Help to keep re­mem­brance rel­e­vant

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Ben Farmer DE­FENCE CORRESPONDENT

EN­COUR­AG­ING peo­ple to stand in si­lence in ceme­ter­ies is not enough to reach a new gen­er­a­tion who must carry on the tra­di­tion of re­mem­ber­ing Bri­tain’s war dead, the head of the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion has said.

Vic­to­ria Wal­lace said more must be done to con­vey the hu­man sto­ries be­hind the fallen to young peo­ple who in­creas­ingly have no close fam­ily link to those who died in the World Wars. The Com­mis­sion is this year hir­ing a dozen paid in­terns in their teens and early 20s in an at­tempt to try to bridge the gen­er­a­tion gap, she said.

The in­terns will wel­come visi­tors to war graves and memo­ri­als in the runup to next year’s cen­te­nary com­mem­o­ra­tions of the end of the First World War and try to con­vey the sig­nif­i­cance of re­mem­brance to a younger gen­er­a­tion. The ini­tia­tive is part of the com­mis­sion’s char­ity foun­da­tion which aims to carry on its work for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Ms Wal­lace told The Sun­day Tele­graph that young peo­ple learned the sta­tis­tics of the wars “but when you ac­tu­ally say we will re­mem­ber them, it’s quite dif­fi­cult to re­mem­ber some­thing you never knew”. She added: “It’s great for those who have close fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, but for those who don’t, ac­tu­ally we want to make sure that peo­ple can ac­cess those sto­ries and those who have them can then share them.”

She said the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Foun­da­tion wanted to make sure the com­mis­sion’s ceme­ter­ies and memo­ri­als were “more mean­ing­ful” to visi­tors. She said: “I think the real chal- lenge is the next gen­er­a­tion, be­cause when you fol­low his­tory, un­less you are a mil­i­tary his­to­rian, or you have served in the Armed Forces, the con­cept of the bat­tle isn’t the thing that gets peo­ple in­ter­ested.

“The thing that gets peo­ple in­ter­ested is the hu­man story.”

The foun­da­tion is re­cruit­ing in­terns aged 18 to 25 with the help of gov­ern­ment money raised as fines from the Li­bor bank­ing scan­dal. The first re­cruits are cur­rently meet­ing and guid­ing visi­tors at the com­mis­sion’s Thiep­val memo­rial in France and Tyne Cot in Bel­gium. Mrs Wal­lace said the re­sponse from younger visi­tors had been “phe­nom­e­nal”.

The Com­mis­sion is ask­ing for mem­bers of the pub­lic to come for­ward with pho­to­graphs and sto­ries of an­ces­tors who died at the Somme for a piece of art to mark next year’s cen­te­nary of the end of the First World War. A dis­play of more than 72,000 fig­ures stitched into shrouds and laid out in Lon­don’s Olympic Park will form a cen­tre­piece of the com­mem­o­ra­tion plans.

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