On War

On War
Centenary of Commonwealth War Graves
Talks / Lecture

Recording date: 
16 May 2017

Driven by the sheer scale of losses in 1914, and concerned about how war graves were marked, recorded and cared for, Fabian Ware conceived of and petitioned for the creation of the Imperial War Graves Commission. Major-General Paul Stevens reflects on the continued commemoration of those who died in war.

 

In association with the Canberra Great War Study group, the Estaminet.

Transcript

Speakers: Roger Lee (R), Major General Paul Stevens (P)

Location: National Library of Australia

Date: 16/05/2017

 

 

R:            Well good evening, ladies and gentlemen, it’s – we’ve got about 10 seconds to go before 5:30 but we might kick off anyway. My name’s Roger Lee, I’m the Chair of your session tonight. Welcome to this combined talk provided by the Estaminet which is a First World War study group based here in Canberra and also affiliated with the Western Front Association and with the National Library and it’s really pleasing to see so many of you here. Tonight’s talk – and I’ll introduce the speaker in a minute – is a good friend and colleague, a good friend of the Estaminet and a good friend of the Library, Major General Paul Stevens, who’ll be talking on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission or the Empire War Graves Commission as it originally was, in a few minutes but before then a few paid political announcements.

 

First of all my colleague and another member of the controlling soviet of the Estaminet down here, young Aaron Pegram – stand up, Aaron, Aaron has the attendance book. You don’t have to sign the attendance book if we already have your contact details. It confuses poor Aaron – he’s the Secretary –

 

A:            You can sign it.

 

R:            You can sign it but don’t put your email, sorry, okay, I’ve been given mixed instructions here. Yeah, sign it to show you were here but don’t give us your email address if we already have it ‘cause otherwise he’ll put you in twice and then you’ll get it twice so –

 

A:            It’s called spam.

 

R:            Called spam. The Estaminet Spam, that’s a great title, good title for a book. I’d also like to do a quick advertising campaign for the Western Front Association. For my sins I’m the Australian Vice President and I’ve got to be the worst Vice President in history ‘cause I do don’t do anything and one of the complaints is I’m not doing enough to push their barrow and recruit them. They’re an English-based organisation dedicated to the study of the war on the western front, 1914-1918. They produce a journal, they produce an online journal. It’s fairly – it’s very orientated towards the private soldier but there occasionally are - some fairly heavyweight articles get in them. If you’re interested in joining the Western Front Association and Peter Stanley’s a member – you're a member, aren’t you, Aaron? Please come and see me afterwards and I’ll take your details and let you know how to do it. It’s worth it just to get the monthly bulletins, it’s a good organisation. However you didn’t come here to hear that – ooh, my last church announcement, normally we give our lucky door numbers. That’s due to the largesse of Peter Stanley who being a Professor at ADFA gets lots of free goodies to give away. Aaron and I on the other hand are humble public servants and get nothing for free so tonight you miss out, sorry.

 

Okay I’d like to introduce the speaker now, if I may. Major General Paul Stevens. Paul’s a gunner, I’ve known Paul for about what, 30 years now? Paul went – joined RMC in 1964 - or entered RMC in 1964, graduated and was allocated to the Royal Australian Artillery. He saw operational service in Vietnam, 19 – just make sure I get it right – ’69 to ’70. He then commanded a 103 medium battery. He’s done the usual raft of jobs including being the Chief Instructor at the Command Staff College, the Commandant of Command Staff College, in fact. No? Never Commandant, just the CI. He eventually – he left the army with the rank of Major General at the end when he was Assistant Chief for Personnel in army and the reason he’s giving the talk tonight is when he left the army he then moved across to that great institution, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he went across there as their Director and he was there for how many years, Paul? Seemed to be forever. Five years. You kept seeing Paul, he’d pop up at Gallipoli and then you’d think oh I’ve seen Paul and then there he’d be on the western front. It was a great job. Paul’s probably the most eminently qualified person I know to talk about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission because when he went there and saw an increase in activity based on a great degree of political interest. So without anymore from me please welcome Paul to speak.

 

Applause

 

P:            Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much, Roger, for that kind introduction. When I left the army I actually went into the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as the Repatriation Commissioner which had a lot to do then with commemorations, collective commemoration and then after that I was lucky enough to be the Director of the Office of Australian War Graves. And there’s one other person in the audience tonight who’s equally qualified to talk and that’s the current Director, Ken Cork, who’s here so welcome, Ken.

 

What I’d like to do this evening is to give you an insight into war graves. It’s a big subject so I intend to talk for about 30 minutes and then leave lots of time for questions so that we can explore any particular areas that you’d like covered.

 

As the War Graves Director I was in fact – my big title was Director, Office of Australian War Graves and I was responsible in the main, I was responsible for these three things but the biggest one was official individual commemoration. And that’s the provision of war graves or commemorative plaques for eligible veterans. Who was eligible? Veterans who died during a conflict. Whatever reason, doesn’t matter, they are eligible for a war grave. And from 1922 onwards in Australia veterans of a conflict who die after that conflict of a war-caused condition are also entitled to a war grave. So we’re actually still providing war graves for World War Two veterans who might die today of a condition that they contracted during the war.

 

In providing that individual commemoration my office work very closely with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and this year we are celebrating the centenary of this Commission which began life in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission. The member nations expanded the charter of the Commission to include the Second World War. So it’s the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that provides British Commonwealth commemoration of our war-dead from both World Wars. Members pay the costs of the Commission according to the percentage of their casualties. Six per cent of the casualties commemorated by the Commission are Australian therefore we pay 6% of the operating costs. And it’s the Commission’s cemeteries that you see at places like Gallipoli or the western front or in New Guinea or indeed in Australia.

 

To carry out its work in our region the Commission originally established the ANZAC agency. The number of war-deaths in this region during the Great War was of course quite small so most of the casualties - they might have died in training or in convalescence – are actually buried in individual graves in community cemeteries. I think the only cemetery – war cemetery, built in the region was at Rabaul.

 

The Second World War was different obviously, conflict reached our shores so there are Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries in Indonesia, there are cemeteries in Papua New Guinea, there are cemeteries for casualties of conflict in Australia in places like Darwin – Adelaide River, actually, or Horn Island and there are a number of other cemeteries spread around Australia in capital cities and in proximity to training bases so the flying school down at Temora, there’s a little cemetery near there for the people who died in training accidents.

