Meet CWGC's Mediterranean Area Director, Ian Hussein
Ian Hussein is the Commission's Director for the Mediterranean Area. Here he speaks about his 33 year career caring for cemeteries, and his family's military history.
"I have looked after cemeteries for 33 years, and my first one was the Tower Hamlets and City of London Cemetery, then under the care of the former Greater London Council. Other cemeteries I have helped to look after include those within the Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and the London Borough of Newham local authority areas. But much of my career was spent managing the City of London Cemetery at Manor Park. Within the grounds of that 200 acre cemetery, rest two memorials as well as many individual graves to those who died serving their country in the two world wars. So, before joining the CWGC in 2009, I had some knowledge of the organisation’s world-wide task.
I started working for the Commission as Director for the Northern-Europe Area which was subsequently merged with our France Area to form the Western Europe Area. As an Area Director, I have overseen the CWGC’s commitments stretching from the south coast of France to the tip of Norway and from Normandy to Estonia; with the major part being the former Western Front of the Great War.
Last year, I transferred to Cyprus to oversee our Mediterranean Area and an interesting mix of 34 countries stretching from Portugal to Azerbaijan and from Syria to Morocco. Born in London to an English mother and a Turkish-Cypriot father, a move to Cyprus, not far from where my father grew up, seemed quite a natural move.
Within the ‘Green Line’ that separates the Republic of Cyprus and the northern part of the island (occupied by the Turkish army), rests the Nicosia War Cemetery inside which is a memorial to those who served in the Cyprus Regiment (Cyprus was a British Crown colony from 1925-1960).
Studying this memorial for the first time, I thought of my father who I knew had joined the British Army’s Cyprus Regiment in 1942, aged 19. My father avoided talking about his war experience other than telling me that the scars on his face were caused by a landmine that killed his best friend. I never pushed my father to say more and, now, wish I had.
I have discovered that my father served in some of the countries covered by the Mediterranean Area – including Egypt, Palestine and Italy. Meanwhile, my maternal grandfather, who served in both world wars, was also awarded the Italy Star. I wonder whether the two ever met. You see, for me, working for the CWGC is not just professional, it is also personal; as it is for everyone I know who works for this truly unique organisation."