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Author Topic: Repatriation of WW1 dead from France/Flanders DURING WW1  (Read 4014 times)
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Icare9
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« on: January 25, 2016, 14:15:19 PM »

I stress the "during WW1" as we all know the Unknown Soldier was brought back AFTER WW1, as were some notable civilian casualties (Edith Cavell, the master of the cross Channel ferry etc).

There have been two instances on the Forum recently (Liddell and Rhodes-Moorhouse) where their bodies were brought back for burial in the UK.

I thought this practice was a little unusual, as it would probably have resulted in ferries resembling charnel houses on the return trip....

I received a very concise and insightful response from the CWGC and feel it worth putting on the Forum.
Hopefully others will understand why I think it worthwhile posting

Quote
In response to your enquiry,  I am afraid that we do not have a record of the very last soldier to be repatriated or an exact cut-off date but I hope the following information proves useful.

In spite of Marshall Joffre’s order of March 1915, which banned exhumations during the period of the war, bodies such as that of a Lord Lieutenant (and grandson of W.E. Gladstone) had been disinterred from their resting place in France and brought back home. (Sir) Fabian Ware was disturbed by this and in April 1916, he obtained an order from the Adjutant-General forbidding exhumation and repatriation on the grounds of hygiene as well as the compelling new feeling within the armed forces about the fallen dwelling together in unity, regardless of rank or social class. (My bolding)

After the war ended, the Commission remained determined to leave the fallen where they lay in France, Belgium and all other places where the British and Dominion forces had fought. Repatriation, it was felt, would breach the Commission’s tenet of equality of treatment because many family members of fallen soldiers could not afford the cost of repatriating their loved ones. The Commission’s decision was also based on the wartime sentiment of soldiers feeling as close as brothers, to the extent that they wished to be buried alongside each other if they were killed in action.

Therefore, post-war repatriation of war dead in France was forbidden under Article 3 of the Anglo-French Agreement of 26th November 1918. The rationale behind this agreement was then extended to the war dead in Belgium, Germany, Gallipoli, etc. in order to coincide with the Commission’s policy of equality of treatment. This is because if repatriation had been permitted in France, the public would  have viewed this as a precedent for repatriation in the other theatres of conflict.

Subsequently, the Commission’s decisions surrounding repatriation did lead to some controversy and public opinion was starkly divided between support and opposition for the Commission’s decisions. Some of our records contain correspondence between its staff and the relatives of the fallen who desperately wanted to bring their lost loved ones home and illustrate the public response at the time.

However, there were a few exceptions with regards to post-war repatriation, usually because the deceased died outside the official dates for the First World War covered by the Commission; for example, Lance Corporal Raphael who died in Cologne on 18th February 1923. Also there were those casualties who had not served with British or Dominion forces but had lived and were buried in Britain. One such case was Private Tom Backhouse, American Army, who died in France and was reinterred in Holbeck Cemetery, Leeds in 1924.

This led me to research into Fabian Ware and what a remarkable man he turned out to be.
Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware KCVO KBE CB CMG (17 June 1869 – 29 April 1949) was the founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission, now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

When the First World War started in August 1914, Ware attempted to rejoin the British Army but was rejected because he was too old, However, with the assistance of Lord Milner, he obtained command of a mobile ambulance unit provided by the British Red Cross Society. He was soon struck by the lack of any official mechanism for marking and recording the graves of those killed. He set about changing this by founding an organisation to do this, and in 1915 both he and his organisation were transferred from the Red Cross to the Army. By October 1915, the new Graves Registration Commission had over 31,000 graves registered, and 50,000 by May 1916.

He was the man who ensured a generation of First World War dead could be remembered by a grateful nation.
Now, Sir Fabian Ware is finally to be commemorated himself, as English Heritage announces it will erect a blue plaque in his honour.
Sir Fabian was the founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission, which marked the graves of fallen soldiers from the First World War to ensure they were remembered forever. His life will now be marked with a blue plaque at his former home, a Grade II listed terraced house in Marylebone. The plaque will be unveiled by his granddaughter, Gillian Ware, at a ceremony at 14 Wyndham Place.

