Updated my article about my Great-Uncle William Wilby, including some information about other family members who fought in the First World War.
I received a reply from the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) about the impact of the decision of the ABMC’s UK equivalent, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), showing an open-air movie presentation of “Carve her name with Pride” the 1958 film account of the life of Violette Szabo, GC, who is one of four George Cross (GC) recipients commemorated or buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery.
In addition to Violette Szabo, GC, the Brookwood 1939-45 Memorial also commemorates Captain Jenkin Robert Oswald Thompson, GC.
The Canadian WWII section, which is on the opposite side of the road to the 1939-45 Memorial, contains the graves of two Canadian George Cross recipients: Corporal James Hendry, GC and Sergeant John Rennie, GC.
An account of the the GC awarded to Violette Szabo is contained within the article about all the agents awarded the GC. An account of the awards of the GC to Corporal Hendry, Sergeant Rennie and Captain Thompson are contained in my article about Brookwood Military Cemetery.
It seems that some people think that showing a feature film in a military cemetery is acceptable. I do not! The sound will travel throughout parts of the large cemetery. Some people also seem to think that the playing of music during ceremonies conducted in military cemeteries somehow excuses the sound produced from the feature film.
These same people also think having an open-air feature film presentation will play a part in ensuring that the sacrifice made by the people commemorated or buried in CWGC cemeteries around the world will not be forgotten. I feel that there are far better and more respectful ways to ensure this such as the recently held open-day at Brookwood Military Cemetery, the Poppy Display currently at the Plymouth Naval Memorial, more updates about the superb work done by the CWGC staff in various locations around the world and fund-raising events that could easily be held at numerous places such as the Imperial War Museum, British Film Institute, one of the national service museums or in one of the many excellent local museums around the country.
I am well aware of the ongoing task that the CWGC and its charitable arm (CWGC Foundation) needs to perform, with new generations of people becoming ever more distant from the events of both world wars; I myself was born 20 years after WWII ended. The CWGC also commemorates two of my family members: a Great-Uncle (buried in Baghdad North Gate Cemetery) and a Great-Great-Uncle (commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial).
I just feel that there are better and more dignified way of raising funds for the CWGC Foundation.
The reply from the ABMC is reproduced in full below:
Thank you for contacting the American Battel Monuments Commission (ABMC). We are aware of the event sponsored by the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation (CWGF) and we appreciate your concern for the possible impact of the event on Brookwood American Cemetery. Both ABMC and the CWGF have a similar mission – to preserve the memory of those we honor while commemorating their service and sacrifice. The open-air screening of “Carve Her Name With Pride” is an effort to support that mission. Thank you.
I have updated my article about Brookwood Military Cemetery, to include the names of two Medal of Honor recipients commemorated in the Memorial Chapel to the Missing, located in Brookwood American Cemetery.
The American Battle Monuments Commission, the American equivalent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, maintains two cemeteries in the UK: Brookwood American Cemetery and Cambridge American Cemetery.
I also included some details about the 18 American soldiers sentenced to death, excuted at Shepton Mallet Prison and initially buried in an isolated plot in Brookwood Military Cemetery. After World War Two, 17 sets of remains were exhumed and reburied in a special plot at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. One set of remains was returned to the USA.
By the side of the road, between Poperinge and the village of Brandhoek in Belgium, is located the small Red Farm Military Cemetery. It contains 46 graves, of which 17 are unknown soldiers. It also contains 1 grave containing the remains of 3 Belgian civilians.
Updated my article with a breakdown of the units of the known soldiers’ graves, and provided some more information about the sole Middlesex Regiment grave.
I have received a reply from the CWGC, via my MP, concerning the open-air showing of the entertainment film “Care her name with Pride” at Brookwood Military Cemetery. The reply from the CWGC was composed by the Director General of the CWGC.
While making some obvious points about the monumental task of the CWGC, of which I am well aware, it does contain a stupid point about ” … music should not be played in or near churches where the dead are buried”. Churches play music as part of their religious services; music is played by the military bands during Remembrance Sunday services; music is also played as part of the non-denominational service held at The Cenotaph in London and throughout other services held at other cemeteries around the world.
There are far more respectful ways to educate the public about the CWGC ongoing tasks to maintain and perpetuate the memory of the sacrifice made by the men and women who are buried or commemorated in cemeteries around the world; events such as the recent open day and exhibition at Brookwood Military Cemetery are excellent ideas which hopefully will be repeated.
