I am delighted to be writing the first blog for our newly revamped website. We hope you will find it full of information, and be inspired to contribute to our new charity, the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation. Launched in November, the Foundation will help fund all the public engagement and education work that our core funding and our charter remit does not permit, but that we recognise is now essential.
This blog space is going to be regularly refreshed, drawing on the huge knowledge of our historians, our horticulturalists and our conservation team, sharing with you the work we do to maintain this extraordinary estate, and tell the stories of those who fell. One of the great joys of my role is the chance to get out and about to our sites, meeting the team that tends them. There can be few workforces anywhere in the world that take such great pride in what they do. And many delight in telling visitors the stories of those they care for, or the family members and comrades who come to visit.
But the more cemeteries and memorials I see, the more I notice the extraordinary lengths the architects of these special places went to, to achieve that sense of harmony, peace and contemplation that typifies our sites. Yet almost none are the same. Occasionally a pergola or a pavilion is similar, or elements remind one of another site. But each achieves its own sense of place, working with the landscape and the surrounding terrain. If the devil is in the detail, our Commission architects knew it. Whether it is a wonderful sculptural element, such as the Dick Reid Lions on the Menin Gate, or the startlingly realist friezes of trench warfare by Jagger at the Cambrai (Louverval) Memorial, or just a carefully wrought bronze door latch, an elegant finial, such as those on the gate at Orvieto, or a neat drain cover, such as the beautiful stars designed by Louis de Soissons at Assisi, I am rarely disappointed by the small things that finish off the design of our sites. Here are just a few of my favourites.
So when the emotional drain of so much loss of life becomes too much when visiting CWGC cemeteries, give yourself a break from reading the headstone inscriptions, and look carefully at the gates, or at the windows in the shelter building. There is real solace to be found in the care the Commission architects took over each element of their designs, offering truly fit commemoration for our glorious dead.