Opinion: The work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission allows us to never forget the sacrifice

There’s a fascination about cemeteries that those living near them will understand.

By Jill Buchanan
Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 3:51 pm

They are not morbid places as some would have them portrayed but rather a fascinating glimpse into the heritage of our communities.

Wander through the rows of headstones reading the names of those they commemorate and you cannot help but wonder about their lives, loves and those they left behind.

However, I often find it sad when you see a grave which lies neglected.

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The Menin Gate in Ypres, dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown

Was there no-one left to wipe away the grime or lay even the smallest floral tribute?

Sometimes there is only one name at the top of an imposing headstone and you cannot help but wonder what happened to the others in the family – do they lie somewhere else?

But there are gravestones dotted around the cemetery close to my home that, like thousands up and down the country, are kept in pristine condition.

These are the ones looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Set up over 100 years ago, it honours and cares for the graves of men and women of the Commonwealth who died in the First and Second World Wars, ensuring they will never be forgotten. There are cemeteries built at 23,000 locations all over the world and gravestones in cemeteries across the country.

We are currently in the middle of the first War Graves Week. Running from May 21-28, it is shining a light on its work and the people who keep remembrance of our war dead alive.

There is a feature on its website where you can find out about local connections to war graves merely by popping in your postcode.

I discovered that Private Herbert J. Richmond, service number 2782 who served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders died on April 25, 1915, aged only 17.

This son of Malcolm and Annie Richmond, who over 100 years ago lived in the house two up from mine, is not sadly buried in the cemetery at the bottom of our street but instead is commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, along with 54,354 others.

A young life cut short and one which should never be forgotten. And thanks to the work of the CWGC he will not be.