Open-air film show at Brookwood: A reply from my MP & the CWGC.

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