 

The ANZAC agency gave way to the Office of Australian War Graves in 1974. By this time the majority of individuals being commemorated were actually World War veterans who had died after the conflict and that was outside the charter of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. And Australia at that point also needed an agency of its own to look after the casualties of conflicts subsequent to World War Two, so Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam. That’s outside the Commission’s charter as well. We have to look after those people, the Commission does not. We didn’t cut our ties completely, the Office of Australian War Graves maintains the Commonwealth Commission cemeteries in Australia and New Guinea and it’s the point of contact for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission whenever a question comes up about something about one of Australia’s World War dead.

 

Individual commemoration as provided by the Commission or as provided by the Australian Office arose first of all in the Great War. A century beforehand, perhaps only a hero or an officer would get any individual recognition. Casualties on the battlefield were normally buried in mass graves but during the 19th century with increased public education, national media, conscript armies, citizen armies, things began to change, public expectation changed. After the American Civil War, the Union forces established cemeteries for the Union war dead and after the Franco Prussian War the Prussians and the French signed a war graves agreement by which each would look after the other’s war dead on their territory. In the Boer war the British army actually buried the casualties individually but then there was no-one to look after them so that fell to people like the Guild or the – I’ve got it written here – the League, the League of Loyal Women, volunteers looked after the war graves.

 

In the Great War, of course, armies soon faced public demand for commemoration of individuals. Bart Ziino is an Australian who investigated the Australian experience in his book called, A Distant Grief. And what he’d found was the Australian public at the time did not expect that the casualties would be repatriated but what they wanted was that they be given a decent burial and that there would be a grave for – as a focus for the family grief however remote from Australia that grave might be. Now because of the circumstances at the time they expected the government to have a part in the provision of that grave and Bart Ziino records that from 1916 onwards the Australian government recognised this responsibility and was looking for a way to fulfil it.

 

It was the Red Cross that realised earlier than most others that if they were going to meet public expectation a system of graves registration was required and on the western front within the Red Cross it was this man, Fabian Ware, who came to the fore. In 1915, he set up a registration service, in 1915 the British army said okay, we’re going to contract your Red Cross registration service to do our graves registration for us. And then, later on as the task grew bigger and bigger they put him in uniform and they took over his registration service to become the Graves Registration Commission. And later when the task got even bigger again they kept him in uniform and formed the Directorate of Graves Registration and Inquiry which was based in London and covered not only the western front but the other war fronts, Egypt, Salonica, Mesopotamia. It couldn’t cover Gallipoli because at this stage we’d withdrawn from Gallipoli so the best that the Empire could do for its graves on Gallipoli was to pursue their care through diplomatic channels which it did through the Americans first of all and the Vatican as well.

 

In 1916 the Directorate of Graves Registration and Inquiries and Ware began to turn their thoughts to permanent memorials. When the war was over by this stage the British army had banned private memorials in any military cemetery so they were looking at how they were going to handle this after the war. As a first step in this they formed a Committee for the Care of Soldiers’ Graves. This was run by the Prince of Wales and it had representatives from each of the dominions on it but it was purely – let’s call it a voluntary body, it had no status. That committee evolved in 1917 into the Imperial War Graves Commission, which was a commission operating by royal charter. It was an Empire commission, it covered all the countries of the Empire, it had all those legal niceties about being able to acquire land and build cemeteries and do all those legal things you need to do. It was the sole representative of the Empire governments in dealing with foreign countries on war graves matters and Fabian Ware, as well as being the head of the Directorate of Graves Registration and Inquiries, became its Vice Chairman, effectively its CEO and he stayed in that position until after World War Two.

 

The Imperial War Graves Commission was the first of a number of war graves commissions created after the war. Such entities were recognised in the Treaty of Versailles as authorised national agencies and governments like dealing with one agency when you’re dealing with this sort of question. The French Interior Ministry and the American Army built the French and American war graves in France before their commissions took over the running of them. Germany was in no position of course straight after the war to get involved in this field. Its commission didn’t come – didn’t take over the care until 1926 and so their war cemeteries were built by the French under the Franco Prussian War Graves Agreement.

 

The German Commission’s quite interesting, if you put that in your computer, that name in your computer it will stay German War Graves Commission. If you translate the actual words it says the People’s Federation for the Care of German War Graves which indicates it’s actually not a government institution, it’s a civil institution, it runs by subscription, by volunteers and it still does, the German government now though meets any funding shortfall.

 

The Commission didn’t begin its work in earnest until after the war and graves recovery units swept the battlefields where some had likened the number of graves to stars in the Milky Way. The Commission established its principles by which it would operate and began to build cemeteries. Note the theme of equality which permeates all those principles. The sacrifice of all, so the Commission argues, was equal and commemoration should therefore also be equal. This was not accepted without debate. The first arose over the repatriation of remains. Governments like ours had forbidden repatriation during the war and after the war didn’t allow it. But after the war private repatriation was another matter especially for people in the UK where the battlefields were close by and Canada where they were relatively close by. The Commission fought against repatriation on the grounds of equality, arguing the practice would favour the rich and disadvantage the poor. And the thing went all the way to a debate in the House of Commons in 1920 where repatriation was refused, private repatriation was refused on the grounds advanced by the Commission and on the grounds that soldiers, veterans felt that their comrades should lie on the field of battle where they fell. So the veteran voice is now playing a part in individual commemoration alongside the government and the family.

 

Other combatants of course faced similar debates. Once again Germany wasn’t in a position to do anything about repatriation but the United States allowed repatriation if the family wished and in 1920 France succumbed to public pressure and followed Belgium’s lead by allowing families to remove their loved one from a war cemetery and take them back to the local cemetery and bury them there. Some 40% of French casualties were exhumed and transported in that fashion but that still left over a million dead and missing to be commemorated in the French war cemeteries.

 

In regards to headstones there was little debate about the proposed inscription, probably because it mirrored what soldiers had already been doing, number, rank, name, force, what force or regiment did you belong to? What unit were you in? What was your date of death? And there was space for an appropriate religious symbol. The debate here centred more on the headstone shape. Private headstones were again refused but as you can see on your left soldiers had typically been buried under crosses and many relatives felt very strongly that crosses should be the permanent headstones’ shape. In the end though a tablet or a stela was chosen, shown on the right there, partly because it gave greater space for an inscription and partly because it suited those who had a religious faith and those who did not. The normal form is the vertical stone which is shown here but elsewhere, and Gallipoli is an example, horizontal or slope stones such as – or bronze plaques were used.

