Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Gallipoli. Ataturk. Total of War Dead. George Lambert. Anzac. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Fabian Ware

Anzac, the landing 1915,  by George Lambert, Australian War artist
The Sphinx, 
one of the Gallipoli Campaign's most distinctive physical landmarks

Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Gallipoli

Thirty-one Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries, one French cemetery and many Ottoman cemeteries, memorials and sculptures mark the deaths of over 120,000 men during the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign on the beaches and high grounds of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Owing to possible earthquakes in Turkey, the CWGC have used stone-faced pedestals rather than normal headstones. Veterans, their families and tourists worldwide come to pay tribute. 


Particularly poignant is the Memorial at Anzac Cove which records the compassionate words of the victorious Gallipoli commander of the 19th Division, and founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, pictured with his officers there.

 ‘Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears;  your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well’.

Lone Pine Cemetery and Australian Memorial

Australian writer and war correspondent Alan Moorehead noted that during a lull after the battles of Hill 60 and Sari Bair on 29 August, exchanges of dates and sweets, cigarettes and cans of bully beef were made between the Ottoman and Allied forces.

Anzac Day on 25 April is the national day of remembrance held to commemorate the landings of the New Zealand and Australian forces in the Gallipoli peninsula. This dedication is read out at all services:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Gallipoli casualties listed by the Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs make for grim reading:

Total Allies
– United Kingdom
– France (estimated)
– Australia
– New Zealand
– British India
– Newfoundland
Ottoman empire (estimated)
Total (both sides)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission or the CWGC started off as the Graves Registration Commission in World War I on the initiative of Fabian Ware, a director of Rio Tinto.

At 45 Ware was too old to fight in the First World War but determined to do his bit for the war effort.  He joined the British Red Cross as the commander of a mobile unit in France in September 1914 and soon realised there was no system in place to register the graves of the war dead.  The Red Cross accordingly took this on then buried the casualties in individual graves.

By May 1916, 50,000 graves had been registered. The Imperial War Office soon took note, took over and transferred Ware’s unit to the British Army. Enquires and requests for photographs and whereabouts of the graves soon followed, and The Graves Registration Commission became the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries in 1916.

By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave. Ware and others were concerned about the future care of war graves, and  in 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission was established. After World War I, land was bought to build cemeteries for the dead where they lay. Distinguished architects were commissioned to design the first war cemeteries and memorials to honour the Commonwealth war dead equally, regardless of military or civil rank, race or creed.

Cross of Sacrifice

Stone of Remembrance
The War Graves cemeteries have kept to the original and elegant design of the original architects commissioned in 1917. Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the Stone of Remembrance, based on the Parthenon, for cemeteries with over 1000 dead. The Cross of Sacrifice design by Reginald Blomfield is used in smaller cemeteries Horticultural advice given at that time by a Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and celebrated gardener Gertrude Jekyl is still followed, and the cottage-garden low-growing herbaceous plants add to the peaceful, non-bleak atmosphere.

  • Cemeteries are surrounded by low walls with a wrought iron gate at the entrance. 
  • Bronze registry boxes contain an inventory of the dead and a plan of the plots and rows. 
  • Graves are in rows with grass paths and headstones of white Portland stone are inscribed   with a cross or Star of David, except for casualties known to have been atheist or non-Christian.
  • The regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death are inscribed above dedications     chosen by relations. 
  • Graves for holders of the Victoria Cross are marked with the emblem. 
  • Unidentified casualties- there are many - are marked as such or with whatever details        could be discovered from the body. 
  • At Ware’s suggestion, the CWGC also maintains a Roll of Honour in Westminster Abbey of civilians killed by enemy action in World War II.

Six Commonwealth countries:  the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa run The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, provide grants and mark, record and maintain the graves. There are now over 23,000 burial sites and cemeteries worldwide. The CWGC is also responsible for British graves from the Second Boer War in South Africa.

The ever-busy CWGC is now transferring the remains of casualties from the Battle of Fromelles for reburial in individual graves in a new military cemetery after archeologists discovered them in previously unidentified mass graves.

The War Graves Photographic Project is currently taking photos of every grave and memorial from both World Wars for posterity.

At Ware’s suggestion, the CWGC also maintains a Roll of Honour in Westminster Abbey of civilians killed by enemy action in World War II.

The deservedly much decorated Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware KCVO, KBE, CB, CMG, 1869-1949 is buried at Holy Trinity Church, Amberley, Gloucestershire and in a very nice gesture, the CWGC gave him  a CWGC-style headstone which is maintained by the Commission.