The Commission

A special Service of Thanksgiving will be held at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 23 May to celebrate the Centenary of the CWGC

The Service of Thanksgiving will be non-denominational, reflecting the cultures of the CWGC’s six member nations, and the countries in which it operates.

It will include a band and an orchestra, the Westminster Abbey choir, a Maori choir, floral display, readings and hymns, as well as the dedication of two new volumes of the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour, 1939-45 and the laying of a specially created biodegradable wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.


Two new volumes of the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour, recording the names of 650 people from all regions of the UK killed during the Second World War but who had previously not been recognised for commemoration, will be blessed during the special service

In 2015, several hundred new names were presented to the CWGC for inclusion in the rolls following research undertaken by the “In From The Cold” project team.

The names, many of them civilians who died overseas, were missing from the original rolls.

Andrew Fetherston, CWGC Archivist, said: “Given the numbers involved, they could not be accommodated in the existing rolls, and the decision was taken to create two new volumes.

“The new volumes have been made to replicate the existing rolls, but have also been designed to allow the addition of further names should any new research bring them to light.”

Sadly, many of the new names added are of children, who died while handling unexploded bombs and other ordnance – they are the lost children of the Second World War.

They include a nine-year-old boy from Norwich, who died when he picked up an incendiary bomb and threw it on a bonfire. His heartbroken mother gave evidence at his inquest saying her son had brought the bomb home to play with, not knowing the danger.

In another case, a 15-year-old from Bristol also took a bomb home. In attempting to discover how it worked, he hit it with a hammer and the bomb exploded.

At Cairnie, Aberdeenshire in February 1943, three children were killed in the same incident. Two 11-year-olds and a 12-year-old died when a rifle grenade they had found suddenly exploded.

All of the new names have been added to the CWGC’s official database of civilian dead from the Second World War.

After the blessing, the new volumes will be installed with the existing rolls and put on permanent display.

The books are kept just outside the entrance to St George’s Chapel at the west end of Westminster Abbey. One volume is always open on display and pages are turned regularly.

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The CWGC’s Centenary Crest has inspired the creation of an environmentally friendly commemorative wreath to be laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior during the Service of Thanksgiving

CWGC Director of Horticulture David Richardson partnered with Royal Horticultural Society Fellow Judith Blacklock to make the biodegradable tribute.

The wreath is inspired by the Commission’s Centenary Crest, which is turn was inspired by the famous bronze wreath on the pill-box below the Cross of Sacrifice in Tyne Cot Cemetery, near Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium - the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world.

The wreath has a special significance for the CWGC this year, featuring as our Centenary Crest.

The idea for the Centenary Crest was to create an image that is forward-looking while also remembering the origins of the Commission. It is a fitting way to remember those who died in Passchendaele – Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, the year of the Commission’s foundation, and who are commemorated at Tyne Cot.

David hopes to adapt the natural wreath for seasonal and regional varietals so that versions can be produced locally and laid at CWGC sites in countries around the world.

David said: “Designing a home-made wreath, out of leaves which can be found in most gardens, is an environmentally friendly way of honouring the sacrifice of Commonwealth servicemen and women.

“The idea is, that placing a biodegradable wreath at a grave or memorial gives the act of remembrance a more personal touch.

“It’s hoped this will help reduce the Commission’s carbon footprint, as well as helping to mark the Commission’s centenary in a poignant and natural way.”

Two of the wreaths will be laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior during the special centenary service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday.

David and Judith have also filmed a video demonstration at Judith’s London flower school, describing how to use natural materials, such as bay, eucalyptus and ivy leaves, to create the green tribute.

Judith said: “Anyone can make a wreath like this. It takes time, concentration and a good grip, but is incredibly rewarding and therapeutic.

“I think it’s a wonderful way of paying tribute to those brave people who have given their lives for their country. It’s a nice way to give something back and appreciate the sacrifice of others.

“I really hope that people will take this opportunity to remember their loved ones, through the simple act of connecting with nature.”