 

The debate over headstone shape and the debate over repatriation reflected the fundamental question of individual commemoration. Whose wishes will prevail? Will they be those of the family or will they be those of the government or in this case the Commission? The Commission won out and its war cemeteries like this one sitting on the fourth battalion parade ground at Gallipoli became tangible reminders of the war, memorials to both individual and collective memory and memorials to the achievements of the Empire forces. Some feel that families acceded to the Commission’s views because of the beauties of its cemeteries, its use of individual headstones and its promise of eternal care all of which led Empire cemeteries, as you can see there with the British flag, to be landscaped memorials with horticultural and architectural aspects to them. The Americans followed suit but the French and the German cemeteries tend to be more utilitarian, the German ones commonly featuring multiple burials under each headstone and large shade trees in the cemetery as well.

 

At an individual level the Commission also allowed a personal inscription on each headstone. Initially this was at family cost but the ruckus that that caused soon made things change and either the government or the Commission picked up the cost. It’s reading these inscriptions and imagining how you would express your loss in just 66 characters that’s one of the most poignant experiences of visiting the war cemetery.

 

This is the headstone of a Vietnam veteran and illustrates that the principles established by the Commission are still applied today. It’s another manifestation of the equality of sacrifice. That equality applies not only within conflicts but between them. That said there’ve been changes to individual commemoration and the biggest occurred when the Australian government decided in January 1966 to allow the repatriation of war dead if the family wished and with the proviso that if we ever got into another general conflict then the possibility of repatriation might be revoked. The flow-on effect has been that private commemoration of our war dead has taken precedence over collective commemoration.

 

When the repatriation rule changed there were no moves made to establish war graves – war cemeteries, I beg your pardon, for those who would return so the dead, like Sergeant Smith here, are sprinkled throughout local cemeteries, lost to collective memory in a way that their forebears from the World Wars or even those from the Korean war who are buried in a UN cemetery in Pusan are not. Some families, perhaps inadvertently, have exacerbated this lack of visibility by choosing to cremate their relative or choosing to give them a private headstone. This limits the official commemoration to a small plaque as shown here in a garden of remembrance. A lack of tangible collective memory sparks occasional calls for a national cemetery for Australia, normally citing the Arlington Cemetery in Washington as the model. Such calls usually fail to realise that Arlington is only one of 147 national cemeteries in the United States which means that in the United States veterans can be buried quite close to where their families are. We’re a big country and if we were to have a national cemetery we would probably need to have regional outliers as well.

 

So a national cemetery would be a good thing for collective memory but it could be argued also that that role is already met, it’s already met by the Australian War Memorial and in the case of Vietnam veterans it’s met by the Vietnam Memorial on ANZAC Parade and it’s met by local war memorials. So when we debate this question there's all those factors to be considered.

 

The change to repatriation has also led to calls to bring more bodies back to Australia such as operation Bring Them Home. I actually wasn’t very much in favour of this except if the cemetery in question was endangered by urban growth or some other thing or if you couldn’t get access to it, if the relatives could not get easy access to it and that’s what happened in Terendak in Malaysia and that’s why bodies were brought back from Malaysia last in about June last year. To me these overseas cemeteries are part of our history and so I think they should remain where they are. Bring Them Home too is a reminder that although individual commemoration has always been a mix of government and family, veteran interests are still there. Veterans try to speak on behalf of mates and they talk about the regimental family or the unit family. Normally in these cases the government will defer to the wishes of the actual family but things can be tricky when the veteran view and sometimes the media view is different. On this slide for example, of the 25 veterans referred to, 13 were buried in Malaysia after 1966 at the wish of the family.

 

Another fascinating feature of individual commemoration during my time was dealing with unrecovered remains and in particular the modern phenomena of searches sparked by private interest such as Lambis Englezos and the missing at Fromelles. Recovering remains is actually a defence responsibility but we inevitably became involved because we provided the grave at the end of the process and we were also involved up ‘til about my time because the finds were usually accidental and they were usually individuals so we were faced with the immediate problem of who is this person? Where should he be buried or she be buried?

 

Things began to change though just after I got into the job, five sets of remains were found during roadworks just outside Ypres and they became known as the Zonnebeke – which was the place they were found - the Zonnebeke five and this is their final grave in the war cemetery. This case caused us great headaches primarily because agreed processes weren’t followed. Instead of reporting the recovery to the Belgian War Graves Service the workmen went to the local community which with every good intention undertook the recovery as shown here. There were some troubling aspects, note the lack of protective clothing and thus the potential contamination of the DNA in the remains. Further, some personal items were taken from the gravesite and put on display in the local interpretive centre when they should have been returned to the relatives. The recovery worked in the end but it was a timely reminder of the need to follow correct procedures.

 

At this point it’s probably useful to have a quick look at the identification process. Firstly the remains are very carefully exhumed, cleaned, recorded and laid out. Forensic archaeologists can then look at them to determine height and age – that normally comes in a range – and in some cases they can see the reason for death. Personal objects may also yield clues to identification but obviously the more – this is more difficult if you only get partial remains. Meanwhile the army, navy and airforce search operational records to isolate the units that operated in the area, compile a list of personnel from those units who have no known grave and then get to work on the personnel records of those individuals to find out their height and age and anything else they can find from those records that might help identify them.

 

DNA is the last step and it’s not the magic bullet that people imagine. For a start the remains may not yield DNA and secondly it may be contaminated and thirdly you have to find a modern person from the same family who can give you a sample and then for Fromelles they had to advertise, have the families respond and then submit a family tree and then get a geneticist to look at the family tree and choose the person so it’s quite a process.

 

So Fromelles was the biggest recovery of my time. On arrival in war graves I found that Lambis had been urging us to search, and this had ended up in our laps although the army very soon took over. Defence policy at the time was that Australia would only undertake searches for the missing when there was good evidence as to location.

 

Now before I go on I should also explain that missing, the term missing has to be approached carefully. Many of the soldiers from the World Wars have no known grave and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission inscribes their name on memorials to the missing such as this one at VC Corner and if you go to those memorials you can get the impression that all those listed on that memorial have never been found. The truth is otherwise, many have indeed been recovered. There are 410 Australians buried individually underneath the forecourt of this memorial. Elsewhere others are buried in cemeteries under a headstone to an unknown soldier. We spent a lot of time analysing the records from Fromelles, the cemetery records to see if we could work out how many had not been recovered and we came up with these figures.

