Wednesday, 13 June 2012

War Memorials

Having looked at the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in my previous post, I want to turn now to the question of UK war memorials.

There is an interesting history to the whole question of war memorials. From 1915 onwards, it was UK government policy that the bodies of services personnel who had fallen abroad were not brought home. This was partly for practical reasons , especially questions of hygiene and matters of logistics, but also due to a policy of treating all families fairly - while the wealthy could afford to transport their fallen relatives, the poor could not hope to do so.

A great number of war memorials were created after World War One, so that families had a place at which to mourn, in the absence of a grave.

Surprisingly, that situation continued until the Falklands War, and only in 1982 did it become the norm to bring home the bodies of fallen servicemen and women.

At present, as we all know, the nation`s war memorials are under threat from thieves who try to steal metal plaques etc to sell for scrap. The scale of the problem is not actually as bad as I had imagined - there are around 100,000 war memorials in the UK and on average one a week is targetted by thieves. However, that is still too many.

There have been various responses, both locally and nationally.

In Derbyshire, the City and County Councils work with the Royal British Legion, the War Memorials Trust and the National Inventory of War Memorials to help preserve memorials in the area. A good suggestion that has come from them is that community groups which maintain a particular memorial should keep a record of the names recorded on it so that there is still a record to work from even if the plaque is stolen and not retrieved.

Nationally, the War Memorials Trust and the Smart Water Foundation have launched In Memoriam 2014, a scheme whereby plaques are treated with smart water, which helps prove where it has come from if it is found by the Police, and also hopefully acts as a deterrent by making it more difficult for offenders to avoid conviction.

It may well be that we can tend to take war memorials for granted, but they are at least as worthy of preservation as the woodlands, historic buildings etc that I usually comment on. For any interested parties, there are a number of sites which can provide information and assistance ;

National Inventory of War Memorials ; and

War Memorials Trust ;

In Memoriam 2014 ;

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