Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...


More interesting facts on Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Include this on your site/blog:

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The logo of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Abbreviation CWGC
Formation 21 May 1917
Legal status Commission
Purpose/focus Pay tribute to the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars.
Headquarters Maidenhead, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Region served Worldwide (150 countries)
President Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
Budget £43,027,498 (2008)
Website cwgc.org

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is an intergovernmental organisation of six independent member states whose principal function is to mark, record and maintain the graves, and places of commemoration, of Commonwealth of Nations military service members who died in the two World Wars.[1] The Commission is also responsible for commemorating Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action during the Second World War.[1] The Commission was founded by Fabian Ware and constituted through Royal Charter in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission.[1] The Imperial War Graves Commission amended its name to its present name in 1960.[2]

The Commission, as part of its mandate, is responsible for commemorating all Commonwealth war dead individually and equally. To this effect, the war dead are commemorated by name on either a headstone, at an identified site of a burial, or on a memorial. War dead are commemorated in a uniform and equal fashion, irrespective of military or civil rank, race or creed.

The Commission is currently responsible for the continued commemoration of 1.69 million deceased Commonwealth military service members in 150 countries.[3] Since its inception, the Commission has constructed approximately 2,500 war cemeteries and numerous memorials.[1] The Commission is currently responsible for the care of war dead at over 23,000 separate burial sites and the maintenance of more than 200 memorials worldwide.[2] In addition to commemorating Commonwealth military service members, the Commission maintains, under arrangement with applicable governments, over 40,000 non-Commonwealth war graves and over 25,000 non-war military and civilian graves.[1][3] The Commission operates through the continued financial support of the member states: United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa. The current President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.

Contents

History

Advertisements

First World War

Canadian war graves near Ypres, Belgium

On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Fabian Ware, a director of the Rio Tinto Company, found that at 45 he was too old to join the British Army.[4] He used the influence of Rio Tinto chairman, Viscount Milner, to become the commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross. He arrived in France in September 1914 and whilst there was struck by the lack of any official mechanism for marking the graves of those who had been killed and felt compelled to create the organisation within the Red Cross for this purpose. In 1915, his work was given official recognition by the Imperial War Office and the unit was transferred to the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission.[5] By October 1915, the new Graves Registration Commission had over 31,000 graves registered and 50,000 by May 1916.[6]

As reports of the grave registration work became public, the commission began to receive letters of enquiry and requests for photographs of graves from relatives of deceased soldiers.[7] In March 1915, the commission, with the support of the Red Cross, began to dispatch photographic prints and useful locational information in answer to the requests.[7] The Graves Registration Commission became the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries in the spring of 1916 in recognition of the fact that the scope of work began to extend beyond simple grave registration and began to include responding to enquiries from relatives of those killed.[7] The directorate's work was also extended beyond the Western Front and into other theatres of war, with units deployed in Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia.[7]

Formal establishment

Carving of headstones by hand would take a week

As the war continued, Ware and others became concerned about the fate of the graves in the post-war period. Upon the suggestion by the British Army, the National Committee for the Care of Soldiers Graves was appointed by the British government in January 1916, with Edward, Prince of Wales agreeing to serve as president.[8] The National Committee for the Care of Soldiers’ Graves was created with the intention of taking over the work of the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries after the war.[9] The government felt that it was more appropriate to entrust the work to a specially appointed body rather than to any existing government department.[9] By early 1917 a number of members of the committee believed a formal imperial organisation would be needed to care for the graves. With the help of Edward, Prince of Wales, Ware submitted a memorandum to the Imperial War Conference in 1917 suggesting that an imperial organisation be constituted under Royal Charter.[9][10] The suggestion was accepted and on 21 May 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter, with Edward, Prince of Wales serving as president, Secretary of State for War Lord Derby as chairman and Ware as vice-chairman.[1][10]

The Commission's undertakings began in earnest at the end of the First World War. Once land for cemeteries and memorials had been guaranteed, the enormous task of recording the details of the dead could begin. By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave. A committee under Frederic Kenyon, Director of the British Museum, presented a report in November 1918 on how the cemeteries should be developed. Two key elements of this report were that bodies should not be repatriated and that uniform memorials should be used to avoid class distinctions. Beyond the logistical nightmare of returning home so many corpses, it was felt that repatriation would conflict with the feeling of brotherhood that had developed between all serving ranks. Both of these issues generated considerable public discussion, which eventually led to a heated debate in Parliament on 4 May 1920.[11] The matter was eventually settled with Kenyon's proposal being accepted.