 

We also produced maps such as this showing where those recoveries had been made from. And you can see they mainly come from between the lines so between no man’s land, and it’s not obvious from this map but there were none recovered from the area around Pheasant Wood. Ultimately of course Lambis found an aerial photograph with the burial pits dug by the Germans on it and in due course that led to the army completing the exhumation.

 

The remains now lie in this new war cemetery at Fromelles but the whole process raised some nice philosophical questions for me. Bodies had been found but what should be done about it? They’d been there for 90 years, undisturbed, and the land in which they lay was not likely to be used. I initially thought that if we could find a German burial record then we should build the cemetery on the top, put up a monument with the names on and leave them alone. We couldn’t find such a record or the army couldn’t find such a record so the decision was made to exhume but another decision was made and that was to pursue identification as far as it was possible to pursue it and without that second decision – well that second decision was totally necessary. If we didn’t make that we should have just left them alone.

 

What makes me sad about Fromelles is that the concentration on Pheasant Wood has meant that all the others who were recovered and buried in the area have been ignored. Every one - or tend to be ignored, they haven’t been ignored, they’re there, they’re buried but people have forgotten about them. Everyone has their group of forgotten soldiers and these are mine. So if you go to Fromelles can I urge you to go to one of the local war cemeteries and tip your lid to one of these soldiers.

 

I want to move away now from individual commemoration and touch on a couple of other issues to do with memorials and collective commemoration. I came to war graves in 2006 in the wake of a controversy over the widening of the coast road at Gallipoli and also a government decision to build an interpretive centre in France. The Gallipoli road was a prime example of how veterans’ matters can quickly build ahead of community, political and media steam but that reflects a very genuine concern about the preservation of important sites in our military history. I saw it again a couple of years later with – when forestry and mining were thought to impinge on the Kokoda Track.

 

These issues do stir genuine concern but the fact is our battle fields lie in other countries and we just can’t tell those countries what to do. And we can’t hold back development particularly in places like Papua New Guinea. What we tried to do through negotiation was ensure that the principal sites were preserved, burial grounds were protected and if the battle field was to be cleared it would be cleared respectfully and we typically found the host country very sensitive and very sympathetic. The government inevitably got involved with iconic places such as Gallipoli and the Kokoda Track because at that level you need government to government agreement. Parliament is generally bipartisan but there can be times when it isn’t and if you look at the Senate Inquiry for the Gallipoli road, 2005, you’ll see that there’s a report and a minority report indicating that the parties were at loggerheads at least to some degree. Balance is hard to achieve. At Gallipoli people wanted the place left pristine but they also wanted to go there for ANZAC Day so you needed a road and they forgot that the hills are subject to erosion and so is the beach front so at some point you’re going to need stabilisation work. And they also forgot that Turkey – that Gallipoli is an iconic place for Turkey just as it’s iconic for us and so we have to take into account Turkey’s needs as well.

 

The modern services at Gallipoli grew from small gatherings in a beach cemetery in the mid-1990s conducted by one of my predecessors. This is the sort of infrastructure you need today, and it has to be bumped in and bumped out every year along with similar infrastructure for Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. By 2004/5 the task of running services with sort of logistic tale had clearly outgrown the capability of War Graves, good as we were. And the government – the roads caused a change of approach, the government gave money to DVA to have a special group look after it, employ event management contractors, set up a whole bunch of interdepartmental committees and also international meetings to run the ceremony. That’s what you have to do.

 

Today the Commemorations Branch is one of the main elements of DVA and the annual ANZAC Day services are one of its main task but it’s interesting to me that in fact government involvement in this area has followed public demand. It’s true at Gallipoli as I’ve just explained, it’s true at Sandakan in North Borneo, it’s true of the Kokoda Track and it was true at Villers-Bretonneux in France. I was actually responsible for running the first government service at Villers-Bretonneux in 2008. Two catalysts, one, it was the 90th anniversary but second, there was a very entrepreneurial Australian tour group that was advertising a dawn service complete with re-enactments, advertising it as a first and completely ignoring the fact that the local community had run an ANZAC Day service for 40 years albeit they ran it on the closest weekend, not on the day itself. So we needed to avoid ill feeling and we needed to avoid one group potentially monopolising the service at the expense of others as had happened on the Kokoda Track. In 2008 we actually held both services but the community has since accepted the Australian dawn service as its own.

 

The site at VB is perfect for ceremonies and the local infrastructure’s much better than Gallipoli which means you can achieve a much more traditional feel because you don’t have attendees onsite overnight with the consequential safety and lighting and other educational programs. Our difficulty lay in how are we going to differentiate this service from the Gallipoli one which was televised immediately beforehand? They’re all government services, they all have the same format roughly. So what we decided to do was to feature youth and veterans and the French and include a public wreath-laying. I haven’t seen the service because I’ve been busy for the last couple of years but hopefully that’s still going but you do need a point of difference.

 

Villers-Bretonneux is now the site of the new John Monash Centre, Australia’s interpretive centre on the western front and for me the wheels turn full circle. I began my involvement with war graves doing a feasibility study for such a centre and I concluded the case was not compelling. The only possible locations were Villers-Bretonneux or Pozieres, there was a surfeit of interpretive centres and memorials already at Pozieres and Villers-Bretonneux is actually off the beaten track for any tourist other than Australians and there weren’t enough of us going in those days to justify it. That was my logic, the government of the time decided to proceed and so we began the design process.

 

The Rudd Government wasn’t convinced, and the project changed to creating a trail along the Western Front, by assisting local communities at Villers-Bretonneux, Peron, Bullecourt, Fromelles, Plougastel, Ypres, and Zonnebeke, all underlined here in red to upgrade their local museums and then link those museums to nearby Australian and other national memorials. I thought that’s a great idea, because to me the charm of the Front is visiting those local communities and seeing how even now they honour our forebears. The Monash Centre – the trail’s gone ahead in leaps and bounds, I understand, and the Monash Centre is now planned to be its hub.

