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Forces War Records Blog


Blogger: GemSen As things warm up for the centenary this year, it seems like a lot of people are putting in their two pennies worth about how the Great War should be commemorated. There’s been lots of disagreement between historians, politicians and those in the media spotlight. But, really we need to think about what is at the heart of this important event at that is remembering those who sacrificed their lives for their country. And hearing that the final resting place of the first and last British WWI soldiers will provide a poignant focus to the events really emphasised the deeper meaning to the commemorations. Surely it’s about time we stop arguing and start remembering?

Sky News reported that the two graves of John Parr, of the Middlesex, the first Briton to die on the Western Front, and Gerorge Ellison, of the Royal British Lancers, the last British soldier to die are actually only a few yards apart and face each other. And according to reports this is pure coincidence. The immaculately kept ‘St Symphorien Military Cemetery’ in Mons, Belgium was set up by the German army in 1914, who were given permission to bury their dead on the land by a local farmer but only if they buried the British dead with equal respect. World War One was a bloody conflict, summed up by the horrors of trench warfare and huge death toll. The site will provide a focus for international commemorations on August 4th this year, honouring the dead on all sides with 284 German and 230 Commonwealth casualties. Looking after 268,000 graves in Belgium and France, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are working hard to prepare existing headstones and making new ones. Interestingly they are also brining the site into the digital age by installing digital panels in many of the cemeteries so that visitors can interact with their multimedia devices. The digital displays will reveal details of battles and the personal stories of soldiers buried at the site. A Daily Ritual Since 1928 a ritual in the town of Ypres is observed every night at 8pm and hundreds of tourists and locals gather and listen to the Last Post in memory of the Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient during WWI. The road under the Menin Gate, the great arch that recognises the soldiers whose bodies were never found is closed to traffic during the sober ceremony. The observance under this awesome memorial has continued as Ypres's recognition of the soldiers' sacrifice. More than 250,000 soldiers from Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand  Canada, India and Pakistan, lost their lives in the four major battles that took place around the town. More than 100,000 of these soldiers have no known grave. The names of 54,896 of those are inscribed in the stone of the Menin Gate. Source: Sky
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