55. Mr. PALMER (for Mr. MARLEY)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make available for the House the report of the delegation of Members of Parliament who visited the War cemeteries in France and Belgium during the Whitsuntide Recess?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. T. Shaw)
Yes, Sir. In view of the interest of this short report, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the report:At the invitation of the Imperial War Graves Commission the undersigned Members of Parliament representative of all three political parties visited the War Graves in France and Flandere during the Whitsuntide holiday. To our regret, Sir Fabian Ware, the Vice-Chairman of the Commission, was prevented by illness from accompanying us. His place was taken by Mr. J. J. Lawson, who has replaced the late Mr. Harry Gosling as a Commissioner.The tour was extensive and under the energetic direction of Colonel Higginson, Chief Administrative Officer for the Central European District, quite a goodly number of the British War Cemeteries were visited, including Terlinothun, Etaples, Abbeville, Picquigny, Villers Bretonneux, Corbie, 353 Aveluy Wood, Caterpillar Valley, Cabaret Rouge, Tyne Cot and Essex Farm. We also visited a number of British War Graves in French and Belgian Civil Cemeteries.We are glad to testify that, without exception, these corners in a foreign land are piaces of quiet beauty and are tended with a skill and care which betokens not only a duty discharged but an affectionate regard for the memory of departed comrades.In addition, several members of the party visited out of the way cemeteries either to see places hallowed by past associations or to visit the grave of some British soldier at the request of friends or relatives, and in no case was there any decline from the same high standard of care and beauty of design and treatment. Among the cemeteries so visited were Bouzincourt Ridge, Bouzincourt, Chocques, H.A.C. Cemetery, Hourges Orchard and several others well off the beaten track.We were greatly impressed by the keenness and enthusiasm of the staff of the Commission, down to the humblest gardener, all of whom seem to strive to put more than their best into the work.It was gratifying also to notice the kindly thought of the French and Belgian peoples living in the vicinity of the cemeteries as evidenced by the floral tributes placed at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice, or on the Stone of Remembrance, at many of the cemeteries. We visited also famous memorials such as the Canadian at St. Julien, the New Zealand at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, the South African at Delville Wood, the Newfoundland at Beaumont Hamel, the Indian at Neuve Chapelle, and the Ulster Tower at Thiepval, all of which, apart from their particular associations as War Memorials, will rank as triumphs of architectural and horticultural effort.
Some Figures.The following figures give some indication as to the task the Imperial War Graves Commission have in hand in France and Flanders:
British Military Cemeteries 922 French and Belgian Civil Cemeteries utilised 1,393These Cemeteries contain 553,321 British Empire Graves.Area of the Cemeteries—approximately 557 acres.There are 550 gardeners on the permanent establishment. These men have fixity of tenure with superannuation rights secured.