Confirmed in the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, the plaque is intended as a major recognition of Sir Fabian’s work, which was one of the first movements to honour servicemen of all ranks. It will be mounted on the home he lived in from 1911 to 1919, when he volunteered for service in France with the British Red Cross, commanding a unit of support drivers and vehicles. He is said to have been struck by the volume of casualties, and “lack of any plan to mark their final resting places”, eventually writing them down himself in a permanent record. In 1915, his work was recognised by the War Office, and the unit was made responsible for finding, marking and registering the graves of British soldiers in France. Sir Fabian, who was knighted in 1920 for his work during the war, went on to found the Imperial War Graves Commission, which would later become known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Today, the organisation records the final resting place of 1.7 million dead servicemen from the First and Second World Wars, caring for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 153 countries. Professor Ronald Hutton, chairman of the English Heritage Blue Plaque panel, said: “Fabian Ware’s vision and tenacity secured a dignified final resting place for 1.7 million war dead and created a lasting legacy to their sacrifice. “As the driving force behind the Commonwealth War Graves Commission he shaped the way we honour and remember those who died during the First and Second World Wars. “Fabian Ware’s lifetime work is now recognised by one of our blue plaques in London, the city where the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was founded and continues to this day.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Joe French, Vice Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, added: “As the Commonwealth War Graves Commission approaches its centenary, Sir Fabian Ware’s legacy can be seen through the warmly received events CWGC has this year hosted in Normandy and Mons. “These landmark anniversaries of both world wars were marked in immaculately maintained cemeteries, providing fitting tributes to the fallen.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/11118976/Unsung-hero-who-recorded-graves-of-fallen-First-World-War-soldiers-is-finally-honoured.html

The CWGC website further expands on his influence:-
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission owes its existence to the vision and determination of one man - Sir Fabian Ware.

Neither a soldier nor a politician, Ware was nevertheless well placed to respond to the public's reaction to the enormous losses in the war.  At 45 he was too old to fight but he became the commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross. Saddened by the sheer number of casualties, he felt driven to find a way to ensure the final resting places of the dead would not be lost forever.  His vision chimed with the times.  Under his dynamic leadership, his unit began recording and caring for all the graves they could find. By 1915, their work was given official recognition by the War Office and incorporated into the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission.

Ware was keen that the spirit of Imperial cooperation evident in the war was reflected in the work of his organisation. Encouraged by the Prince of Wales, he submitted a memorandum to the Imperial War Conference. In May 1917, the Imperial War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter, with the Prince serving as President and Ware as Vice-Chairman. The Commission's work began in earnest after the Armistice. Once land for cemeteries and memorials had been guaranteed, the enormous task of recording the details of the dead began. By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave.

The Commission set the highest standards for all its work. Three of the most eminent architects of the day - Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Reginald Blomfield - were chosen to begin the work of designing and constructing the cemeteries and memorials.  Rudyard Kipling was tasked, as literary advisor, with advising on inscriptions.

Ware asked Sir Frederic Kenyon, the Director of the British Museum, to interpret the differing approaches of the principal architects. The report he presented to the Commission in November 1918 emphasised equality as the core ideology, outlining the principles we abide by today.

In 1937 he published an account of the work of the commission called The Immortal Heritage. The outbreak of the Second World War saw him appointed Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries at the War Office, whilst continuing in his role as Vice-Chairman of the Commission.

Ware died on 29 April 1949 at home in Amberley, Gloucestershire shortly after his retirement and is buried in the local Holy Trinity Churchyard. His grave has a CWGC-style headstone and is maintained by the commission. There are also memorial tablets to him in the Warrior's Chapel at Westminster Abbey and in Gloucester Cathedral.

A remarkable man, and a remarkable organisation, that still is adding to the Debt of Honour database on an almost daily basis.
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alkhamhills
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2016, 20:50:07 PM »

Excellent Icare9 . Hope you don’t mind my adding a bit of his family history

Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware

He married Anna Margaret Phibbs 1.8.1895 at Clifton.

In 1901 with his wife and her father & 2 servants at 54 Goldhurst Terrace, Hampstead. He was an Occasional Inspector Board of Education & Examminer Civil Service.
In 1911 with wife Anna Margaret & 2 children. Also 6 servants inc Governess. At 14 Wyndham Place, Bryanston Square. He was Editor of the Morning Post.