 

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to finish there. I hope what I presented to you has given you a view of the big picture of war graves and an insight into what’s a large and fascinating area. I’ll be interested in your questions but before I take them could I just pay tribute to the War Graves staff because they were in my time and they are now, ‘cause I know most of them, still outstanding. So thank you and if there’s any questions I’d be happy to take them.

 

Applause

 

End of recording

Speakers: Roger Lee (R), Major General Paul Stevens (P)

Location: National Library of Australia

Date: 16/05/2017

 

 

R:            Well good evening, ladies and gentlemen, it’s – we’ve got about 10 seconds to go before 5:30 but we might kick off anyway. My name’s Roger Lee, I’m the Chair of your session tonight. Welcome to this combined talk provided by the Estaminet which is a First World War study group based here in Canberra and also affiliated with the Western Front Association and with the National Library and it’s really pleasing to see so many of you here. Tonight’s talk – and I’ll introduce the speaker in a minute – is a good friend and colleague, a good friend of the Estaminet and a good friend of the Library, Major General Paul Stevens, who’ll be talking on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission or the Empire War Graves Commission as it originally was, in a few minutes but before then a few paid political announcements.

 

First of all my colleague and another member of the controlling soviet of the Estaminet down here, young Aaron Pegram – stand up, Aaron, Aaron has the attendance book. You don’t have to sign the attendance book if we already have your contact details. It confuses poor Aaron – he’s the Secretary –

 

A:            You can sign it.

 

R:            You can sign it but don’t put your email, sorry, okay, I’ve been given mixed instructions here. Yeah, sign it to show you were here but don’t give us your email address if we already have it ‘cause otherwise he’ll put you in twice and then you’ll get it twice so –

 

A:            It’s called spam.

 

R:            Called spam. The Estaminet Spam, that’s a great title, good title for a book. I’d also like to do a quick advertising campaign for the Western Front Association. For my sins I’m the Australian Vice President and I’ve got to be the worst Vice President in history ‘cause I do don’t do anything and one of the complaints is I’m not doing enough to push their barrow and recruit them. They’re an English-based organisation dedicated to the study of the war on the western front, 1914-1918. They produce a journal, they produce an online journal. It’s fairly – it’s very orientated towards the private soldier but there occasionally are - some fairly heavyweight articles get in them. If you’re interested in joining the Western Front Association and Peter Stanley’s a member – you're a member, aren’t you, Aaron? Please come and see me afterwards and I’ll take your details and let you know how to do it. It’s worth it just to get the monthly bulletins, it’s a good organisation. However you didn’t come here to hear that – ooh, my last church announcement, normally we give our lucky door numbers. That’s due to the largesse of Peter Stanley who being a Professor at ADFA gets lots of free goodies to give away. Aaron and I on the other hand are humble public servants and get nothing for free so tonight you miss out, sorry.

 

Okay I’d like to introduce the speaker now, if I may. Major General Paul Stevens. Paul’s a gunner, I’ve known Paul for about what, 30 years now? Paul went – joined RMC in 1964 - or entered RMC in 1964, graduated and was allocated to the Royal Australian Artillery. He saw operational service in Vietnam, 19 – just make sure I get it right – ’69 to ’70. He then commanded a 103 medium battery. He’s done the usual raft of jobs including being the Chief Instructor at the Command Staff College, the Commandant of Command Staff College, in fact. No? Never Commandant, just the CI. He eventually – he left the army with the rank of Major General at the end when he was Assistant Chief for Personnel in army and the reason he’s giving the talk tonight is when he left the army he then moved across to that great institution, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he went across there as their Director and he was there for how many years, Paul? Seemed to be forever. Five years. You kept seeing Paul, he’d pop up at Gallipoli and then you’d think oh I’ve seen Paul and then there he’d be on the western front. It was a great job. Paul’s probably the most eminently qualified person I know to talk about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission because when he went there and saw an increase in activity based on a great degree of political interest. So without anymore from me please welcome Paul to speak.

 

Applause

 

P:            Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much, Roger, for that kind introduction. When I left the army I actually went into the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as the Repatriation Commissioner which had a lot to do then with commemorations, collective commemoration and then after that I was lucky enough to be the Director of the Office of Australian War Graves. And there’s one other person in the audience tonight who’s equally qualified to talk and that’s the current Director, Ken Cork, who’s here so welcome, Ken.

 

What I’d like to do this evening is to give you an insight into war graves. It’s a big subject so I intend to talk for about 30 minutes and then leave lots of time for questions so that we can explore any particular areas that you’d like covered.

 

As the War Graves Director I was in fact – my big title was Director, Office of Australian War Graves and I was responsible in the main, I was responsible for these three things but the biggest one was official individual commemoration. And that’s the provision of war graves or commemorative plaques for eligible veterans. Who was eligible? Veterans who died during a conflict. Whatever reason, doesn’t matter, they are eligible for a war grave. And from 1922 onwards in Australia veterans of a conflict who die after that conflict of a war-caused condition are also entitled to a war grave. So we’re actually still providing war graves for World War Two veterans who might die today of a condition that they contracted during the war.

 

In providing that individual commemoration my office work very closely with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and this year we are celebrating the centenary of this Commission which began life in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission. The member nations expanded the charter of the Commission to include the Second World War. So it’s the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that provides British Commonwealth commemoration of our war-dead from both World Wars. Members pay the costs of the Commission according to the percentage of their casualties. Six per cent of the casualties commemorated by the Commission are Australian therefore we pay 6% of the operating costs. And it’s the Commission’s cemeteries that you see at places like Gallipoli or the western front or in New Guinea or indeed in Australia.

 

To carry out its work in our region the Commission originally established the ANZAC agency. The number of war-deaths in this region during the Great War was of course quite small so most of the casualties - they might have died in training or in convalescence – are actually buried in individual graves in community cemeteries. I think the only cemetery – war cemetery, built in the region was at Rabaul.

 

The Second World War was different obviously, conflict reached our shores so there are Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries in Indonesia, there are cemeteries in Papua New Guinea, there are cemeteries for casualties of conflict in Australia in places like Darwin – Adelaide River, actually, or Horn Island and there are a number of other cemeteries spread around Australia in capital cities and in proximity to training bases so the flying school down at Temora, there’s a little cemetery near there for the people who died in training accidents.

