WWI Centenary Preparations by Commonwealth War Grave Commission
I mentioned in my opening post for 2014 that this year I would be taking a look at some of the WWI military records available to family historians in detail. The Centenary is going to be a big event over the next five years as we recall what happened and the effect it had on our families. One of the institutions highly involved in the centenary is the Commonwealth War Gave Commission (CWGC). We will learn more about their records later.
The Commonwealth War Grave Commission maintains and cares for cemeteries, monuments and memorials in over 24,000 locations in 150 countries, all commemorating Commonwealth men and women who have died in a branch of the military service since the start
of WWI. The sites may be a single headstone or a large cemetery such as Tyne Cot at Ypres in Belgium with over 7,500 headstones. Visitors to these sites have been increasing and are expected to increase dramatically with the centenary.
To prepare the CWGC has identified five “iconic” sites in France and northern Europe. These are Tyne Cot (Ypres, Belgium), St. Symphorien (Mons, Belgium), Nieuwpoort Memorial (Flanders, Belgium), Menin Gate (Ypres, Belgium), and Island of Ireland Peace Park (Messine, near Ypres, Belgium). The preparations include: replacing and re-engraving of headstones; renovating and replanting borders and gardens; replacing panels and renewing paint in the engraved names on memorials, and much more.
More details about the preparations can be read in a story entitled “War Graves commission face major WWI challenge” from December 28, 2013 issue of The Scotsman.
The CWGC publishes a monthly newsletter keeping readers informed about what is happening around the world. One story in the January 2014 issue that caught my attention referred to a grave site being located for a British Airman – Second Lieutenant Philip Frederick Cormack, 204th Squadron, Royal Air Force who until now has been commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial (meaning there is no known grave). He is in fact buried in the French Military Cemetery in Machelen, East-Flanders in Belgium. The CWGC continues to identify and locate the bodies of the fallen.
Thanks to Chris Paton at The British GENES Blog (Genealogy News & EventS) for bringing both these items to my attention.