Hopefully, the event will be rained off. Ticket purchasers are informed by the web site handling the ticket sales that the event would be cancelled in the event of inclement weather.
The reply from the CWGC is reproduced in full below.
Mr Stratford has been leading a sole campaign against this event, and has ignored our assurances that we, of all organisations, would never permit anything disrespectful to take place in one of our sites.
Brookwood is a huge site, with multiple areas of lawn and gardens surrounding the plots. The film showing will indeed take place at the cemetery, but in an area well away from the burials, adjacent to our Canada Building, where we are currently holding an exhibition. His complaint is therefore a little like arguing that music should not be played in or near churches where the dead are buried. All summer we have been inviting the public to come to events at the cemetery, raising awareness of its existance, and telling the stories of those who fell. Mr Stratford’s is the only complaint we have received.
The film “Carve her name with pride” does indeed tell the story of Violette Szabo, the SOE agent, and the event will start with a talk about her by her daughter. If anyone is to be the judge of whether or not this is appropriate, it is surely the families of those we commemorate, and Miss Szabo. It will raise funds for our new charity, which aims to tell the stories of the 1.7 million men and women whose memories we aim to keep alive.
As there are fewer and fewer people alive who actually knew those who fell in the two world wars, the Commission faces a stark choice. We can manage at public expense 23,000 cemeteries in 153 countries, with fewer and fewer people who care, and which will be quietly forgotten; or we can pick up the baton to educate the public about the sacrifice these brave men and women made. The film is not frivolous entertainment; it is a dramatisation of the life of a heroine, at the location of her formal commemoration, where her name was carved, with pride. Mr Stratford is entitled to his views as to what is or is not appropriate but I am afraid we cannot agree with him.
(sgd) Victoria Wallace
Updated my article about Pinner War Memorial, with the details and photos of four war graves in Paines Lane Cemetery.
I have updated my article on the Chavasse family with more information about the attempts to located the wounded Lieutenant Aidan Chavasse. After an initial attempt had located Lieutenant Chavasse in “No Man’s Land”, subsequent attempts failed to locate and retrieve the wounded officer.
I’ve just received a response from the CWGC, regarding my email I sent about the lack of respect shown by having an open-air movie show in Brookwood Military Cemetery.
The CWGC reply stated:
We do not consider the screening of ‘Carve Her Name With Pride’, at Brookwood Military Cemetery, as disrespectful in any way; on the contrary, we believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for people to visit a beautiful and fascinating cemetery and to learn about the life of one of the casualties that we commemorate on a memorial within the Cemetery.
The CWGC also seem to think that the presence of Tania Szabo (Violette Szabo’s daughter) somehow excuses their conduct in having the open-air event.
The CWGC obviously don’t seem to realise that while the military cemetery has plenty of space, the sound of the feature film will travel throughout most of the military cemetery.
Some people at the CWGC just seem to have no idea at all, about the expected conduct in a place of tranquility and reflection.
Would the Americans, who have a large plot of WWI casualties in Brookwood Military Cemetery, have an open air film show in Arlington National Cemetery? I think not!
A far better and more respectful way of increasing public interest in Brookwood Military Cemetery, would be to repeat the public day held on Saturday 2 September 2017. On this day, there were guides available to show people around this large military cemetery and other events – all done with dignity and respect.
I have just received a reply to the communication I sent my Member of Parliament (MP) regarding the open-air showing of a movie in Brookwood Military Cemetery.
The letter thanks me for contacting him, and he encloses a letter that he has sent to the UK Secretary of State for Defence (who is the ex officio Chairman of the CWGC). The letter to the Chairman of the CWGC asks for a detailed response to my concerns.
The letter ends with my MP stating that he will be in touch as soon as he receives a response.
I have just had a good exchange of tweets, on Twitter, with the Director-General of the CWGC, Victoria Wallace.
I did thank her for replying to my tweets.
I reiterated my views that having an open-air movie display in Brookwood Military Cemetery was disrespectful, and not the behaviour that one would expect in a cemetery (military or otherwise). The fact that the movie was about Violette Szabo, GC (who is commemorated on the Brookwood 1939-45 Memorial) and that her daughter Tania Szabo would be present, does not alter the fact that you don’t have open-air movie events in any cemetery (military or civilian).
The Director-General replied that the show will not be near any graves. Brookwood Military Cemetery does cover a large area, with some open spaces.
The best outcome I can hope for, is that the weather changes and it absolutely pours down with rain, which would involve cancellation of the event; which you are warned about on the web site selling tickets for the all-ticket event.