See attached Medal Record Card.
On 9.5.1929 he was on SS P C Hooft from Southampton to Genoa, with his wife. A Major, Imperial War Graves Commision.
On 12.11.1936 he was on SS  Terukuni Maru from London to Naples with his wife. He was Vice Chairman Imperial War Graves

Probate. Of The Dial Cottage, Amberley. Died 28.4.1949 at Barnwood house hospital, Gloucester. Probate to Lady Anna Margaret Ware, widow, Arthur Henry Fabian Ware, schoolmaster, & Margaret Amy Jessica spinster. Effects £12916.

Buried at Amberley, Stroud District, Gloucestershire.

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Icare9
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2016, 21:32:39 PM »

There is never a problem about your contributions, a.h!
I can quite understand that some would want their loved ones brought home, as the Americans did that after WW2 where requested, but I can also appreciate that this may have restricted it to only those who could afford it and perhaps have Officers in the UK and "Other Ranks" left where they fell, in effect.
Seeing the "beauty" of immaculately kept CWGC cemeteries in areas of past conflict does bring home the argument he put forward that they should all be without distinction of class, creed, colour or rank, all treated the same.

I also really appreciated that someone in the CWGC could write such a comprehensive response to my enquiry and felt it important to share with you.
(and apologies for the spelling of Liddel (not Liddell). I also forgot to put links from both those threads to here (and vice versa) but no doubt there's a helping hand to sort out my mess (when not changing nappies, that is!).

So now I'm intrigued to find more examples of men being repatriated to see who might have been brought home, and when.


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John
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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2016, 22:48:26 PM »

Local burials of casualties whose bodies were returned to the UK in WWI:

Lieutenant Alan Leggett

Captain John Liddel

But, of course, there were many casualties who died on the Continent and whose bodies were buried here, such as wounded who passed away during loading, or once onboard, transport ships heading to England. Also casualties such as Zeebrugge Raid dead who were killed there. Not trying to muddy the waters, just saying!
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Craggs
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2016, 08:42:59 AM »

Excellent topic 'Icare9', thanks for starting it.

I think the reply from the CWGC is worthy of a mention as it has clearly been written in reply to your enquiry and you haven't been sent a standard pre-formatted answer - their reply is considered and meaningful.

I think the decision not to allow repatriation in WWI was correct. 

There are the obvious logistical issues of getting the deceased off the battlefield and then all the way back through the lines of 'new troops' waiting to go to The Front for the first time.  The effect on troops waiting to go into combat for the first time would have been destructive.  It was difficult enough getting the thousands of wounded troops back. 

There would not have been enough coffins - very few of the WWI dead who are buried in France , Belgium etc were buried in coffins.  The Government would have had to ship out thousands of empty coffins - and everyone who saw them would have known that they would be brought back full.  The empty coffins would be stacked up high behind the lines where the next "push" was going to take place and only the most optimistic Private would ask "What are they for Sarge ?" -- it would have been disastrous.

There were areas of combat where it was too dangerous to remove the deceased and many battles left the dead on the field for months. There was the issue of identification - or lack of identification.  Many families were told that their kin were "missing" or "killed" and they still had a nice picture in their minds of a nice 'intact' brother or father or uncle - sadly with the modernisation of warfare this wasn't the case.  Explaining to Mrs Smith that it wasn't possible to bring her husband home yet because he was still lying on the battlefield four months after being killed wouldn't be easy and where he was killed has now been heavily shelled several times !!

The decision not to repatriate was, in my opinion, a good decision.  If it hadn't been made then the transport logistics would not have been able to cope, the effect on the public in the UK would have been terrible and they wouldn't have been able to cope, the undertakers and burial arrangements in the UK wouldn't have been able to cope.  The reaction of the media would have been interesting !!

There is a painting, somewhere, of a WWI cemetery at dusk after all the visitors have gone.  The troops are depicted sitting on their headstones having a laugh, smoking a pipe or having a beer, some kicking a football about. I'll try to find it.  That's how I like to remember them. Still together.
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Icare9
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« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2016, 09:52:59 AM »

I'd like to publicly thank Longpockets for putting me on to an existing thread on the Great War Forum.

