In a joint ceremony in Belgium today, Geert Bourgeois, Flemish Minister-President and Flemish Minister for Immovable Heritage, along with, Sir Tim Laurence, Vice-Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), signed a multiannual premium agreement, worth nearly €4million, for the start of restoration work on 24 CWGC Military Cemeteries in Westhoek.
The total cost of the restoration program is over €6.5 million, of which €3.915.393,60 euro subsidy is assigned to the CWGC, spread over five years.
Minister-President Bourgeois said: “This cooperation with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and the necessary investment that has been linked to that, proves that Flanders has developed over the course of the last years an important heritage strategy to safeguard war heritage.
“This heritage is the last bridge between the present and the past. Reinstate, restore and preserve cemeteries, so that we can keep commemorating the thousands of casualties, long after 2018.”
Sir Tim Laurence, Vice-Chairman of the CWGC, said: “For a century, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has cared for the graves, memorials and cemeteries of those who died in both World Wars.
“Throughout our history, the cemeteries and memorials have evolved naturally – ageing gracefully but remaining true to their founding design and purpose of ensuring those who died will never be forgotten.
“However, work is now needed to ensure the very high standards expected by visitors to the sites. We are delighted that the historical, cultural and commemorative significance of these sites, and the work of the CWGC in maintaining them, is recognised in the signing of this agreement today.
“This generous grant will enable vital conservation work to take place – ensuring our cemeteries remain a fitting tribute to those who died and places to visit and remember for generations to come.”
The24 CWGC Military Cemeteries on Flemish soil were protected as a monument in 2009. Research by the CWGC in 2015-2016 showed that restoration works were necessary to maintain, restore and strengthen the heritage value of these cemeteries and memorials. This study resulted in 2017 in a maintenance plan for these 24 Flemish cemeteries, which also included better accessibility for less mobile or disabled visitors. The sites commemorate almost 31,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women.
In 2017, restoration work will start at ‘Potijze Chateau Ground & Lawn Cemetery’ and ‘Artillery Wood Cemetery’, both situated in Ieper, Belgium.
The CWGC will provide signposting to the cemeteries and new information panels on site. During the maintenance and restoration work, the sites will remain open to visitors as much as possible.
List of the Cemeteries:
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Notes for editors:
1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is a not-for-profit intergovernmental organisation, founded by Fabian Ware and constituted through Royal Charter in 1917. The key aim of the organisation is to honour the 1,700,000 men and women of the forces of the Commonwealth who died in the two world wars and ensure that their memory is never forgotten.
The Commission operates in more than 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.
The office in Ieper manages cemeteries and memorials in eleven countries in Northern Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden.)
2. Get to know the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Visit our website at www.cwgc.org
Follow us on twitter via @CWGC
Like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/commonwealthwargravescommission
Watch us on Youtube or download the CWGC app
3. Photo and other credits
Please ensure that all supplied photos, videos and other materials are credited:
“Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission” or “Courtesy of the CWGC”
Learn about our Belgium war grave tours here.