Well I am pleased to say there is lots going on, and on two separate fronts.
Last August I brought you a blog about the first of these... the British Government's Commemorative Paving Stones project. With the upcoming beginning of a several year remembrance of the Great War, the government came up with a program to yet further honour recipients of the Victoria Cross. It was to hold a contest to get a design made up that could be placed on a large marker for the heroes. It would be similar to the size of grave stones, and it would be provided to the local town's council's or equivalent from the place of the recipient's birth. They would then hopefully reach out to the public for input, decide where in their jurisdiction it would be unveiled and would then hold the appropriate ceremony.
But, as mentioned in my earlier blog, the concept was flawed. And it did not take long for the public to express it's dissatisfaction. For one, it's plan called for honouring only those born in the UK. It forgot those born elsewhere that came to England to serve, and later earned the VC. It called for making stones for those buried in the UK... not elsewhere, an obviously serious flaw. It limited stones to just those of WW l, yet another point of concern to the public. More on this can be reread by revisiting my earlier blog at... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/wednesday-and-friday-blogs/britains-initial-plans-to-honor-ww1-victoria-cross-recipients-had-many-up-in-arms-and-rightly-so
Well folks, the contest has received over 200 proposed designs, and the panel of 7 very qualified individuals have selected three. Since many came from school children at the primary and secondary levels, one from each level was also selected. Each of the two schools will be receiving a prototype of the marker its student designed and such will no doubt be put on display at the school involved. The third design will be reproduced on markers and forwarded to over 400 communities in England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales.
Those involved have issued statements that they are revisiting several aspects of the program and will be somehow honouring ALL recipients regardless of place of birth or burial or war in which their heroism took place. But details have yet to be released how this will take place. Many of these recipients are of course from Canada, and several from the US as well.
An 11 year old girl from Sale, Cheshire is the proud designer of the first image, represented the primary grades, while an 18 year old fellow from a secondary school in Kent designed the middle marker. The winning design overall came from an architect who hopes that with the simplistic circle, it will help focus your eyes and thoughts to the name on the recipient listed below.
I however find it most strange that this has been chosen as a winning marker when the words Victoria Cross do not even appear on the stone. I suspect many will view will be from many parts of the world. And some of these will wonder what it is. The soldiers' name, rank, unit name and date of battle are all given, but even the initials... VC are missing from the marker.
The new stones will also come with some form of a QR (Quick Response) code that, with the help of a smart phone a passer bye can scan the code. This will take the viewer to a website that lists the details of the hero involved such as the battle and what he did, where born and died and other info. Maybe even tell you the image is of a VC. hehe.
These markers are supposed to be made and distributed so that the community can hold a ceremony on the very 100th anniversary date, that the battle took place in which the recipient was awarded his Victoria Cross.
Readers of these blogs have often read of the efforts that many of us are involved in, in the Medal of Honor world as well, and to locate and clean up or even mount new markers for Medal of Honor men going back as far as the Civil War days of the 1860's.
So to is the movement very much alive in the UK for those who have earned the Victoria Cross. While the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a wonderful record in maintaining the graves of those VC recipients who were killed in battle, in the UK this group does not handle the graves of those recipients who were not killed in battle. This causes a major problem when one looks to the maintenance of any markers. Too often all descendants have passed on. Further complications arise when trying to determine who actually owns the marker today. Is it a church, the cemetery, the local government. Who knows? Any family found may not even know of the hero in their past. Many may lack the funds needed to do this repair work. Necessary repairs could cost upwards of 25,000 pounds to do massive work to return the stone back to its original stature.
Some time ago a group in the UK was formed to deal with this very problem. It is known as the Victoria Cross Trust and it seems to have not only gained the trust of the public but is gathering a long list of accomplishments in not only finding long lost graves. but in cleaning or repairing as needed. And as important, the retelling of the hero's story and thus, further preserving his and the county's history.
The above is a perfect example. On the left is the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. It is VERY old. John Buckley earned his Victoria Cross back during the Indian Mutiny in the 1850's. He was buried in an unmarked grave in 1876. When the grave plot...without any sort of a marker ...was discovered last year, the Victoria Cross Trust went into action. The grave is in the same cemetery pictured at left. And with the incredible work of the Trust, the centre location now has the marker at above right.
Here are two more graves in England that need massive work, both again from the Indian Mutiny days of the 1850's. The one on the left is for a Lt Colonel who actually acted as one of the Pall Bearers for the Unknown Soldier at London on 11 November 1920. Heroes of out-most standing with graves completely a mess and forgotten about. Nothing sort of a disgrace, regardless of reasons. But graves now getting attention.
And some of this attention of late is as a result of the national Sun newspaper in the UK, the Victoria Cross Trust and others, including the public. First the Newspaper decided it was high time this sort of a problem was rectified and asked the public, their millions of readers, to step forth and help. They were asked to go out to their local cemeteries... and all others they could find, and send in pictures of the graves of VC recipients. As the lists started to come in and get documented, you could go to a site, see who's grave is near bye and go and see it. The pubic were also encouraged to let government know how very wrong it was that these heroes must rest in unmarked graves or with markers that have deteriorated to such an extent that they could crush in the on the very hero. Folks were also asked to donate.
And then it happened! The government, just weeks ago announced that it too would help out with this most highest of worthy causes. It has committed to donating 100,000 pounds to the trust for this work. Better yet, it has also committed to match dime for dime, all the money the newspaper chain raises for the cause as well.
Congrats to all involved in this project.
I will try to keep my eyes open to further developments on these two issues and bring them to you as I get them.
Back on Wednesday.