HC Deb 22 April 1948 vol 449 cc172-4W
Mr. Sharp

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the substantial increase in the grant towards the expenditure of the Imperial War Graves Commission indicates that the main work of preparing cemeteries is now beginning; and if he will make a statement on the progress to date.

Mr. Shinwell

Yes. The larger grants reflect progress by the Imperial War Graves Commission on preliminary horticultural work and the placing of contracts for permanent headstones and the architectural construction in the cemeteries handed over to the Commission by the Service Departments. The following is a statement of progress to date:

The work of restoring the cemeteries and memorials of the War of 1914–18 to their former standard has, with few exceptions, been satisfactorily completed.

Approximately 400 cemeteries of over 40 graves of the 1939–45 War have so far been taken over by the Commission and designs for the ultimate construction of 77 of these have been received from the principal architects. Twenty-nine cemeteries are in the course of preparation for final construction and in all other cases preliminary horticultural preparation is in progress. The number of graves, taken over, is now approximately 250,000.

A great amount of detailed work, including examination and checking of records, has to be completed before actual construction can take place. Apart from that the main work of preparing a war cemetery includes: (a) the laying out and planting of the final horticultural treatment; (b) the replacement by permanent headstones of the temporary wooden crosses and finally the erection of the Cross of Sacrifice and the permanent architectural treatment of the whole cemetery area.

The following summarises progress in a number of areas:


In the United Kingdom contracts have been placed for the supply of 23,000 headstones for cemeteries in both the United Kingdom and the North West Europe District. Of these some 1,800 headstones have already been erected in the United Kingdom, distributed over some 6o separate burial places.


In France, Belgium and Holland the Commission have taken over some 50 cemeteries of over 40 graves and the work of levelling and preparatory horticultural work is going ahead rapidly, as well as the construction work necessary for the reception of headstones.


In Italy, as elsewhere, the cemeteries are receiving constant care, and the work of levelling and preparatory horticultural work is well in hand. Headstone beams are either completed or in construction in 14 cemeteries, and the Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance are being prepared for erection in 10 cemeteries. Contracts for the supply of 7,000 headstones have been placed. The erection of headstones has already commenced in Rome Cemetery. A contract for the permanent architectural construction work at Catania Cemetery in Sicily will be placed shortly.


At the cemetery at Athens (Phaleron) already enclosed by boundary walling, the headstone-beams are completed. The work of levelling and preparatory horticultural work is proceeding.


The construction of the cemetery at Halfaya Sollum is complete with the exception of the headstones. Final construction is also in progress at Tobruk and Acroma (Knightsbridge), while the large cemetery at El Alamein is receiving special preparatory horticultural work.


The construction of the cemeteries at Keren and Asmara is complete with the exception of the headstones.


The Commission's Canadian Agency has already erected more than 5,500 headstones.


The Commission's Agency has placed contracts for 9,500 headstones and for construction of the beams to receive 4,600 of these headstones. The permanent construction at Springvale Cemetery, Melbourne, is well advanced.


Preparatory work is proceeding in the majority of the cemeteries and designs for their construction have been prepared.