TV & Ra­dio

Mon­day 5 Novem­ber, 9pm BBC Four (re­peated on BBC One Wales on Tues­day 6 Novem­ber)

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

All the must-see/hear pro­grammes

The sight of neat and well-tended rows of war graves in for­eign fields is so fa­mil­iar to us that we rarely stop to think about how cu­ri­ous it is that so many Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth sol­diers are buried over­seas. In We Will Remember Them, which is part of ex­ten­sive pro­gram­ming across BBC net­works to mark the cen­te­nary of the end of the First World War, Huw Ed­wards ex­plains how this came about.

It’s a story that be­gins with the Bri­tish state ban­ning the re­turn of its bod­ies for burial. This was hugely con­tro­ver­sial be­cause be­reaved fam­i­lies in Bri­tain and across the em­pire were un­able to in­ter their loved ones close to home, and a Bri­tish women’s protest move­ment cam­paigned to have this rul­ing over­turned.

Sim­i­lar cam­paigns suc­ceeded in other coun­tries so that, for ex­am­ple, the bod­ies of ap­prox­i­mately 300,000 French sol­diers were repa­tri­ated to lo­cal towns and vil­lages. So what was dif­fer­ent in the UK?

The answer lies in the vi­sion of Fabian Ware (1869–1949), a Red Cross of­fi­cer on the West­ern Front, who was in­stru­men­tal in ban­ning fam­i­lies from re­triev­ing the bod­ies of the fallen. If that seems harsh, it’s worth not­ing that only the well-todo could af­ford to do this, as footage of the funeral of Wil­liam Glad­stone, grand­son of the for­mer prime min­is­ter, il­lus­trates.

It was Ware who, vir­tu­ally sin­gle­hand­edly, cre­ated the Im­pe­rial (later Com­mon­wealth) War Graves Com­mis­sion in 1917. His aim was that re­mem­brance should be demo­cratic so that those who fought to­gether should rest to­gether close to where they fell, no mat­ter what their so­cial rank.

Sadly, for much of the 1920s and 1930s it was pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive for or­di­nary peo­ple to visit the last rest­ing places of loved ones. And yet, in an age of cheap in­ter­na­tional travel, Ware’s idea of “gar­dens of re­mem­brance” has come of age.

This is il­lus­trated by the story of Wil­liam Parry, who fell in the Bat­tle of Pil­ckem Ridge on 31 July 1917 along with the Welsh poet Hedd Wyn. For years his fam­ily laid a wreath on the an­niver­sary of his death in the vil­lage chapel where he used to wor­ship. How­ever, for the cen­te­nary of his death his great niece Gwyneth Evans trav­elled to Bel­gium to lay a wreath of pop­pies, an emo­tional oc­ca­sion cap­tured on cam­era.

Huw Ed­wards tells the story of the me­mo­ri­als to those who died in WW1

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