First cemeteries

Three of the most eminent architects of their day, Sir Herbert Baker, Sir Reginald Blomfield, and Sir Edwin Lutyens were commissioned to design the cemeteries and memorials. Following the principals outline in the Frederic Kenyon report, the Commission built three experimental cemeteries at Le Treport, Forceville and Louvencourt. Of these, the one located at Forceville was agreed to be the most successful. Having consulted with garden designer Gertrude Jekyl, the architects created a walled cemetery with uniform headstones in a garden setting, augmented by Blomfield’s Cross of Sacrifice and Lutyens’ Stone of Remembrance.[1] After some adjustments, Forceville became the template for the Commission’s building program. At the end of 1919, the Commission had spent £7,500, and this figure rose to £250,000 in 1920 as construction of cemeteries and memorials increased. 4,000 headstones a week were being sent to France in 1923. In 1927, when the majority of construction had been completed, over 500 cemeteries had been built, with 400,000 headstones and 1,000 Crosses of Sacrifice. In many cases small cemeteries were closed and the graves concentrated in larger ones. The cemetery building and grave concentration programme was completed in 1938, just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Second World War

The first Second World War cemetery, Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery

From the start of the Second World War in 1939, the Commission had a graves registration unit. With the increased number of civilian casualties compared with the First World War, Winston Churchill agreed to Ware's proposal that the Commission also maintain a record of Commonwealth civilian war deaths. This book, containing the names of nearly 67,000 men, women and children, has been kept in Westminster Abbey since 1956. When the war began turning toward the Allies favour, the Commission was able to begin restoring its 1914-1918 cemeteries and memorials to their pre-war standard. So too, it began the task of commemorating the 600,000 Commonwealth casualties from the Second World War. In 1949, the commission completed Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, the first of 559 new cemeteries and 36 new memorials. Eventually, over 350,000 new headstones were erected. The wider scale of the Second World War, coupled with manpower shortages and unrest in some countries, meant that the construction programme was not completed until the 1960s.

Burial sites and memorials

The Commission is currently responsible for the continued commemoration of 1.69 million deceased Commonwealth military service members in 150 countries and approximately 67,000 civilians who died as a result of enemy action during the Second World War.[1][3] Commonwealth military service members are commemorated by name on either a headstone, at an identified site of a burial, or on a memorial. As a result, the Commission is currently responsible for the care of war dead at over 23,000 separate burial sites and maintenance of more than 200 memorials worldwide.[2] The vast majority of burial sites are pre-existing communal cemeteries located in the United Kingdom, however the Commission has itself constructed approximately 2,500 war cemeteries worldwide.[1][12] The Commission has also constructed or commissioned memorials to commemorate the dead who have no known grave, the largest of these is the Thiepval Memorial.

The Commission only commemorates those who have died during the designated war years, while in Commonwealth military service or of causes attributable to service. The applicable periods of consideration are 4 August 1914 to 31 August 1921 for the First World War and 3 September 1939 to 31 December 1947 for Second World War.[3] Civilians who died as a result of enemy action during the Second World War are commemorated differently that those that died as a result of military service. They are commemorated by name through the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour located in St George’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey.[3] In addition to its mandated duties, the Commission maintains, under arrangement with applicable governments, over 40,000 non-Commonwealth war graves and over 25,000 non-war military and civilian graves.[1][3]

Cemetery design

Architecture

Structural design has always played an important part in the Commission’s cemeteries. A typical cemetery is surrounded by a masonry wall with an entrance through wrought iron gates. In larger sites a stainless steel notice gives details of the respective military campaign. In all but the smallest cemeteries, a bronze register box is present containing an inventory of the burials and a plan of the plots and rows. Cemeteries of more than 40 graves have a Cross of Sacrifice designed by architect Reginald Blomfield. A simple cross embedded with a bronze sword and mounted on an octagonal base to represent the faith of the majority of commemorations. Those with more than 1000 burials have a Stone of Remembrance, designed by Edwin Lutyens, to commemorate those of all faiths and none respectively. The geometry of the structure was based on studies of the Parthenon and steers purposefully clear of shapes associated with any particular religion.

