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Remember UK War Graves Too

09 November 2015

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, Communities Secretary Greg Clark is launching 'The Living Memory Project', designed to remind people of the 300,000 war graves and memorials in the UK. Many of these memorials lie in forgotten corners of graveyards; the Living Memory initiative is designed to aid their rediscovery.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:

"This year, of course, we've continued to mark the First World War's centenary with a focus on the battlefields of Northern France, Belgium and Turkey. But we should take time to remember the brave men buried and commemorated here in the UK too.

"We owe our gratitude to those men, from across the Commonwealth as well as from the British Isles, who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First and Second World Wars.

"Paying respects at the war graves of Belgium or France is a life-changing experience, but the final resting places and memorials of thousands of brave men can also be found, not far from your home, in 13,000 locations across the British Isles.

"The Living Memory Project is a fitting way to pay tribute to that sacrifice and to learn about our shared history. I'd encourage people to get involved, and discover how they can pay their own tribute."

The Living Memory Project, part-funded by the Government, is working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and thirty-six local groups around the country to create remembrance events at local war memorials.

Thirty-six groups will work with the CWGC to re-discover war graves, pay respect to the war dead, and share their research with the wider community. "We should make a positive decision to remember these brave people," said Mr Clark. "They may have died long before we were born, but they died that we could be free. Their sacrifice should inspire all of us."

The initiative will continue long after this fortnight of activity, with all communities urged to remember these hidden war heroes annually - creating a thread of memory and shared history long into the future.

CWGC Director of External Relations, Colin Kerr, said:

"The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's work overseas is well known, but here in the United Kingdom there is little awareness of the graves to be found in a staggering 13,000 locations, that commemorate over 300,000 Commonwealth dead of the two world wars.

"We believe that this is wrong, and through the Living Memory Project aim to reconnect the British public to the commemorative heritage on their doorstep.

"With the support of DCLG, the Living Memory Pilot will encourage more people to discover and visit CWGC war grave sites in the British Isles, to remember the war dead in those places from the First and Second World Wars and to share and raise awareness of these 300,000 commemorations with their wider communities.

"The aim is to roll the programme out nationwide in 2016 as part of the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Somme campaign."

The project has been devised in partnership with community engagement specialists, Big Ideas Companywww.bigideascompany.org.

Chief Executive Virginia Crompton said:

"We are proud to be contributing to such a meaningful project supporting people across the UK to discover their local war graves."

Further Information

1. At a pre-launch gathering in September at Seaford Cemetery in Sussex Jamaican-born poet, Valerie Bloom, read her specially composed poem, Nineteen, in memory of the 19 members of the British West Indies Regiment who are buried there.

Here, a hundred years from home,
A simple headstone tells our story.
In the corner of this foreign field
Where we're waiting still, for glory.

The men, all volunteers, contracted pneumonia and mumps within weeks of arriving in the British Isles and died during the winter of 1915-16. To accompany the poem, Valerie has written suggestions to help others to write remembrance poems for themselves.

2. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)

The Commission maintains the graves of the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.

The Commission operates in over 23,000 locations in 154 countries across all continents except for Antarctica.

3. The Work of the CWGC in the UK

More than 300,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women who died in the two world wars are commemorated in the United Kingdom - their graves to be found at almost 13,000 locations.

The majority of those commemorated in the UK are the men and women who died at home in military hospitals. Others may have died in operations over the United Kingdom, in training accidents or air raids or at sea in coastal waters, their bodies washed ashore.

Over 100,000 missing naval, merchant navy, and air forces casualties are commemorated on the Commission's great memorials to the missing at Chatham, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Tower Hill and Runnymede.

The graves are cared for either directly by the Commission's staff - managed from operations at our UK Office in Leamington Spa - or through contracts and arrangements with individuals, contractors and burial and church authorities.

4. The Living Memory Pilot Project 2015 is running in Reading, Bristol, Belfast, London, Perth, Manchester and Seaford in Sussex.

5. Victoria Cross Paving Stones

In addition to the CWGC 'Living Memory Project', DCLG also works on the Victoria Cross Paving Stones programme #VCPavingStones.

1. The Victoria Cross commemorative paving stones programme is a national scheme that will see every VC recipient of the First World War commemorated with a paving stone.
2.  There were 628 individuals who received the VC during the First World War.
3. 469 stones will be laid in communities in England, Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland. 145 stones will be laid in the National Memorial Arboretum in March 2015 to commemorate those born overseas. The programme will also see 35 VC recipients commemorated in the Republic of Ireland.
4. The paving stones are made of York stone Scoutmoor, a very hard-wearing British stone that is quarried near Ramsbottom. Each stone will include the name of the individual, the rank and regiment of the individual (at the time the VC was awarded) and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded.
5. The first stones will be laid on the 23 August 2014, 100 years from the first actions during the Battle of Mons that led to the award of the VC in the First World War. Five VCs were awarded on that day. The last stones will be laid in November 2018.

For more information please contact Patrick Coyne, Patrick.coyne@communities.gsi.gov.uk, or Lauren Botha, lauren.botha@communities.gsi.gov.uk.