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


A response from the CWGC.

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.

A response has been received from my MP.

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.

A response to the open-air movie show at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

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.

Update on “A film showing in a military cemetery near you!”

I have not received any reply from the CWGC regarding my concerns about the open-air film screening in Brookwood Military Cemetery – detailed in my post “A film showing in a military cemetery near you!

I have also written to my MP (who is a veteran himself).

I have also contacted the American Battle Monuments Commission, the American equivalent to the CWGC, as there is a large section of American war graves within Brookwood Military Cemetery.

However, their replies may well have been delayed by the August bank holiday weekend in the UK, and Labour Day weekend in the USA.

A film showing in a military cemetery near you!

The CWGC have announced that on 30 September 2017, they will be showing the film “Carve her name with Pride” in Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Whilst the subject of the film, Violette Szabo, is commemorated on the Brookwood 1939-45 Memorial, contained within the military cemetery, this is no excuse and just shows that some people in the CWGC have no idea about the conduct expected in a military cemetery.

Whilst I support the CWGC in showing the history of people buried and commemorated in Brookwood Military Cemetery, I wonder what the next event of bad taste from the CWGC will be?

I have made a formal complaint to the CWGC.