The Stone of Remembrance, a feature of larger cemeteries

Individual graves are arranged, where possible, in straight rows and marked by uniform headstones, the vast majority of which are made of Portland stone. Unlike French, German, or American graves, the headstones are rectangles with rounded tops. Most headstones are inscribed with a cross, except for those deceased known to be atheist or non-Christian. Differentiated only by their inscriptions: the national emblem or regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty is inscribed above an appropriate religious symbol and a more personal dedication chosen by relatives. Many gravestones are for unidentified casualties; they consequently bear only what could be discovered from the body.

In places prone to extreme weather or earthquakes, such as Thailand and Turkey, stone-faced pedestal markers are used instead of the normal headstones and the freestanding Cross of Sacrifice is replaced with one built into a wall. These measures are intended to prevent masonary being damaged during earthquakes or sinking into sodden ground.[13] In Struma Military Cemetery, in Greece, to avoid risk of earthquake damage, small headstones are laid flat on the ground.[14] The smaller size of the markers mean that they lack unit insignia.[13][15]

Horticulture

Roses around headstones in Menin Road South Military Cemetery, Belgium

Commission cemeteries are distinctive in treating floriculture as an integral part of the cemetery design. Originally, the horticultural concept was to create an environment where visitors could experience a sense of peace in a setting, in contrast to traditionally bleak graveyards.[16] Recommendations given by the Assistant Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew enabled the Commission to develop cemetery layouts and architectural structures that took into account the placement of suitable plant life. Combining structural and horticultural elements was not unfamiliar to the Commission’s architects. Sir Edwin Lutyens furthered his long-standing working relationship with horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll, whose devotion to traditional cottage garden plants and roses greatly influenced the appearance of the cemeteries.[16] Where possible, indigenous plants were utilised to enhance sentimental associations with the gardens of home.[16]

Variety in texture, height and timing of floral display were equally important horticultural considerations. The beds around each headstone is planted with a mixture of floribunda roses and herbaceous perennials. Low-growing plants are chosen for areas immediately in front of headstones, ensuring that inscriptions are not obscured and preventing soil from splashing back during rain. In cemeteries where there are pedestal grave markers, dwarf varieties of plants are used instead.[16]

The absence of any form of paving between the headstone rows contributes to the simplicity of the cemetery designs. Lawn paths add to the garden ambiance, and are irrigated during the dry season in countries where there is insufficient rain. Where irrigation is inappropriate or impractical, dry landscaping is an ecological alternative favoured by the Commission’s horticulturists, as is the case in Iraq. Drier areas require a different approach not only for lawns, but also to plants and styles of planting. Similarly, there are separate horticultural considerations in tropical climates. When many cemeteries are concentrated within a limited area, like along the Western Front or Gallipoli peninsula, mobile teams of gardeners operate from a local base. Elsewhere, larger cemeteries have their own dedicated staff while small cemeteries are usually tended by a single gardener working part time.

Financing

The CWGC's work is funded predominantly by grants from the governments of the six member states. In the fiscal year 2007/08, these grants amounted to £43m.[17] The contribution from each country is proportionate to the number of graves maintained, as follows:

Country Value of grants
(£ m)
 % of total
United Kingdom
33.7
78.4
Canada
4.3
10.1
Australia
2.6
6.1
New Zealand
0.9
2.1
South Africa
0.9
2.1
India
0.5
1.2
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission[17]

Vandalism

CWGC cemeteries are generally respected as humanitarian, non-political sites, and instances of vandalism and desecration appear to be rare; when they do occur they tend to make news in Commonwealth countries.

