Ambassadors honour Crimean War victims in Lewes

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The Ambassadors of both Russia and Finland were in Lewes on Saturday for a moving ceremony.

They attended the re-dedication of the Russian-Finnish Memorial in the churchyard at St John sub Castro.

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The Grade II Listed obelisk has been repaired and cleaned at a cost approaching £9,000 and paid for by the Russians and organisations based in the Åland Islands of Finland.

The church was packed as guests were welcomed by Acting Minister the Rev Richard Field, the Russian Ambassador, His Excellency Alexander Yakovenko, and the Finnish Ambassador, His Excellency Pekka Huhtaniemi.

The historical background to the memorial was given by Graham Robins, Curator of Åland Museum.

It is dedicated to the 28 Finnish soldiers who died as prisoners of war in Lewes during the Crimean War of 1854-56 and are buried in the churchyard. They were from the Åland Islands and serving in the Russian Army.

The 17ft (5.2m) high obelisk was erected in 1877 at the behest of the Emperor of Russia, Alexander II.

Andrew Goodwin, of Lewes-based Mackellar Schwerdt Architects, oversaw the permits for the memorial’s facelift and commissioned stonemason Jon Tilley, of TE Tilley Ltd, Brighton, to carry out repairs.

Saturday’s ceremony continued in the churchyard, with blessings and prayers by the Archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings, the Venerable Philip Jones (in English), the Rev Teemu Hälli (in Finnish) and the Very Rev Vadim Zakrevsky (in Russian).

Wreaths were then laid by Mr Huhtaniemi and Colonel Simo Hautala, by Mr Yakovenko and Colonel Mikhail Klimuk, and by the Premier of the Åland Islands, Camilla Gunell.

Representing Lewes at the re-dedication were Mayor Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe and the Chair of Lewes District Council, Cllr Michael Chartier.

Some 340 members of the Fusilier Grenadiers defending the fortress of Bormasund in the Baltic Sea were captured by British and French forces in August 1854 and taken to Lewes. The men were confined in the old County Gaol, which stood in North Street.