HEALTH and safety could stop a church from flying its flag at half mast for Remembrance Sunday - unless it can raise £10,000.

St Mary’s Church, in South Benfleet, annually shows its respects to our fallen servicemen and women like many churches around the country by lowering its flag.

Currently, this involves someone having to climb a steep ladder from the ringing chamber, into the belfry and onto the roof, in order to adjust the flag.

However, the church has been told they can no longer do this as there is no handrail or parapet, making it too dangerous.

Barry Woolfe, treasurer of St, Mary’s, said: “The church is a focal part of the south Benfleet community and at the heart of the conservation area.

“The flag from St Mary’s flies in a prominent position - you can see it from Essex Way as you come up from Canvey.

“It has a history, flags draw people together in celebration and terms of sadness.

“We would like to be able to get a new flagpole attached to the wall of the tower so it can be adjusted.”

The church has been told to do this would cost £10,000 as scaffolding would need to be put up.

The church has already raised £1,000 but is now appealing for help from the community.

There will be a big band concert on November 10 where the campaign will be launched.

A special service will also take place on Remembrance Sunday, where for the first time the church will have recognition of the commonwealth war graves it has, which the church was only made aware of not so long ago.

Father Leslie Drake, said: “The Commonwealth War Graves Commissions got in touch with us to alert us of these graves we had and we are very glad they did.

“We didn’t realise how many there were.

“We are glad to be able to respond and do something useful about it all, it’s a very happy thing.

“We have some recent veterans in our congregation so we are happy to be able to recognise that.

“The special service will take place in the church yard with the bells ringing and we will remember those that died at war.”

If you would like to contribute to the cost of the new flagpole, you can text FLAG18 £ followed by the amount you want to give - up to £10 - to 70070.

Alternatively, donations can be sent to Barry Woolfe, Hon Treasurer, St Mary the Virgin Church, 24 Crescent Road, Benfleet, SS7 1JL.