Accusations of vandalism of Imperial war graves were levelled at Nazi Germany after their victory in the Battle of France. On 2 June 1940, Adolf Hitler visited the Vimy Memorial to show that it had not been vandalised or destroyed by German troops.[18]

Vandals defaced the central memorial of the Etaples Military Cemetery in northern France with anti-British and anti-American graffiti on 20 March 2003 immediately after the beginning of the Iraq War. The many war graves that the Commission looked after in Iraq were left to fall into disrepair after Saddam Hussein banned the Commission from visiting the graveyards after the first Gulf War.[19] On 9 May 2004 thirty-three headstones were demolished in the Gaza cemetery, which contains 3,691 graves,[20] allegedly in retaliation for the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.[21]

In November 2008, nineteen headstones at the Wagga Wagga War Cemetery were desecrated by vandals. On 1 April 2009 the nineteen headstones were restored at a cost of AU$7500 with AU$10,000 reward on offer for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the attack.[22]

In late March 2009, vandals desecrated eight headstones at the Albury War Cemetery, in Albury, New South Wales, which was found by a member of the Office of Australian War Graves. Replacement headstones will cost AU$2000 each and take up to eight weeks to replace with ANZAC Day five weeks before the expected replacements to arrive.[23]

Current Projects

A project is underway to photograph the graves of and memorials to all service personnel from 1914 to the present day and make the images available to the public. The work is being carried out by the The War Graves Photographic Project[1] in conjunction with the CWGC. The project has thus far recorded 1,000,000 photographs for posterity.[24]

Since an initial archaeological investigation in 2008, the Commission has been working with the British and Australian authorities to plan the recovery of between 250 and 400 casualties from previously unidentified mass graves resulting from the Battle of Fromelles. Recovery operations began in May 2009, and it is expected that by July 2010 all remains will have been reburied in individual graves in a new CWGC cemetery close by (the first since the end of the Second World War).[25][26]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Peaslee p. 300
  2. ^ a b c Gibson & Ward p. 63
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Facts and figures". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/content.asp?menuid=2&submenuid=50&id=50&menuname=Facts%20and%20figures&menu=sub. Retrieved 2009-12-15.  
  4. ^ "Major General Sir Fabian Ware". Ministry of Defence Veterans Agency. http://www.veterans-uk.info/remembrance/ware.html. Retrieved 2008-05-26.  
  5. ^ "Major General Sir Fabian Ware". Ministry of Defence Veterans Agency. http://www.veteransagency.mod.uk/remembrance/ware.html. Retrieved 2006-09-15.  
  6. ^ "Records". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/content.asp?menuid=2&submenuid=11&id=11&menuname=Records&menu=sub. Retrieved 2006-09-15.  
  7. ^ a b c d Summers p. 15
  8. ^ Summers pp. 15-16
  9. ^ a b c "WO 32/9433 - Text of Memorandum put before the Imperial War Conference in April 1917", The Catalogue, The National Archives. Retrieved on 15 December 2009.
  10. ^ a b Summers p. 16
  11. ^ Imperial War Graves Commission HC Deb 04 May 1920 vol 128 cc1929-72, Hansard, Parliament of the United Kingdom, 4 May 1920. Retrieved on 15 December 2009
  12. ^ "Annual Report 2007-2008 Finances, Statistics, Service" (PDF). Commonwealth War Graves Commission. pp. 48-52. http://www.cwgc.org/admin/files/Finances,%20Statistics%20and%20Service.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-21.  
  13. ^ a b "Features of Commonwealth War Cemeteries" (Word document). Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/admin/files/Features%20of%20Commonwealth%20War%20Cemeteries.doc. Retrieved 2009-05-23.  
  14. ^ "Charles Usher Kilner". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/education/life_death_pop/ussher/rem.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-23.  
  15. ^ "Haidar Pasha Cemetery" (PDF). Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/admin/files/cwgc_haidar.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-23.  
  16. ^ a b c d "Horticulture". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/content.asp?menuid=2&submenuid=9&id=9&menuname=Horticulture&menu=sub. Retrieved 2006-09-15.  
  17. ^ a b "The Commission Finances" (PDF). Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/admin/files/Finances.pdf. Retrieved 2006-08-15.  
  18. ^ "Vimy War Memorial Gallery". Harry Palmer. http://www.harrypalmergallery.ab.ca/galwarvimy/galwarvimy.html. Retrieved 2006-10-17.  
  19. ^ "French Plea as cemetery defaced". BBC. 2003-04-01. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2907701.stm. Retrieved 2007-10-30.  
  20. ^ "Gaza War Cemetery". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. http://www.cwgc.org/search/cemetery_details.aspx?cemetery=71701&mode=1. Retrieved 2006-09-15.  
  21. ^ Lynfield, Ben (2004-05-11). "Palestinians vandalise UK war graves". The Scotsman. http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=1183&id=535772004. Retrieved 2006-09-15.  
  22. ^ Holliday, Rebekah (2009-04-02). "Vandals show ‘no respect’". The Daily Advertiser. http://www.dailyadvertiser.com.au/news/local/news/general/vandals-show-no-respect/1476611.aspx. Retrieved 2009-04-05.  
  23. ^ Tucker, Breanna (2009-04-01). "Despicable ... Albury war graves smashed". Albury, New South Wales: The Border Mail. http://www.bordermail.com.au/news/local/news/general/despicable-albury-war-graves-smashed/1475495.aspx?storypage=0. Retrieved 2009-04-05.  
  24. ^ "About The War Graves Photographic Project". http://www.twgpp.org/the_war_graves_photographic_project.php. Retrieved 2008-08-13.  
  25. ^ "Recovery of Fromelles WWI dead begins". Ministry of Defence. 6 May 2009. http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/HistoryAndHonour/RecoveryOfFromellesWwiDeadBegins.htm. Retrieved 8 May 2009.  
  26. ^ "Remembering Fromelles—Homepage". CWGC. http://www.cwgc.org/fromelles/?page=english/homepage.  

