas, who lives in Halstead, is paying respect to fallen servicemen by cleaning their headstones around the town and surrounding villages.

The ex-serviceman, who lived in Sible Hedingham for nine years before enlisting, served in the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment from 1993 to 1999.

Andrew said he was appalled to find the area’s First and Second World War graves in an untidy condition.

Gazette: Andrew says headstones of servicemen like this need the attention they deserve

Now he is spending some of his free time cleaning the headstones of his heroes.

He said: “I have recently moved back in the Halstead district.

“I have noticed the First and Second World War graves locally aren’t in a great state.

“There are a fair few which need a good clean up.

“I did manage to clean one up recently, but time and organising is difficult.

“Each headstone and resting place belongs to a hero.

“This should not be forgotten as this is someone’s relative.”

Andrew says he simply washes the headstones with a cloth and water to wipe away the grime and make the graves look pristine.

Gazette: Andrew spent time to clean the headstone of Private Coppen

He added: “I have been to various churchyards - Braintree, Halstead, Castle Hedingham, Gesingthorpe, Gosfield - many locally.

“I have just cleaned a few with smooth cloths and water as chemicals can damage the stone.

“Most are in council cemeteries, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission owns the stones.

“I do feel that locals could help more, but it is hard work.

“The Royal British Legion can get involved as a senior armed forces charity.”

As well as cleaning headstones, Andrew has also offered to clean the Halstead War Memorial.

But his request has been denied by the Halstead Town Council.

A council spokesman said: “I have already told Andrew Thomas that such work has to be done by a specialised company.

“Therefore, we cannot ask him to do it.

“We had the memorial cleaned in 2018 and will do it again when needed.”