British actor and comedian Hugh Dennis has urged people to visit 'forgotten' war graves across the UK as part of a Commonwealth War Graves Commission initiative marking the Battle of the Somme Centenary.
CWGC's newly-launched Living Memory Project aims to raise awareness of the memorials to the dead of both world wars at more than 12,000 sites in Britain.
Hugh Dennis, ambassador for the project, said: “I have a very personal connection with the First World War as both my grandfathers fought at the Western Front. My great uncles also fought and one, my great uncle Frank, died and is commemorated by the CWGC in Gallipoli, Turkey.
“I’d urge everyone to get involved in this initiative so we never forget those who died during the Great War and are buried and commemorated so close to us on the home front."
Volunteers who've been researching war graves in North London joined Hugh Dennis and CWGC staff for the project launch at St Pancras & Islington Cemetery on April 11th 2016.
More than 300 First World War dead are commemorated in a dedicated CWGC site, including four Belgians and a Frenchman.
Corporal Constantine Morris, a casualty of the Somme, is among WW1 soldiers remembered by CWGC at St Pancras & Islington Cemetery (Photo: Centenary News)
Lance Corporal Constantine Morris was wounded during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. The 33-year-old soldier in the Coldstream Guards died from his injuries a month after returning to the UK for treatment. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is encouraging community groups to hold events throughout the 141 days of commemorations from July-November 2016, marking the duration of the Battle of the Somme.
"It's not just about London, but all over the United Kingdom, that we want people to take part in this very important event," CWGC community engagement manager, Glenn Hearnden, said.
Funding and creative resources are available to help communities discover local war graves and hold commemorative events. Stories will be shared on social media.
CWGC Director of External Relations, Colin Kerr, said: "The overseas work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s is well known, but here in the UK, there is little awareness of the graves and memorials to be found in a more than 12,000 locations that commemorate more than 300,000 Commonwealth war dead of the two world wars.
“We believe this is wrong, and through the Living Memory Project aim to reconnect the British public to their commemorative heritage on their doorstep."
The graves of two Belgians - a soldier and a military worker -with that of a French sailor in the background (Photo:Centenary News)
More than half of the dead commemorated in the UK were casualties of the Great War. Many died in military hospitals while being treated for their wounds, or they fell victim to the flu pandemic which claimed millions of lives globally as the conflict drew to a close.
CWGCs Living Memory Project, part-funded by the UK Government, is working in partnership with community engagement specialists, Big Ideas Company. Community groups interested in taking part can register now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting Living Memory on the CWGC website. There's also a video of Hugh Dennis talking about the project.
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Images: Centenary News
Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News