Notes

References

  • Gibson, T. A. Edwin; Ward, G. Kingsley (1989). Courage Remembered: The Story Behind the Construction and Maintenance of the Commonwealth's Military Cemeteries and Memorials of the Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. London: Stationery Office Books. ISBN 0117726087.  
  • Peaslee, Amos Jenkins (1974). International Governmental Organizations. 2 (3rd ed.). London: Martinus Nijhoff. ISBN 9024716012.  
  • Summers, Julie (2007). Remembered: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. London: Merrell. ISBN 1858943744.  

External links


Genealogy

Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

The Azmak Cemetery, near Suvla Bay, Turkey, contains the graves of some of the soldiers who died during the Gallipoli Campaign.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is a joint governmental organisation responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of members of the Commonwealth of Nations' military forces that died in the two world wars, to build memorials to those with no known grave, and to keep records of the war dead. The CWGC changed its name in 1960 from the Imperial War Graves Commission, which was formed in 1917 following the earlier work of the Graves Registration Commission.

Based in Maidenhead, the United Kingdom, the commission is responsible for the commemoration of 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women in 150 countries worldwide. It has constructed and maintains around 2,500 cemeteries and is responsible for Commonwealth war graves in other cemeteries. There are 73,000 such cemeteries containing Commonwealth war graves worldwide, of which over 12,000 are in the United Kingdom.[1]

The six member nations are Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Newfoundland was a founding member but ceased to have separate status in 1949, when it became a part of Canada. The President of the CWGC is HRH The Duke of Kent.

The largest cemeteries are in France and Belgium, and were built after the First World War. There are also cemeteries in the Middle East and Iraq, as a result of battles against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, and in North Africa, the Far East and Italy from the Second World War. The largest CWGC cemetery is Tyne Cot Cemetery, north of Ypres, Belgium, which contains nearly 12,000 graves; the smallest maintained isolated site contains the remains of only Rupert Brooke, on Skyros in Greece.[2] Memorials were also constructed to commemorate the dead who have no known grave; the largest of these is the Thiepval Memorial, which is 45 metres high and carries the names of over 72,000 missing servicemen from the Battle of the Somme.

A project is currently underway to photograph the graves of and memorials to all service personnel from 1914 to the present day. The work is being carried out by the British War Memorial Project in conjunction with the CWGC and the Ministry of Defence. The project has archived 500,000 photographs (as of November 2006).

Contents

Design

Architecture

The Cross of Sacrifice

Each cemetery is made up of rows of white gravestones; unlike French or German graves, these are rectangles with rounded tops, not shaped like crosses. Each stone is marked with a cross, except for those where the deceased was known to belong to another religion, in which case another symbol is engraved. If the deceased was of no religion, no religious emblem is engraved on the headstone. The graves are marked with the name, rank and unit symbol of the deceased.

In the evening
And the morning
We will remember them.

