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CWGC Debt of Honour Roll / War Graves

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Location: Aberdeenshire

PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2009 10:37 am    Post subject: CWGC Debt of Honour Roll / War Graves Reply with quote

In order to try to clear up some confusion regarding the CWGC's role in relation to Official Commemoration and war graves I think the following may be of general interest to those using this section.

Principles of Official Commemoration

Equality and uniformity are the governing principles behind the official commemoration of our war and post-war dead.

These principles, together with the principle of commemoration in perpetuity, underpin the purpose and functions of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). In practical terms these principles mean that:

each of our war dead and post-war dead is commemorated individually and once only, by name, on either a grave headstone, or a plaque, or an inscription on a memorial
the headstones, plaques and memorials are maintained in perpetuity
the headstones, plaques, and memorial inscriptions are uniform
there is no distinction in style of commemoration made on the basis of military rank, civil rank or wealth of the veteran or his family.
The distinctive, orderly rows of matching headstones and plaques that characterise the CWGC cemeteries in 150 countries around the world are the principles of equality, uniformity made real and commemoration in perpetuity.

Every headstone or plaque is inscribed (where known) with the person's:
national emblem or Service Badge
name (initials and surname)
date of death
age (optional)
religious emblem (optional)
in most cases, a personal inscription chosen by relatives.

This is a standard CWGC war grave headstone which has all the elements described above.

The inscription reads
The inscription reads

S/14562 Private
Peter Robertson MM
Gordon Highlanders
30th May 1918

Will some gentle hand
In that distant land
Lay down a flower for me

The following sets out, in general terms, the criteria which CWGC are required to follow for the admission of names according to their Royal Charter. It should be remembered that the decision to add a casualty within the criteria below is not made by CWGC, it is the relevant Military Authority who make the judgement.
The details below are adapted from information given on the Great War Forum by Terry Denham.

Possible missing names generally fall into one of two categories.

(1) Those Commonwealth men/women still in service at the time of their death. These personnel automatically qualify for commemoration provided they died within the qualifying dates of 04.08.14 to 31.08.21 inclusive (03.09.39 to 31.12.47 inclusive for WW2).

(2) Those that died within the same qualifying dates but after discharge of an injury or illness caused by or exacerbated by their service during those dates. The cases qualify only if it is PROVEN to the authorities' satisfaction that death was service attributable.

Official documentary proof is required in every case.

The cases in category (1) are easier to prove and often only require a copy of the Death Certificate. This usually confirms their military status at death - the only requirement as cause of death, location of death or unit are not relevant to recognition. However, if you also have other documentation such as the Medal Index Card, medical papers, pension or service records, they all help add to the evidence.

Those in the second category are more difficult to prove and not all cases can to proven with satisfaction. Many are rejected. However, you still need the Death Certificate and as much other evidence as you can gather. A proportion of these cases will fail to gain recognition.

Items such as newspaper obituaries, family letters, family headstone and war memorial details will help as back-up material but are usually not reliable enough on their own.

Timescales for getting cases reviewed and accepted or rejected can be as little as a month or as long as three years.

There are other rules applying to a third category - the various civilian units (known as Recognised Civilian Organisations) such as the Mercantile Marine, Red Cross etc. Casualties from these organisations can qualify for recognition under certain additional circumstances. These casualties only qualify subject to rules applicable to each seperate organisation but essentially the casualties had to die on duty and of a war cause - often only whilst serving overseas with or attached to a Commonwealth military force. Their death had to occur 04.08.14 to 11.11.18 inclusive or, if they died of injuries/illness sustained during that period, by 31.08.21. Those dying in their home country can also qualify if their cause of death originated whilst serving overseas. (There are similar rules for these organisations for WW2). It is not straightforward in these cases.

Below is top section of a Non World War (NWW) headstone provided by CWGC for use in their own Cemeteries / Plots.

Image by kind permission of Terry Denham

This one is the Army / Navy style NWW stone provided by MOD for use in other locations.
This will be the type used for Field Marshall Auchinleck, discussed elsewhere recently.

Image by kind permission of Terry Denham

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
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