Retford Ladies Probus Club

by | 1 March 2023 | Probus, Retford, Social Group

Retford Ladies Probus Club began their February meeting with the AGM after which outgoing president Judith Goodall handed the reins to incoming president Angela Haynes. This was followed by David Ingleby’s talk on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

The CWGC is an intergovernmental organisation of six independent member states whose principal function is to mark, record and maintain graves and places of commemoration of Commonwealth of Nations military service members who died in two world wars. These are UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.

It was founded by Sir Fabian Ware, a man who was told he was too old to join up so he became commander of a mobile ambulance unit provided by the Red Cross. In this role he began marking and recording graves.

The largest cemetery in the world is Tyne Cot at Passendale near Zonnebeke, Belgium. There are 11,965 graves, of which 8,369 are unnamed and have the inscription ‘known only to God’. The smallest is the British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina containing four British Navy personnel killed while helping to defend the coast against German U boats in WWII.

There was no repatriation of the dead after 1915 and Sir Frederick Kenyon was appointed Artistic Adviser in the planning of cemeteries where the dead had fallen. Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the memorials at Thiepval and Arras and Sir Reginald Blomfield was responsible for the impressive Menin Gate which was unveiled in 1927. So many people had been given the agonising message ‘missing believed killed’; now all their names are engraved alongside the words ‘he is not missing he is here’ which hopefully brought some comfort and solace to the bereaved.

Anyone who has visited war graves cannot fail to be impressed by the immaculate conditions in which they are kept. This is all done on a budget of £60 million pounds a year which probably isn’t sufficient considering the amount of sites there are all over the world.

The Club’s next meeting is on Wednesday 8th March at 10.00am for 10.30am at Westhill Community Centre when all are welcome.