26 July 2017

Meet the CWGC Centenary Interns

The first wave of interns to join the CWGC’s centenary programme have been in post at some of the Commission’s most well-known sites since the beginning of June. This week, they joined commemorations at the CWGC Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial marking the 90th anniversary of its unveiling, and have been delivering presentations about the monument at the Ieper Visitor Information Centre.

 

We found out more about three of them, as they prepare to welcome thousands of guests to commemorations marking the Centenary of Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres at the CWGC Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial and CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery on 30 and 31 July.

Jennifer Turner

From: Oxon

Based in: France

Studying: History

Why did you apply for the CWGC Centenary Interns Programme?

I applied because of my deep interest in the social and cultural history of the First and Second World Wars. At university, I enjoyed studying the processes of memorialisation that occurred after each war. I was keen to complement this knowledge by seeing how this work continues today through the CWGC, and how modern visitors experience the cemeteries and memorials. Several members of my family served in both wars, like my great-great-uncle Leonard John Kennard, who is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. I found out more about him after learning I would be based at Thiepval, and am now honoured to be able to see his name every day and share his story with visitors. 

What has been your most memorable experience so far?

The whole internship so far has been a wonderful and rewarding experience, but my favourite thing by far is working with the other interns at Thiepval and being part of such a fantastic team.

Andrew Williams

From: Wales

Based in: Belgium

Studying: BA International Relations and Politics

Why did you apply for the CWGC Centenary Interns Programme?

I saw it as a chance at a meaningful career. It’s an opportunity to commemorate the men who gave their lives. As time moves on, I can only see the relevance of the CWGC grow as its work gives future generations a chance to learn from history’s mistakes. To be able to train and work in France and Belgium offers us a real sense of prospective of our role on the world stage as a nation, as a society, and as individuals.

What has been your most memorable experience so far?

The most emotional moment I had was when I was presented a General’s coin by the ex-Minister of Defence for Canada for telling his group the story of whistling Pete (J. P. Robertson). Every day that we arrive at Tyne Cot gives us a chance to discover a new story. Our work paints a picture of the man behind each headstone or name on a memorial, and allows the visitors to see past the stone.

Tomas Smith

From: Wales

Based in: Belgium

Studying: BA History

Why did you apply for the CWGC Centenary Interns Programme?

I saw the opportunity via social media, and eagerly registered my interest. Through my studies at university, I have learnt the importance of memory and it’s shaping of cultural, religious and national identities. For many territories of the Commonwealth, the Great War served as a ‘birth of a nation’ - that these small dependents of the Empire contributed the same as any sovereign country. To witness today, nearly a century after, that these sentiments remain very strong among visitors from these nations and to guide them, and perhaps become a part of their memory, is both an honour and a privilege.

What has been your most memorable experience so far?

One particularly special encounter, was when an elderly couple from New Zealand visited. When I approached them they asked where they might find some New Zealand graves so I guided them to the N.Z Memorial to the Missing. I saw them again later and they had tears in their eyes. They took out a cutting from a local newspaper about a woman who said she had never visited the site of her grandfather’s death in the war. This couple, having no personal relation to the woman in question, saw it and with their trip to Belgium already booked, planned to find his name, photograph it and take it back to New Zealand. They said one could only imagined how it would have felt for mothers, fathers and children to never see the final resting place of their relative. They thanked me profusely for my help, insisting that if I had not shown them the memorial and the index list for the panels they would not have been able to do it.

 

More stories about Passchendaele

 Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres

9 CWGC cemeteries and memorials with a link to Passchendaele 

New story by author of War Horse to be performed at Passchendaele commemorations 

More stories about the CWGC Centenary Interns Programme

CWGC Launches New CWGC Centenary Interns Programme for 2017

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