A service whistle, last used by a young officer on the battlefields of the Somme a century ago, will be sounded on 7 November to herald the launch of the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation (CWGF) – a new charity created to keep the memory of fallen servicemen and women alive.
The Foundation is the brainchild of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) – the organisation responsible for the preservation and care of records, graves and memorials to 1.7 million men and women who died during the two world wars. The CWGC, which celebrates its centenary this year, cares for war graves and memorials at 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries and territories.
The creation of the Commission in 1917 marked a major turning point in the way service personnel were honoured after death, each treated with the respect they deserve no matter their rank. Now, 100 years on, the Foundation is taking action to empower young people to carry the legacy forward for another century.
The Hon Ros Kelly is Chair of the new Foundation. She explained why it is needed: “A century after the First World War, and 75 years since the Second, we need to answer a difficult question – how can we expect a younger generation to remember those they could never have known?
The answer was to create a new charity, the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation, whose mission it is to tell the stories of those who died, and help keep their memories alive.”
CWGC Vice Chairman Sir Tim Laurence added; ““For all of us who enjoy the benefits of a free, open and just society, there is one who has died trying to defend those freedoms.”. They may have been heroes, boy soldiers, or battlefield nurses; each one has a tale to tell. The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation will help communities collect, spread and honour the stories of the men and women the CWGC commemorates and ensure that we remember those who gave their today for all our tomorrows.”
Media are invited to a poignant event on 7 November, where the impact of the generation gap and fading memories will be illustrated through a one-off, minute-long special performance. This will be followed by words from The Foundation’s Chair The Hon Ros Kelly and Commission Vice-Chair Sir Tim Laurence. Media are welcome to film the performance and share on social media with #CWGForever
The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation (CWGF) will take the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to a much wider audience by offering hands-on opportunities to get involved in various projects – including the new Internship. Education, outreach and events will help bridge the generational gap, bring the past to life and create communities of engaged people who will help keep the stories, and the memory of those who gave their lives, alive for generations to come.