The Duke of Kent celebrated 50 years as president of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission yesterday. The organisation marked the milestone during the 700th meeting of its board of Commissioners in London.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission honours the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, and ensures they will never be forgotten. Their work began with the building of cemeteries and monuments at 23,000 locations in 150 countries and territories, and continues now with maintaining them while managing the official casualty database archives for all member nations.
The organisation was established in 1917, with their first president being the then-Prince of Wales. Edward – or David – was unable to attend the very first meeting in London as he was on military duties during the war.
The organisation has constructed 2,500 war cemeteries and plots, and erected headstones more than a million burials at military and civil sites across the world. Those soldiers who have no known grave are commemorated by their name being placed on a Memorial to the Missing. The names and service details recorded in their archives were taken from official military sources, where they were available.
During the meeting, Vice Chairman Sir Bill Rollo presented The Duke of Kent with a long service medal and an album of photographs full with photos depicting his half century as President.
Speaking about the milestone he had reached, the Duke said: “It has been, and continues to be, my privilege and honour to serve as President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
“As I reflect on the last 50 years, I am struck by the constant innovation of the CWGC, from its first archive collections, to the invaluable digital records we have today. But the embrace of the modern has not come at the expense of the past, and I remain deeply impressed by the passion and dedication of the CWGC’s international workforce, into whose safe hands we commit our fallen.
“Each of my visits to the final resting places of those who gave their lives for us is as profoundly moving as the very first, and I commend the vital work of the CWGC, through which the sacrifice of these brave men and women will be remembered for generations to come.”
The Duke of Kent became president of the Commission in 1970, and is held in very high regard by staff of the organisation throughout the world. He has travelled around the world with the Commission, paying tribute to fallen soldiers in countries like Egypt, France and Ireland.
Going forward, His Royal Highness is passionate about engaging young people in remembering the dead of the two world wars.
“Each of my visits to the final resting places of those who gave their lives for us is as profoundly moving as the very first."
📷 The Duke of Kent paying tribute to fallen soldiers in France, Egypt and Ireland. pic.twitter.com/7hR5fWB7ou
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) March 11, 2020
Princess Anne’s husband, Sir Tim, also works with the CWGC.