I am a member and had thought of putting the CWGC reply on there with the intent of asking if they had details.
I'm glad I didn't and Longpockets has saved my blushes, so there's a round behind the KSH cyber bar as he's got short arms!

Terry Denham and his team from the In From The Cold project which continues to find uncommemmorated Names for inclusion in the CWGC Debt of Honour database has helped me in the past and he ahs a list of just 27 men who were brought back after being killed on the Continent.

Should others wish to read, it's http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=48987&hl= (and you'll guess my user name there!)

Thanks, John for accepting that wounded/sick being brought back for treatment in UK but dying on hospital ships or on/after arrival, shipwrecked or sunken vessels and washed ashore AREN'T included, it's just those that had been killed and temporarily buried before being brought back.

There were some repatriations after the War, again, that's not the issue, it's just an interest as to who came home at their family's expense.

The compelling argument fundamental to the CWGC concept is that all are treated as equal, no matter who, as we all know that Death is the one true Leveller.
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MichaelBully
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2016, 21:49:12 PM »

Richard Van Emden's book 'The Quick and the Dead-Fallen Soldiers and their families in the Great War' is really worth consulting on this subject. Have heard the author's talk on the subject twice as well.
Personally I think that the decision to try to bury their men nearest where they fell was the correct one, for all the reasons stated below. Also the question of who is family ? Who should have the right to decide what happens to the deceased's body- A fellow sibling, a wife or fiancee, parents?

With regard to the sinking of the HMS Hampshire on 5th June 1916, have wondered why most of the bodies were buried near where they were washed up in The Orkney Isles though Colonel Oswald Fizgerald's body was brought to Eastbourne for  burial. Could have been the fact that he was ADC to Lord Kitchener and Kitchener's body was never found.
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Icare9
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2016, 12:55:25 PM »

Thanks for the book reference, Michael.
I don't have it to hand, can you add any Names, from memory?
With regard to HMS Hampshire and other casualties washed ashore or recovered in "Home" waters, then they aren't quite within the subject scope.
It's those that died before being embarked ill or wounded that I'm focussing on, the "repatriation of dead from graves on the Continent before the Armistice" might be a clearer definition.

I agree that having them remain with their comrades was the right solution on many more levels than arguments for bringing them all (or worse only those who could afford to) home. It still had to be done with dignity which I believe has been more than satisfactorily achieved and seems far more dignified (to me) than the French ossuary practice.
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John
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« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2016, 08:27:50 AM »

The list of local casualties now stands at:

Lieutenant Alan Leggett

Captain John Liddel

Lieutenant Vernon Austin
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MichaelBully
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« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2016, 12:19:41 PM »

Apologise for straying off topic!
Moving over next few days to not able to go through 'The Quick and the Dead' in much detail. Gladstone's grandson was possibly the most well known casualty whose body was moved from the Western Front and repatriated to Britain. Checking the index of 'The Quick and the Dead' .....
Ltn. William Gladstone from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers was killed on 13th April 1915-and his body returned to Britain for a funeral nine days later, buried at Hawarden. Richard Van Emden maintains in 'The Quick and the Dead' that this is the last official case of the authorities permitting the return of the body.

Regards

Thanks for the book reference, Michael.
I don't have it to hand, can you add any Names, from memory?
With regard to HMS Hampshire and other casualties washed ashore or recovered in "Home" waters, then they aren't quite within the subject scope.
It's those that died before being embarked ill or wounded that I'm focussing on, the "repatriation of dead from graves on the Continent before the Armistice" might be a clearer definition.

I agree that having them remain with their comrades was the right solution on many more levels than arguments for bringing them all (or worse only those who could afford to) home. It still had to be done with dignity which I believe has been more than satisfactorily achieved and seems far more dignified (to me) than the French ossuary practice.
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Icare9
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« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2016, 13:43:43 PM »

Thanks and best wishes for a smooth move!
GLADSTONE, WILLIAM GLYNNE CHARLES. Rank: Lieutenant. Date of Death: 13/04/1915. Age: 29.
Regiment/Service: Royal Welsh Fusiliers 1st Bn.
Grave Reference: In family enclosure, West end of old ground. Cemetery: HAWARDEN (ST. DEINIOL) CHURCHYARD.
Additional Information:Son of William Henry Gladstone and the Hon. Gertrude Gladstone, of Hawarden Castle, Flintshire and Grandson of Rt Hon. W.E. Gladstone, the former Prime Minister. Member of Parliament for Kilmarnock Burghs since 1911.
Wiki also states he was the last repatriated.

