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Bexley war hero's gravestone renovated after chance discovery
Renovation trio Douglas Fidler, Allan Nicholls and Terry Hopgood next to the gravestone of war veteran William Blazey
THE gravestone of a brave south London soldier who survived the bloodiest war in American history has been renovated after a chance discovery.
William Blazey ran away from his home in Beckenham to the United States before joining the army to fight in the US Civil War between 1861 and 1865.
He then returned to the capital and moved to Erith Road, Bexleyheath, with wife Rebecca who he married the same year. The father of three owned a confectionary shop in Mayplace Road West, now The Furze Wren pub, and died in 1921.
But it was only when former US Airforce captain and keen researcher Doug Fidler visited his Bexleyheath brother-in-law Allan Nicholls, the war veteran’s grave was found.
Mr Nicholls, 72, said: "We went down to Bexleyheath Cemetery after looking back over the records which said he should be buried there.
"We couldn't find it and started to walk away. But then I stopped and noticed the gravestone underneath a holly bush, hidden beneath piles of leaves. You could just make out the inscription on it."
According to an article printed in the Friday, March 4 1921 edition of Bexleyheath Observer and District Times to mark the couple's golden wedding anniversary, William ran away from his Beckenham home where he was living with his father in 1859 and ended up on the rough streets of Liverpool.
He was robbed of all his possessions and left lying on the road, but still boarded a sailing vessel heading for America which took 40 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean to New York.
William then joined the American Army and served with the Company G 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery and fought for the north, known as the union, against the southern slave-holding states.
The grandfather of two died on February 28, 1921 at the age of 82 and was buried next to his wife Rebecca who passed two months earlier at the age of 81.
The gravestone discovery was made a year ago and with the help of a team of volunteers headed by Tony Hopgood, the Banks Lane cemetery’s maintenance man, was cleaned, rebuilt and the inscriptions re-etched in December.
Mr Nicholls added: "It’s a bit of history in the graveyard which would be great for local school children to come down and see."
The US Civil War
- Began in 1861 when southern slave-holding states, fearing the institution of slavery was under threat in a nation governed by northern free states, split from the US after the election of President Abraham Lincoln.
- It ended in 1865 with the surrender of the southern, or Confederate forces, to the Union army and slavery was abolished by constitutional amendment the same year.
- About 750,000 Americans were killed during the conflict.