HC Deb 13 July 1920 vol 131 cc2129-30

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will say who is now responsible for the Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, and its present neglected condition; and if he is aware of the muddle in the burial records in this cemetery which apparently renders it impossible to identify individual graves?


I am glad to be able to inform the hon. Member that this cemetery is now in perfect order. It is still under the Directorate of Graves Registration, but is ready for handing over to the Imperial War Graves' Commission. This cemetery has been one of the most difficult, the original portion having been badly shelled. It was also used for concentration. The most painstaking verification has therefore been necessary to ensure the records being in order.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that the officers in charge of the graves' information at Albert are in complete ignorance of the meaning of the letters and figures used to mark the head crosses; and will he see that they are furnished with a key to the cypher?


I would refer the hon. Member to the reply to his question on this subject on the 7th July, in which he was informed that the source of all detailed information is Winchester House, St. James's Square. In this instance he is presumably referring to what are known as White Serial Crosses, appertaining to an emergency system adopted for the heavy casualties of the Somme battlefields. The key to these crosses is kept at Winchester House. Already the majority of those not originally allotted to "Unknowns" have been replaced by standard crosses and name-plates, and the work is still in progress. The hon. Member has, I think, been misinformed regarding the complete ignorance of the officers-in-charge. They may not possess the key, but they can certainly explain the meaning of the system, or direct enquiries to any particular cross of which they have been given the number by Winchester House. Applicants are now informed from Winchester House of the serial number, in addition to the plot, row and number of the grave enquired for when a cross of this description is involved, in case the replacement has not yet been carried out.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I did inquire from the War Office and got an answer from Winchester House giving me the signs by which I might find the graves, but that they proved to be wrong, and that the local information officers were totally unable to explain the meaning of the signs given me by Winchester House and said they had no information which would enable them to identify them?


I very much regret it if that should have occurred. Everything will be done to avoid such unfortunate accidents, and if my hon. Friend will communicate with me privately, I will put him in touch with the Imperial War Graves Commission, and it will be a real service if he will tell his story to them and let me know whether or not he receives any satisfactory reply.


Will the Imperial War Graves Commission be good enough to let us know where our sons are transferred after they have been buried in the front line, and then brought back to one of the cemeteries? Could we know when this change has been brought about? We do not know now.


Yes. The whole principles of administration of the Imperial War Graves Commission have often been discussed in this House. I am quite certain that my hon. Friend will have no difficulty in securing satisfactory treatment of any case like that, either for himself or for anyone for whom he inquires.


I do not know where my son is.

Viscount WOLMER

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the answer he has given is incorrect, because in a great many cases—


Will the hon. Member put his question down?

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