I suppose there could have been an argument for relatives of "important" people to not have their graves used as trophy or propaganda opportunities.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Glynne_Charles_Gladstone.

With reference to his grandfather William Ewart Gladstone, I couldn't help but add the wonderful
Quote
In 1840 Gladstone began to rescue and rehabilitate London prostitutes, walking the streets of London himself and encouraging the women he encountered to change their ways.
A practice that many subsequent MP's claim to have been emulating with much less success!

A likely relative, given that both William and Herbert were names in the Gladstone family
GLADSTONE, WILLIAM HERBERT. Rank: Captain. Date of Death: 27/09/1918. Age: 20.
Regiment/Service: Coldstream Guards 1st Bn. Awards: M C
Grave Reference: II. C. 1. Cemetery: SANDERS KEEP MILITARY CEMETERY, GRAINCOURT-LES-HAVRINCOURT.
Additional Information: Son of Stephen Edward and Annie Crosthwaite Gladstone, of Manley Hall, Helsby, Cheshire. Born at Hawarden, Flints.
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« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2016, 07:33:47 AM »

The list of local casualties now stands at:

Lieutenant Alan Leggett

Captain John Liddel

Lieutenant Vernon Austin

Second Lieutenant Arthur Brickwood

Second Lieutenant Reginald Corkran
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Icare9
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« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2018, 13:18:33 PM »

... and another, from the Great War Forum (which refers to this topic as well!)
BURTON, ROBERT CECIL. Captain. Died 16/03/1915.
2nd Bn. Rifle Brigade
Son of Mrs. E. A. Burton, of 18, Manson Place, Queen's Gate, London.
Buried at FAIRLIGHT (ST. ANDREW) CHURCHYARD. Cemetery/memorial reference: At East end.

It would be impossible from CWGC records to know he was the twin brother of

BURTON, STEPHEN JOHN. Major. Died 20/07/1917. Aged 34.
1st Bn. Coldstream Guards
Son of Alfred H. and Ellen A. Burton, of St. Leonards-on-Sea.
Buried at CANADA FARM CEMETERY. Cemetery/memorial reference: I. F. 2.

without such cross referencing elsewhere

As for Captain Maurice George Walter Burton, he also lies in Fairlight Cemetery in what appears to be an adjacent grave/family plot....
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/184677517 29 January 1924, not 1942 as per the Winchester records.
There is no CWGC entry for a Captain MGW Burton for WW2, let alone 1942.....

I don't know what "Active Service" he could have been on in the UK in 1924.....

Another family suffering multiple deaths in Service of their Country which would not have been obvious.

As has been explained, a limited number, principally from well connected or wealthy families were able to bring their bodies back for UK burial but the practice soon stopped as there would otherwise have been transportation issues with so many dead being returned, let alone health hazards.

PS: Mike, thanks for linking to my post on K&SH!

Now, what's the link to Fairlight and the Burton family, I wonder?
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Craggs
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« Reply #13 on: Today at 09:09:46 »

... and another, from the Great War Forum (which refers to this topic as well!)
BURTON, ROBERT CECIL. Captain. Died 16/03/1915.

As for Captain Maurice George Walter Burton, he also lies in Fairlight Cemetery in what appears to be an adjacent grave/family plot....
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/184677517 29 January 1924, not 1942 as per the Winchester records.
There is no CWGC entry for a Captain MGW Burton for WW2, let alone 1942.....

I have posted some details and photographs about Captain Robert Cecil Burton.  They can be found on the topic :

Captain Robert Cecil Burton - one of the very few deceased repatriated in WWI

The deductions made by those on 'Find a Grave' about Maurice George Walter Burton, mentioned above, are incorrect.  He was a Major in WWI and survived.  He died at his home in Chelsea in February 1942.  I've posted some details about him on his brother's topic - use the same link.
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