Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Commonwealth War Graves Commission


The observances for the centenary of the start of the Battle of Passchendaele have brought  some of the Commonwealth War Grave Cemeteries on to our television screens.

The first one I visited was in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s, and in the last few years, especially while helping to write accounts of the Old Boys of the school I attended who were killed  in the First World War, have visited several in Northern France and Belgium.

I count these visits as among the most moving and humbling experiences of my life: the astonishing numbers, the youth of so many who died, the immaculate care and attention given to each cemetery and each grave.  And in addition to these  the hundreds, maybe thousands, of square meters of walls with the names of the missing whose bodies were never found.

I have no idea how the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is organised, and the websites aren't very informative on this aspect.  But I suspect its directors, if it has any, are not on massive salaries, with out-of this-world bonuses just for doing what's expected of them, it is not encumbered with fancily-phrased mission statements, targets, OFSTED-style inspections or any other of the management-speak paraphernalia which today  is deemed necessary to motivate even the humblest of organisations.

And yet it does a near-prefect job.  No one would dare suggest privatising it: or would they?

5 comments:

  1. The LL.G. Government charged relatives three pence a letter for inscriptions on the headstones, and our first female PM instigated a count of visitor signatures in each cemetery visitors book to ascertain how much maintenance should be carried out.

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    1. Thanks for that: I didn't know. I'm ashamed of Lloyd George and sorry that Mrs Thatcher managed to introduce such a crude form of assessment (like SATS). I hope it has now been dropped.

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