I was recently doing some business with Larsen's Memorials in Winnipeg when I noticed in the back of their shop a stack of brand new grave markers for WWII casualties. I inquired about them, and that's when I found out about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a remarkable organization, headquartered in the UK, that looks after the memory of all Commonwealth men and women who served and died in world wars I and II. They do this by maintaining the memorials of all the war dead, and in some cases the cemeteries in which they are buried.
The Commission abides by the following principles:
- Each of the dead should be commemorated by name on the headstone or memorial
- Headstones and memorials should be permanent
- Headstones should be uniform
- There should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed
The uniformity required in the memorials must dictate that the granite is sourced from a specific location, but the work done to engrave the markers is done locally. The grave markers that I saw at Larsen's were part of a routine 10 year replacement program. That's what surprised me the most...
Imagine: every 10 years, every memorial for every Commonwealth casualty of the two great wars is replaced. That's 1.7 million memorials in 23,000 locations in 153 countries around the world. I find that to be absolutely astonishing. It's not something I had ever really thought about, but I guess I just assumed they were replaced on an as-needed basis.
It may even seem a little bit excessive, but on Remembrance Day as you're thinking back to all those who died for our country, you can rest assured that their names will live on ad infinitum on well maintained memorials.