 

The ANZAC agency gave way to the Office of Australian War Graves in 1974. By this time the majority of individuals being commemorated were actually World War veterans who had died after the conflict and that was outside the charter of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. And Australia at that point also needed an agency of its own to look after the casualties of conflicts subsequent to World War Two, so Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam. That’s outside the Commission’s charter as well. We have to look after those people, the Commission does not. We didn’t cut our ties completely, the Office of Australian War Graves maintains the Commonwealth Commission cemeteries in Australia and New Guinea and it’s the point of contact for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission whenever a question comes up about something about one of Australia’s World War dead.

 

Individual commemoration as provided by the Commission or as provided by the Australian Office arose first of all in the Great War. A century beforehand, perhaps only a hero or an officer would get any individual recognition. Casualties on the battlefield were normally buried in mass graves but during the 19th century with increased public education, national media, conscript armies, citizen armies, things began to change, public expectation changed. After the American Civil War, the Union forces established cemeteries for the Union war dead and after the Franco Prussian War the Prussians and the French signed a war graves agreement by which each would look after the other’s war dead on their territory. In the Boer war the British army actually buried the casualties individually but then there was no-one to look after them so that fell to people like the Guild or the – I’ve got it written here – the League, the League of Loyal Women, volunteers looked after the war graves.

 

In the Great War, of course, armies soon faced public demand for commemoration of individuals. Bart Ziino is an Australian who investigated the Australian experience in his book called, A Distant Grief. And what he’d found was the Australian public at the time did not expect that the casualties would be repatriated but what they wanted was that they be given a decent burial and that there would be a grave for – as a focus for the family grief however remote from Australia that grave might be. Now because of the circumstances at the time they expected the government to have a part in the provision of that grave and Bart Ziino records that from 1916 onwards the Australian government recognised this responsibility and was looking for a way to fulfil it.

 

It was the Red Cross that realised earlier than most others that if they were going to meet public expectation a system of graves registration was required and on the western front within the Red Cross it was this man, Fabian Ware, who came to the fore. In 1915, he set up a registration service, in 1915 the British army said okay, we’re going to contract your Red Cross registration service to do our graves registration for us. And then, later on as the task grew bigger and bigger they put him in uniform and they took over his registration service to become the Graves Registration Commission. And later when the task got even bigger again they kept him in uniform and formed the Directorate of Graves Registration and Inquiry which was based in London and covered not only the western front but the other war fronts, Egypt, Salonica, Mesopotamia. It couldn’t cover Gallipoli because at this stage we’d withdrawn from Gallipoli so the best that the Empire could do for its graves on Gallipoli was to pursue their care through diplomatic channels which it did through the Americans first of all and the Vatican as well.

 

In 1916 the Directorate of Graves Registration and Inquiries and Ware began to turn their thoughts to permanent memorials. When the war was over by this stage the British army had banned private memorials in any military cemetery so they were looking at how they were going to handle this after the war. As a first step in this they formed a Committee for the Care of Soldiers’ Graves. This was run by the Prince of Wales and it had representatives from each of the dominions on it but it was purely – let’s call it a voluntary body, it had no status. That committee evolved in 1917 into the Imperial War Graves Commission, which was a commission operating by royal charter. It was an Empire commission, it covered all the countries of the Empire, it had all those legal niceties about being able to acquire land and build cemeteries and do all those legal things you need to do. It was the sole representative of the Empire governments in dealing with foreign countries on war graves matters and Fabian Ware, as well as being the head of the Directorate of Graves Registration and Inquiries, became its Vice Chairman, effectively its CEO and he stayed in that position until after World War Two.

 

The Imperial War Graves Commission was the first of a number of war graves commissions created after the war. Such entities were recognised in the Treaty of Versailles as authorised national agencies and governments like dealing with one agency when you’re dealing with this sort of question. The French Interior Ministry and the American Army built the French and American war graves in France before their commissions took over the running of them. Germany was in no position of course straight after the war to get involved in this field. Its commission didn’t come – didn’t take over the care until 1926 and so their war cemeteries were built by the French under the Franco Prussian War Graves Agreement.

 

The German Commission’s quite interesting, if you put that in your computer, that name in your computer it will stay German War Graves Commission. If you translate the actual words it says the People’s Federation for the Care of German War Graves which indicates it’s actually not a government institution, it’s a civil institution, it runs by subscription, by volunteers and it still does, the German government now though meets any funding shortfall.

 

The Commission didn’t begin its work in earnest until after the war and graves recovery units swept the battlefields where some had likened the number of graves to stars in the Milky Way. The Commission established its principles by which it would operate and began to build cemeteries. Note the theme of equality which permeates all those principles. The sacrifice of all, so the Commission argues, was equal and commemoration should therefore also be equal. This was not accepted without debate. The first arose over the repatriation of remains. Governments like ours had forbidden repatriation during the war and after the war didn’t allow it. But after the war private repatriation was another matter especially for people in the UK where the battlefields were close by and Canada where they were relatively close by. The Commission fought against repatriation on the grounds of equality, arguing the practice would favour the rich and disadvantage the poor. And the thing went all the way to a debate in the House of Commons in 1920 where repatriation was refused, private repatriation was refused on the grounds advanced by the Commission and on the grounds that soldiers, veterans felt that their comrades should lie on the field of battle where they fell. So the veteran voice is now playing a part in individual commemoration alongside the government and the family.

 

Other combatants of course faced similar debates. Once again Germany wasn’t in a position to do anything about repatriation but the United States allowed repatriation if the family wished and in 1920 France succumbed to public pressure and followed Belgium’s lead by allowing families to remove their loved one from a war cemetery and take them back to the local cemetery and bury them there. Some 40% of French casualties were exhumed and transported in that fashion but that still left over a million dead and missing to be commemorated in the French war cemeteries.

 

In regards to headstones there was little debate about the proposed inscription, probably because it mirrored what soldiers had already been doing, number, rank, name, force, what force or regiment did you belong to? What unit were you in? What was your date of death? And there was space for an appropriate religious symbol. The debate here centred more on the headstone shape. Private headstones were again refused but as you can see on your left soldiers had typically been buried under crosses and many relatives felt very strongly that crosses should be the permanent headstones’ shape. In the end though a tablet or a stela was chosen, shown on the right there, partly because it gave greater space for an inscription and partly because it suited those who had a religious faith and those who did not. The normal form is the vertical stone which is shown here but elsewhere, and Gallipoli is an example, horizontal or slope stones such as – or bronze plaques were used.

