CWGC calls on communities in NI to reconnect with cemeteries of the First World War

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), supported by the World War One Centenary Committee in Northern Ireland, have announced details of Living Memory – a project to highlight and engage communities in Northern Ireland with the 2,700 war graves of the two world wars to be found there in 400 cemeteries and burial grounds. The Living Memory Project is designed to raise awareness of the 300,000 war graves and commemorations in the UK. Living Memory Launch In 2016, the CWGC, in partnership with Big Ideas Company, are asking the public to re-connect with the war dead buried in their own communities. CWGC wants the public to visit these sites, take a personal interest in those buried there, organise a commemoration of their own and ultimately, champion these places –  tell their friends or other local community groups that these war graves must not be forgotten. Funding and a creative resource pack will be available from March 2016 for community groups in Northern Ireland wishing to participate in this initiative. The Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP is supporting the project and said: “As chairman of the Northern Ireland World War One Centenary Committee, I am delighted to be co-hosting this event at the Linen Hall Library to highlight the fact  we have a significant number of war graves here in Northern Ireland, including many associated with those who died during the First World War.  The CWGC has undertaken excellent work to preserve and maintain these graves and I believe it’s important to increase awareness of the graves and to encourage local people to visit during the current centenary period.  The fact is that you don't have to travel to France or Belgium to visit a WW1 war grave.  There may be one in your local cemetery." Mr Colin Kerr, CWGC Director of External Relations, explained: “Living Memory is about discovering, exploring and remembering those war graves to be found in cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds here at home. Living Memory Launch 2“When people hear about the First World War, they think of the large, set-piece battles on the Western Front, and the cemeteries and memorials there that the CWGC maintains. But there are war graves and memorials literally on your doorstep – many lie in forgotten corners of graveyards. The CWGCs Living Memory initiative aids their rediscovery and remembrance. “Living Memory presents a unique opportunity for communities to work together to gain a fuller understanding of the war’s impact and the ongoing importance of remembrance.” Big Ideas Chief Executive, Virginia Crompton, said:  “When you stand at the graveside of someone who lost their life in war some of the politics of the past fall away.  The headstone brings you back to the individual, and their family.  It’s a powerful reminder of the impact of war.  The Living Memory project is an opportunity for us all to make a very simple and human gesture in remembering those who died in the two world wars and are buried near us.  We are proud to be working with the CWGC to invite communities to take part.” Mr Ken Best was one of those who took part in a pilot of the Living Memory Project in November 2015. He said: “The opportunity to participate in the CWGC Living Memory Pilot was enthusiastically embraced by The Grammarians, the Association of Old Boys of Bangor Grammar School. The School has a long tradition of remembering the former pupils who served and died in both world wars. The Guided Walk to Bangor Cemetery in November 2015, to pay our respects at some of the war graves  opened up a new dimension to  remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as bringing the knowledge about these graves in the town to the wider community.” To support the initiative, the CWGC is bringing a number of its unique archive documents to Northern Ireland for the very first time. The documents include details of how the CWGC commemorated a female typist, Sarah Hale, who died in the sinking of the SS Lusitania in 1915 and correspondence between CWGC Founder Fabian Ware and Belfast City Hall over the care of war graves.  

Lights out for a shared moment of reflection

Garrison Church, Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn

Stained glass window at Garrison Church, Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn

Troops across Northern Ireland will be attending Garrison Church services and vigils this evening (Monday 4th August) to remember the outbreak of World War One 100 years ago today. At the headquarters of 38 (Irish) Brigade in Lisburn final preparations have been made at the Garrison Church where members of the Armed Forces and their families will gather at 10pm for a service during which the lights will go out one by one until only a candle will remain to light the stained glass window. Similar services are being held at Palace Barracks in Holywood and at Aldergrove. The Armed Forces in NI are supporting civic commemorative events being held across Ireland to commemorate the service and sacrifices made by men and women across the services.   One such event is being held in St. Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, led by Dean of Belfast John Mann. A candlelit vigil and act of remembrance will be held later tonight at the Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall. Organiser Jeffrey Donaldson said: “We face a decade of significant centenaries in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland and I feel it is important that these should not become divisive. “The global events that took place during 1914-1918 involved people from across the island and the political divide and had a profound effect on the history of Ireland in the 20th century. “We owe it to those who sacrificed their lives with such valour to ensure that the centenary is used to promote better understanding between our various traditions on this island. “The centennial commemorations of the war provide an opportunity to enhance our shared understanding of this history and to promote reconciliation.” A member of the Royal Family and First Minister Peter Robinson will be present at the commemorative service along with a senior member of the Irish government and other community leaders from across Ireland. Representatives of the Royal British Legion and regimental associations of the army will also attend. The candlelit vigil will coincide with a similar event at Westminster Abbey and in other regional capitals across the UK. It will be open to the public and those planning to attend are encouraged to bring a candle. The ceremony will include a short act of remembrance and wreath laying, with “lights out” in City Hall for a period during the vigil. For other Lights Out events visit: http://www.1418now.org.uk/lights-out/ Lights Out