HC Deb 15 December 1919 vol 123 cc28-30

asked the Prime Minister whether it is part of the policy of the Government only to allow tombstones according to a sealed pattern to be put up to our soldiers buried in France?


asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the strong feeling which has been aroused amongst the relatives of those who fell in France by the action of the Graves Committee in insisting that there should be absolute uniformity in the memorials erected in the cemeteries under their management?

76. Major HENNESSY

asked the Prime Minister why, in cases where the relatives so wish, the gravestones over the fallen in France should not be in the shape of a cross, provided the height and breadth of the cross is not in excess of the prescribed measurements?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Churchill)

My right hon. Friend has asked me to answer these questions. The Imperial War Graves Commission, which, besides representatives of the British Government, includes representatives of the other Governments of the Empire, have adopted designs of regimental headstones for all war graves. These headstones for practical reasons are necessarily uniform in outline and size, but otherwise vary in many ways to meet the wishes of the regiments and individuals. Full information on this subject will be found in the pamphlet, "Graves of the Fallen," copies of which were sent to all Members of both Houses of Parliament in August last.

The Imperial War Graves Commission have for some time past been in communication with Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who represents in this matter the views of those who desire that headstones of other designs should be permitted. Lord Balfour submitted an alternative cruciform design of headstone, which was, however, found not to be suitable either from an artistic or a practical point of view. The Commission explained the objections to him and have invited him to submit a fresh cruciform design which will not be open to the same objections and will not involve a departure from the principle of equality of treatment for all war graves. I should explain that there is no question of the symbol of the cross not appearing on the headstone. I will arrange to have models of both stones put in the Tea Room.


Does not my right hon. Friend see that this a question in which the relatives ought to be primarily considered, and that the dictation of artists and architects and that kind of person as to what is proper and right is utterly improper?


I cannot quite accept that view. I think that the general appearance of the great war cemetery—


No, no !


I am entitled to express an opinion, and I think that it will be found to have some supporters. The general appearance of the great war cemeteries must be considered, and, when it is borne in mind and the principle of equality of treatment is also observed, it will be found that the limitations within which changes are possible are not very great or numerous, but I will arrange for the Lord Balfour of Burleigh headstone to be put in the Tea Room and at the same time the one decided upon by the Imperial War Graves Commission, and Members will see for themselves the difficulties attendant upon departures from these proposals.


Will the right hon. Gentleman see that an opportunity of discussing this matter is given to the House? I can assure him that the deepest feeling is aroused on this matter, which his reply will not tend to soothe.