Many gravestones are for unidentified casualties; they consequently bear only what could be discovered from the body, such as "A Soldier of the Great War" or "A Soldier of the Second World War" and "Known unto God", a phrase proposed by Rudyard Kipling.

Some graves also have an additional phrase chosen by the next of kin. In the case of First World War graves, these were charged to the family at 3½ pence per letter, a significant sum in the 1920s when the headstones were erected.[3]

The cemeteries are normally surrounded by a low brick wall, often with a decorative gate over the entrance. Many have an identical limestone war memorial, called the 'Cross of Sacrifice' and designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield; these vary in height from 4.5 m to 9 m, depending on the size of the cemetery. If there are a thousand or more burials, the cemetery also contains a 'Stone of Remembrance', designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and bearing words from Ecclesiasticus: "Their name liveth for evermore". All the Stones of Remembrance are 3.5 m long and 1.5 m high, with three steps leading up to them. Each cemetery has a plaque that explains in which war the soldiers died and provides some background history. They also have a visitors' book and a register of everyone buried in the cemetery.

The Stone of Remembrance

On the Gallipoli Peninsula and in the Far East the cemeteries have slightly different design features. To prevent masonry sinking into water-sodden ground, the graves have stone-faced pedestal markers rather than headstones, and instead of a freestanding Cross of Sacrifice, the cross is built into a wall. The smaller size of the markers mean that they lack unit insignia.[4][5]

Floriculture

CWGC cemeteries are distinctive in treating floriculture as an integral part of the cemetery design. Originally the intention was to allow visitors and mourners to experience a more peaceful environment, in contrast to traditionally bleak graveyards.[6] The architects were aided by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, which information allowed the architectural designs take into account the requirements of various plants. Lutyens furthered his long-standing working relationship with Gertrude Jekyll, and her foremost expertise was employed in transforming the cemeteries into gardens of remembrance.[6]

Where possible, indigenous plants are utilised to further connection between the interred and their surroundings.[6] The beds around the headstones are planted with a mixture of floribunda roses and herbaceous perennials; short varieties are planted in front of the headstones, to avoid obscuring the details of the deceased whilst preventing soil from being thrown onto the white stone when it rains.[6]

History

The pedestal marker at Haidar Pasha Cemetery, Turkey, of an unidentified soldier killed during the First World War

On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Fabian Ware, who had been responsible for education in South Africa and a member of the board of the Rio Tinto Company, found that, at 45, he was too old to join the British Army. He used the influence of his friend, Viscount Milner, to obtain command of a Red Cross Mobile unit, arriving in France in September 1914. Whilst there he was struck by the lack of any official mechanism for marking the graves of those that were killed. He made it his task to change this, and created an organisation within the Red Cross for this purpose. This organisation was transferred (along with Ware) to the British Army in 1915.[7] By October 1915, the new Graves Registration Commission had over 31,000 graves registered, and 50,000 by May 1916.[8]

As well as recording details about graves, the organisation handled numerous requests from relatives for details or photographs of the graves, and had sent out around 12,000 photographs by 1917.[9] As the war continued, Ware became concerned about the fate of the graves after the war. With the help of Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1917 he submitted a memorandum on the subject to the Imperial War Conference. On May 21, 1917, the Imperial War Graves Commission was created by a Royal Charter, with the Prince of Wales as its President and Ware as its Vice-Chairman, a role that Ware held until 1948.

A committee under Sir Frederic Kenyon, director of the British Museum, presented a report in November 1918 on how the cemeteries should be developed. Two key elements of this were that bodies should not be repatriated and that uniform memorials should be used to avoid class distinctions. Both of these issues generated considerable public discussion, which eventually led to a heated debate in Parliament on May 4, 1920, with opponents arguing for the rights of the individual. The matter was eventually settled with Kenyon's conclusions being accepted.

Three of the most eminent architects of their day, Sir Herbert Baker, Sir Reginald Blomfield, and Sir Edwin Lutyens were commissioned to design the cemeteries and memorials. Prototype cemeteries were constructed in France, at Le Treport, Forceville and Louvencourt. All three were completed in 1920, with the one at Forceville being considered the most successful; with uniform headstones, Blomfield's Cross of Sacrifice and Lutyen's Stone of Remembrance, it became the model for all future ones.