 

The debate over headstone shape and the debate over repatriation reflected the fundamental question of individual commemoration. Whose wishes will prevail? Will they be those of the family or will they be those of the government or in this case the Commission? The Commission won out and its war cemeteries like this one sitting on the fourth battalion parade ground at Gallipoli became tangible reminders of the war, memorials to both individual and collective memory and memorials to the achievements of the Empire forces. Some feel that families acceded to the Commission’s views because of the beauties of its cemeteries, its use of individual headstones and its promise of eternal care all of which led Empire cemeteries, as you can see there with the British flag, to be landscaped memorials with horticultural and architectural aspects to them. The Americans followed suit but the French and the German cemeteries tend to be more utilitarian, the German ones commonly featuring multiple burials under each headstone and large shade trees in the cemetery as well.

 

At an individual level the Commission also allowed a personal inscription on each headstone. Initially this was at family cost but the ruckus that that caused soon made things change and either the government or the Commission picked up the cost. It’s reading these inscriptions and imagining how you would express your loss in just 66 characters that’s one of the most poignant experiences of visiting the war cemetery.

 

This is the headstone of a Vietnam veteran and illustrates that the principles established by the Commission are still applied today. It’s another manifestation of the equality of sacrifice. That equality applies not only within conflicts but between them. That said there’ve been changes to individual commemoration and the biggest occurred when the Australian government decided in January 1966 to allow the repatriation of war dead if the family wished and with the proviso that if we ever got into another general conflict then the possibility of repatriation might be revoked. The flow-on effect has been that private commemoration of our war dead has taken precedence over collective commemoration.

 

When the repatriation rule changed there were no moves made to establish war graves – war cemeteries, I beg your pardon, for those who would return so the dead, like Sergeant Smith here, are sprinkled throughout local cemeteries, lost to collective memory in a way that their forebears from the World Wars or even those from the Korean war who are buried in a UN cemetery in Pusan are not. Some families, perhaps inadvertently, have exacerbated this lack of visibility by choosing to cremate their relative or choosing to give them a private headstone. This limits the official commemoration to a small plaque as shown here in a garden of remembrance. A lack of tangible collective memory sparks occasional calls for a national cemetery for Australia, normally citing the Arlington Cemetery in Washington as the model. Such calls usually fail to realise that Arlington is only one of 147 national cemeteries in the United States which means that in the United States veterans can be buried quite close to where their families are. We’re a big country and if we were to have a national cemetery we would probably need to have regional outliers as well.

 

So a national cemetery would be a good thing for collective memory but it could be argued also that that role is already met, it’s already met by the Australian War Memorial and in the case of Vietnam veterans it’s met by the Vietnam Memorial on ANZAC Parade and it’s met by local war memorials. So when we debate this question there's all those factors to be considered.

 

The change to repatriation has also led to calls to bring more bodies back to Australia such as operation Bring Them Home. I actually wasn’t very much in favour of this except if the cemetery in question was endangered by urban growth or some other thing or if you couldn’t get access to it, if the relatives could not get easy access to it and that’s what happened in Terendak in Malaysia and that’s why bodies were brought back from Malaysia last in about June last year. To me these overseas cemeteries are part of our history and so I think they should remain where they are. Bring Them Home too is a reminder that although individual commemoration has always been a mix of government and family, veteran interests are still there. Veterans try to speak on behalf of mates and they talk about the regimental family or the unit family. Normally in these cases the government will defer to the wishes of the actual family but things can be tricky when the veteran view and sometimes the media view is different. On this slide for example, of the 25 veterans referred to, 13 were buried in Malaysia after 1966 at the wish of the family.

 

Another fascinating feature of individual commemoration during my time was dealing with unrecovered remains and in particular the modern phenomena of searches sparked by private interest such as Lambis Englezos and the missing at Fromelles. Recovering remains is actually a defence responsibility but we inevitably became involved because we provided the grave at the end of the process and we were also involved up ‘til about my time because the finds were usually accidental and they were usually individuals so we were faced with the immediate problem of who is this person? Where should he be buried or she be buried?

 

Things began to change though just after I got into the job, five sets of remains were found during roadworks just outside Ypres and they became known as the Zonnebeke – which was the place they were found - the Zonnebeke five and this is their final grave in the war cemetery. This case caused us great headaches primarily because agreed processes weren’t followed. Instead of reporting the recovery to the Belgian War Graves Service the workmen went to the local community which with every good intention undertook the recovery as shown here. There were some troubling aspects, note the lack of protective clothing and thus the potential contamination of the DNA in the remains. Further, some personal items were taken from the gravesite and put on display in the local interpretive centre when they should have been returned to the relatives. The recovery worked in the end but it was a timely reminder of the need to follow correct procedures.

 

At this point it’s probably useful to have a quick look at the identification process. Firstly the remains are very carefully exhumed, cleaned, recorded and laid out. Forensic archaeologists can then look at them to determine height and age – that normally comes in a range – and in some cases they can see the reason for death. Personal objects may also yield clues to identification but obviously the more – this is more difficult if you only get partial remains. Meanwhile the army, navy and airforce search operational records to isolate the units that operated in the area, compile a list of personnel from those units who have no known grave and then get to work on the personnel records of those individuals to find out their height and age and anything else they can find from those records that might help identify them.

 

DNA is the last step and it’s not the magic bullet that people imagine. For a start the remains may not yield DNA and secondly it may be contaminated and thirdly you have to find a modern person from the same family who can give you a sample and then for Fromelles they had to advertise, have the families respond and then submit a family tree and then get a geneticist to look at the family tree and choose the person so it’s quite a process.

 

So Fromelles was the biggest recovery of my time. On arrival in war graves I found that Lambis had been urging us to search, and this had ended up in our laps although the army very soon took over. Defence policy at the time was that Australia would only undertake searches for the missing when there was good evidence as to location.

 

Now before I go on I should also explain that missing, the term missing has to be approached carefully. Many of the soldiers from the World Wars have no known grave and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission inscribes their name on memorials to the missing such as this one at VC Corner and if you go to those memorials you can get the impression that all those listed on that memorial have never been found. The truth is otherwise, many have indeed been recovered. There are 410 Australians buried individually underneath the forecourt of this memorial. Elsewhere others are buried in cemeteries under a headstone to an unknown soldier. We spent a lot of time analysing the records from Fromelles, the cemetery records to see if we could work out how many had not been recovered and we came up with these figures.

