The com­mon­wealth war graves com­mis­sion has launched an on­line ex­hi­bi­tion about how it rev­o­lu­tionised mil­i­tary memo­ri­als

History of War - - MUSEUMS & EVENTS -

‘Shap­ing Our Sor­row’ ex­plores the ways in which the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion (CWGC) sought to cap­ture the shared grief of the Bri­tish Em­pire in the af­ter­math of WWI. The com­mis­sion used a vi­sion­ary com­bi­na­tion of time­less ar­chi­tec­ture, sub­tle de­sign and poignant words to achieve this.

The on­line ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures pre­vi­ously un­seen archive ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing pho­to­graphs, heart­break­ing per­sonal let­ters, film, orig­i­nal ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings and plans of the ear­li­est CWGC ceme­ter­ies and memo­ri­als. Struc­tured around the five stages of grief, the ex­hi­bi­tion gives a unique in­sight into the dif­fi­cult and of­ten-con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sions that helped to shape re­mem­brance as we know it to­day. In­di­vid­u­als high­lighted in­clude fa­mous fig­ures like Rud­yard Ki­pling but also griev­ing moth­ers who wrote to the com­mis­sion, such as Sarah Smith, who lob­bied the CWGC’S pres­i­dent Ed­ward, Prince of Wales (later Ed­ward VIII).

An­drew Fether­ston, chief ar­chiv­ist at the CWGC, says, “As the First World War came to an end, it was just the start of the mon­u­men­tal task of hon­our­ing the dead. Our ri­tu­als of re­mem­brance are too of­ten taken for granted, but this ex­hi­bi­tion is a stark re­minder that com­mem­o­rat­ing 1 mil­lion peo­ple equally, re­gard­less of class or rank, was un­prece­dented and of­ten very con­tro­ver­sial. We’re ex­cited to share our fas­ci­nat­ing archive col­lec­tion, which casts fresh light on the cre­ation of our iconic war ceme­ter­ies and memo­ri­als.”

A prospec­tive draw­ing for Thiep­val Memo­rial to the Miss­ing of the Somme RIGHT: Items in the ex­hi­bi­tion in­clude Ge­orge V’s pass­port, which was is­sued for his bat­tle­field pil­grim­age in 1920. His sur­name is sim­ply listed as “The King”

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