At the end of 1919, the commission had spent £7,500, and this figure rose to £250,000 in 1920 as construction of cemeteries and memorials increased. 4,000 headstones a week were being sent to France in 1923. In 1927, when the majority of construction had been completed, over 500 cemeteries had been built, with 400,000 headstones and 1000 Crosses of Sacrifice.

In many cases small cemeteries were closed and the graves concentrated in larger ones, and further enlarged as battlefields were searched for bodies. As early as 1916, Ware had approached the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew for advice on floriculture for the cemetries. The building programme was finally completed in 1938, just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

From the start of the Second World War in 1939, the CWGC had a graves registration unit. With the increased number of civilian casualties compared with the First World War, Winston Churchill agreed to Ware's proposal that the CWGC also maintain a record of Commonwealth civilian war deaths. This book, containing the names of nearly 67,000 men, women and children, has been kept in Westminster Abbey since 1956. When the Allies liberated Northern Europe, most of the First World War cemeteries were found to be largely undamaged and the floriculture had nearly reached pre-war standards within three years.

The Second World War had produced over 600,000 Empire and Commonwealth deaths. In 1949, the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery was the first to be completed, and, eventually, over 350,000 headstones were erected. However, the wider scale of the war, coupled with manpower shortages and unrest in some countries, meant that construction of Second World War cemeteries was not complete until the 1960s. By this time, the CWGC had constructed 559 new cemeteries and 36 memorials.

Financing

The First World War Ypres Reservoir cemetery, Belgium.

The CWGC's work is funded predominantly by grants from the governments of the six member states. In the fiscal year 2004/05, these grants amounted to £38.9m.[10] The contribution from each country is proportionate to the number of graves maintained, as follows:

Country Value of grants
(£ m)
 % of total
United Kingdom
30.5
<center> 78.4
Canada <center> 3.9 <center> 10.1
Australia <center> 2.4 <center> 6.1
New Zealand <center> 0.8 <center> 2.1
South Africa <center> 0.8 <center> 2.1
India <center> 0.5 <center> 1.2
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission[10]

Vandalism

Commonwealth grave in Genes, Belgium

CWGC cemeteries are generally respected as humanitarian, non-political sites, and instances of vandalism and desecration appear to be rare; when they do occur they tend to make news in Commonwealth countries. For instance, on May 9, 2004 33 headstones were demolished in the Gaza cemetery, which contains 3691 graves,[11] allegedly in retaliation for the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.[12]

Accusations of vandalism of Imperial war graves were levelled at Nazi Germany after their victory in the Battle of France. On June 2, 1940, Adolf Hitler visited the Vimy Memorial to show that it had not been vandalised or destroyed by German troops.[13]

Vandals defaced the central memorial of the Etaples War Cemetery in northern France with anti-British and anti-American graffiti on March 20, 2003 immediately after the beginning of the Iraq War.[14]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Hannan, Rachael. Their Glory Shan't Be Blotted Out. 50connect.co.uk. Retrieved on 2006-09-15.
  2. ^ Architecture. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 2006-09-15.
  3. ^ Batten Sonia. Forgetting the Great War.
  4. ^ Haidar Pasha Cemetery (PDF). Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 2006-08-15.
  5. ^ The Gallipoli Campaign, 1915 (PDF). Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 2006-09-15.
  6. ^ a b c d Horticulture. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 2006-09-15.
  7. ^ Major General Sir Fabian Ware. Ministry of Defence Veterans Agency. Retrieved on 2006-09-15.
  8. ^ Records. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 2006-09-15.
  9. ^ A History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (PDF). Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 2006-09-15.
  10. ^ a b The Commission Finances (PDF). Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 2006-08-15.
  11. ^ Gaza War Cemetery. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 2006-09-15.
  12. ^ Lynfield, Ben. "Palestinians vandalise UK war graves", The Scotsman, 11 May 2004. Retrieved on 2006-09-15. 
  13. ^ Vimy War Memorial Gallery. Harry Palmer. Retrieved on 2006-10-17.
  14. ^ "French Plea as cemetery defaced", BBC, 1 April 2003. Retrieved on 2007-10-30. 

See also

External links

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.
Facts about Commonwealth War Graves CommissionRDF feed

This article uses material from the "Commonwealth War Graves Commission" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message