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Welcome to our March 2013 Newsletter

SS Mendi

The CWGC has a committment at 23,000 locations, in 153 countries worldwide. But this month has seen a huge focus placed upon one single UK city, Portsmouth.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent - who is President of the Commission - visited the Portsmouth Naval Memorial to unveil our latest set of visitor information panels - the first to be put in place at one of our Naval Memorials.

In another first, members of the South African UK Legion also visited the city to hold the first-ever memorial service to the casualties of the SS Mendi disaster, at Portmsouth (Milton) Cemetery.

Looking slightly further afield, this newsletter also highlights the reburial of an unidentified New Zealand soldier at Messines Ridge, two historic centenary agreements signed with our European partners and a memorial dive to the wreck of HMS Maori in Malta.

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HRH Duke of Kent unveils new information panels at Portsmouth Naval Memorial

David Bedell-Sivright

His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, visited the Portsmouth Naval Memorial and Southampton (Hollybrook) Cemetery on 19 February to unveil our latest sets of visitor information panels.

The panels carry information about the site and the reason why it is situated where it is.

Each panel also carries a QR (Quick Response) code which when scanned with a smartphone provides further information, including the personal stories of some of the casualties buried or commemorated at the location.

Click on the link below to discover the stories of some of those commemorated at Portsmouth, including Scottish international rugby player David Bedell-Sivright (pictured).

Read more

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South African UK Legion hold first SS Mendi memorial service

Portsmouth (Milton) Cemetery

Members of the South African UK Legion held the first-ever memorial service at Portsmouth (Milton) Cemetery to commemorate the casualties of the SS Mendi.

In February 1917, the 4,000-ton SS Mendi, carrying the last contingency of the South African Native Labour Corps, was cut in half as it was struck by the much larger SS Darro, an empty meat ship bound for Argentina.

Within 20 minutes, the Mendi had sunk off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

The disaster claimed 646 lives, most of whom were never found. But nine bodies washed up at Portsmouth and were buried in Milton Cemetery.

The Reverend Ken Appleford, from St Mary’s parish, Portsmouth, led the service and paid tribute to the ‘supreme sacrifice’ made by these men.

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Swanton Morley Church Council thank CWGC for new sign highlighting the location of war graves

Members of Swanton Morley Parochial Church Council have thanked the CWGC for a new sign highlighting the location of war graves within Swanton Morley (All Saints) Churchyard.

The erection of the sign followed a complete renovation of the war graves plot in the cemetery.

Headstones were re-aligned and new turf was laid. Rabbit proof fencing was also installed to prevent any future damage to the plot.

The CWGC selected the war graves for renovation as part of a new initiative to enhance the horticultural appearance of war grave plots across the UK and bring them in keeping with the war cemeteries and memorials maintained by the Commission overseas.

Church Warden and Fabric Officer Gerry Palmer, said: “This has made a great improvement to this area and will be much appreciated by all who visit the churchyard.”

Swanton Morley (All Saints) Churchyard
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New base site for CWGC staff in Scotland

New base site in Scotland

The CWGC staff in Scotland have outgrown the facilities which they previously shared with the staff of a local cemetery.

Due to an increase in machinery, vans, people, and the lack of room to expand at the old site, it was decided to look for alternative accommodation.

A suitable location was soon found in Alloa, which included a large storage area for machinery, tools, and headstones. Another part of the unit will be used as office space. 

The new unit is ideally located for the challenging work the CWGC carries out all over the Scottish mainland and the surrounding islands.

The Commissions Regional Supervisor for Scotland, Iain Anderson, said: “We are really pleased to have found such suitable premises for our needs in the Alloa area, which provides a safe and efficient working  environment for our staff.”

Read more

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CWGC staff take advantage of training opportunity

CWGC staff take advantage of training opportunity

Newly appointed CWGC staff in the UK have taken advantage of the opportunity, provided by recent renovation work, to participate in some on-site training.

The new recruits were at work at South Shoebury (St Andrew) Churchyard, Essex, creating two new distinct plots for the 66 war graves in the churchyard.

CWGC Horticultural Supervisor, Douglas Meney, was on-hand to assess the staff in action and also took the opportunity to pass on some of his experience.

Subjects covered, included; turf lifting, rotovating and soil preparation.