 

We also produced maps such as this showing where those recoveries had been made from. And you can see they mainly come from between the lines so between no man’s land, and it’s not obvious from this map but there were none recovered from the area around Pheasant Wood. Ultimately of course Lambis found an aerial photograph with the burial pits dug by the Germans on it and in due course that led to the army completing the exhumation.

 

The remains now lie in this new war cemetery at Fromelles but the whole process raised some nice philosophical questions for me. Bodies had been found but what should be done about it? They’d been there for 90 years, undisturbed, and the land in which they lay was not likely to be used. I initially thought that if we could find a German burial record then we should build the cemetery on the top, put up a monument with the names on and leave them alone. We couldn’t find such a record or the army couldn’t find such a record so the decision was made to exhume but another decision was made and that was to pursue identification as far as it was possible to pursue it and without that second decision – well that second decision was totally necessary. If we didn’t make that we should have just left them alone.

 

What makes me sad about Fromelles is that the concentration on Pheasant Wood has meant that all the others who were recovered and buried in the area have been ignored. Every one - or tend to be ignored, they haven’t been ignored, they’re there, they’re buried but people have forgotten about them. Everyone has their group of forgotten soldiers and these are mine. So if you go to Fromelles can I urge you to go to one of the local war cemeteries and tip your lid to one of these soldiers.

 

I want to move away now from individual commemoration and touch on a couple of other issues to do with memorials and collective commemoration. I came to war graves in 2006 in the wake of a controversy over the widening of the coast road at Gallipoli and also a government decision to build an interpretive centre in France. The Gallipoli road was a prime example of how veterans’ matters can quickly build ahead of community, political and media steam but that reflects a very genuine concern about the preservation of important sites in our military history. I saw it again a couple of years later with – when forestry and mining were thought to impinge on the Kokoda Track.

 

These issues do stir genuine concern but the fact is our battle fields lie in other countries and we just can’t tell those countries what to do. And we can’t hold back development particularly in places like Papua New Guinea. What we tried to do through negotiation was ensure that the principal sites were preserved, burial grounds were protected and if the battle field was to be cleared it would be cleared respectfully and we typically found the host country very sensitive and very sympathetic. The government inevitably got involved with iconic places such as Gallipoli and the Kokoda Track because at that level you need government to government agreement. Parliament is generally bipartisan but there can be times when it isn’t and if you look at the Senate Inquiry for the Gallipoli road, 2005, you’ll see that there’s a report and a minority report indicating that the parties were at loggerheads at least to some degree. Balance is hard to achieve. At Gallipoli people wanted the place left pristine but they also wanted to go there for ANZAC Day so you needed a road and they forgot that the hills are subject to erosion and so is the beach front so at some point you’re going to need stabilisation work. And they also forgot that Turkey – that Gallipoli is an iconic place for Turkey just as it’s iconic for us and so we have to take into account Turkey’s needs as well.

 

The modern services at Gallipoli grew from small gatherings in a beach cemetery in the mid-1990s conducted by one of my predecessors. This is the sort of infrastructure you need today, and it has to be bumped in and bumped out every year along with similar infrastructure for Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. By 2004/5 the task of running services with sort of logistic tale had clearly outgrown the capability of War Graves, good as we were. And the government – the roads caused a change of approach, the government gave money to DVA to have a special group look after it, employ event management contractors, set up a whole bunch of interdepartmental committees and also international meetings to run the ceremony. That’s what you have to do.

 

Today the Commemorations Branch is one of the main elements of DVA and the annual ANZAC Day services are one of its main task but it’s interesting to me that in fact government involvement in this area has followed public demand. It’s true at Gallipoli as I’ve just explained, it’s true at Sandakan in North Borneo, it’s true of the Kokoda Track and it was true at Villers-Bretonneux in France. I was actually responsible for running the first government service at Villers-Bretonneux in 2008. Two catalysts, one, it was the 90th anniversary but second, there was a very entrepreneurial Australian tour group that was advertising a dawn service complete with re-enactments, advertising it as a first and completely ignoring the fact that the local community had run an ANZAC Day service for 40 years albeit they ran it on the closest weekend, not on the day itself. So we needed to avoid ill feeling and we needed to avoid one group potentially monopolising the service at the expense of others as had happened on the Kokoda Track. In 2008 we actually held both services but the community has since accepted the Australian dawn service as its own.

 

The site at VB is perfect for ceremonies and the local infrastructure’s much better than Gallipoli which means you can achieve a much more traditional feel because you don’t have attendees onsite overnight with the consequential safety and lighting and other educational programs. Our difficulty lay in how are we going to differentiate this service from the Gallipoli one which was televised immediately beforehand? They’re all government services, they all have the same format roughly. So what we decided to do was to feature youth and veterans and the French and include a public wreath-laying. I haven’t seen the service because I’ve been busy for the last couple of years but hopefully that’s still going but you do need a point of difference.

 

Villers-Bretonneux is now the site of the new John Monash Centre, Australia’s interpretive centre on the western front and for me the wheels turn full circle. I began my involvement with war graves doing a feasibility study for such a centre and I concluded the case was not compelling. The only possible locations were Villers-Bretonneux or Pozieres, there was a surfeit of interpretive centres and memorials already at Pozieres and Villers-Bretonneux is actually off the beaten track for any tourist other than Australians and there weren’t enough of us going in those days to justify it. That was my logic, the government of the time decided to proceed and so we began the design process.

 

The Rudd Government wasn’t convinced, and the project changed to creating a trail along the Western Front, by assisting local communities at Villers-Bretonneux, Peron, Bullecourt, Fromelles, Plougastel, Ypres, and Zonnebeke, all underlined here in red to upgrade their local museums and then link those museums to nearby Australian and other national memorials. I thought that’s a great idea, because to me the charm of the Front is visiting those local communities and seeing how even now they honour our forebears. The Monash Centre – the trail’s gone ahead in leaps and bounds, I understand, and the Monash Centre is now planned to be its hub.

 

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to finish there. I hope what I presented to you has given you a view of the big picture of war graves and an insight into what’s a large and fascinating area. I’ll be interested in your questions but before I take them could I just pay tribute to the War Graves staff because they were in my time and they are now, ‘cause I know most of them, still outstanding. So thank you and if there’s any questions I’d be happy to take them.

 

Applause

 

End of recording

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