War graves awareness week aims to honour ‘truly diverse nature’ of veterans

Emily Chudy
Sunday 23 May 2021 17:29
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Commonwealth War Graves Commission launches its first national awareness week

A war memorial organisation has announced a national awareness week to allow people to search for and visit the graves of local veterans by postcode.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), which cares for graves and memorials from the first and second world wars, will feature stories from those who died.

The organisation said the awareness week – from May 21 to 28 – will pay tribute to the “truly diverse nature of those who served”.

Claire Horton, director general of the CWGC, said: “Remembrance Day and anniversaries will always have a place in our work, but War Graves Week is an opportunity for communities to connect with their local heritage in a different way.

“Behind every name on a war grave or memorial is a human story, just waiting to be discovered.”

As part of the awareness week, the CWGC is sending out postcards with the stories of First World War casualties buried or commemorated in the areas where they lived.

The cards have been chosen so local residents can visit the graves and hear their stories.

Entering a postcode on the CWGC website will show the nearest street where a war casualty was from, along with ways to commemorate their life.

The postcode search contains the records of more than 400,000 personnel whose records include a publicly listed address in the UK.

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The CWGC added that the awareness week will pay tribute to black and Asian veterans after it was reported in April that the organisation had failed to properly commemorate potentially hundreds of thousands who died fighting for the British Empire.

The investigation discovered at least 116,000 predominantly African and Middle Eastern First World War casualties “were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all”.

The investigation also estimated that between 45,000 and 54,000 Asian and African casualties were “commemorated unequally”.

The CWGC issued an apology and said it was looking to “to begin redressing the imbalances of the past”.

Speaking of its awareness week, a spokesman said: “It is only through the commemoration of these individuals – and therefore the discovery and telling of their stories – that we can hope to engage future generations in the importance of remembrance, and increase awareness and understanding of the contribution and sacrifices of all our Commonwealth servicemen and women.

“That work has already started and we’ve made clear the actions we can and will take in the near future to begin redressing the imbalances of the past.

“In every corner of the country there are pieces of world war heritage under our care that reflect the truly diverse nature of those who served and died in the world wars.”

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