Douglas guided the team systematically through each subject, providing them with a good grounding in all Commission techniques.

Staff described the training as a thorough and useful experience.

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British Army Officer's second memorial dive to HMS Maori, Malta

British Army Officer, Captain Ken McIntosh, has made a second memorial dive to the wreck of HMS Maori, Malta.

HMS Maori was a Tribal-class Destroyer in the Mediterranean fleet, sunk in February 1942 by enemy aircraft.

Captain Macintosh first made the dive in September 2012 when, accompanied by Major Dave Stone, he attached a Royal British Legion Cross to the wreck.

On his second dive, he discovered that the cross was now almost invisible, due to the amount of marine life that had attached itself to the wood. He managed to replace the cross with a red plastic poppy that is clearly visible under water and can be easily wiped clean by other divers.

Click on the image below to discover more about his two dives.

HMS Maori, Malta
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Reburial of unidentified NZ soldier at Messines Ridge

Messines Ridge British Cemetery

A reburial service for the soldier was held on the morning of Monday 25 February 2013 at the Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Mesen.

The remains of the unknown soldier from the First World War were discovered during excavations in April 2012 in Mesen, West Flanders.

Based on objects recovered with the remains, including unit insignia as well as the location of the find, the remains were accepted in August 2012 as that of an unidentified New Zealand soldier.

More than 200 people, including New Zealand's Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, and New Zealand's Ambassador to Belgium, Paula Wilson, came to pay their respects.

Read more

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14 - 18 Update: CWGC signs historic centenary agreements

CWGC signs historic centenary agreements

An important part of the Commission's 1914-18 centenary programme is to establish good working relationships with key stakeholders such as the MoD and Commonwealth, German, French and Belgian governments.

The CWGC has signed agreements with both the German Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. (VDK)  and the French Mission du Centenaire, symbolising our desire to work closely with our European colleagues, to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Click here to discover further detail on both agreements and follow the link below to learn about the other areas of progress being made by the project.

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One Reader's Snapshot: Pozieres Memorial

This poignant image was captured by Jim McCorry at the Pozieres Memorial.

The tribute shown is to Private Patrick Tobin M.M. of the 7th Battalion Leinster Regiment, who died on 21 March 1918. Tobin was a farm labourer from County Tipperary.

With Mr McCorry on the trip was a man whose grandfather, Patrick Flynn, also from County Tipperary, is buried in St Patrick’s Cemetery, Loos. It was the first time in 92 years that a family member had visited the grave.

Pozieres Memorial
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Battles this month: March 1916, Escape from the Desert

Alexandria (Hadar) War Cemetery

The article this month features the the 2nd Duke of Westminster, at the time one of the world's richest men one of the world's richest men, and his efforts to rescue a group of sailors.

The sailors whose ship, SS Hibernia, had been torpedoed had been handed over to a group of North African tribesmen who held them for over four months. 

The sailors were rescued by a fleet of armoured cars, under the command of the Duke (a Major of the Cheshire Yeomanry), following the Battle of Agagia, 26 February 1916.

The Duke of Westminster was awarded the DSO for his leadership in the rescue.

Read more

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A to Z of countries: U is for Ukraine

Khmelnitsky Catholic Cemetery

In 1934, the Commission decided to alternatively commemorate all the First World War burials in Ukraine, to which it had been unable to gain access.

Commemoration for the casualties was transferred to Haidar Pasha Cemetery, Istanbul, Turkey, which honours those from this particular theatre of war, whose graves are unknown or could not be maintained.

Our commitment in Ukraine now revolves around two individual burials, in two separate cemeteries. One First World War burial, in Khmelnitsky Catholic Cemetery and one Second World war burial in Odessa 2nd Christian Cemetery.

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An apology: The CWGC would like to apologise to Mr Edward Barclay for an error in our February Newsletter. The Nunhead video was produced by Mr Edward Barclay, not the CWGC. The item was edited by our Newsletter team, to the length of 45 seconds, for the purposes of our publication.


And Also

New website for Wall Heath and Kingswinford War Memorial group > > >

Newsletter reader offers to lay tributes at Arnhem, Rheinberg and Reichswald > > >

Northampton (Billing Road) Cemetery


Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DX. United Kingdom

t: +44 (0) 1628 507200




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