Commonwealth War Graves Commission Marks Centenary

A minute's silence to remember the victims of the Manchester attack was held before a Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate the Centenary of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at Westminster Abbey on 23rd May. HRH The Duke of Kent attended the service.

The service was led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who said in his Bidding:

Here in Westminster Abbey 3,300 people are buried or memorialised. Amongst them are many kings and queens and other members of the British royal family, as well as men and women famous for the leading part they played in the story of their own generation.

But one Grave stands apart, that of the Unknown Warrior, exhumed from one of the battlefield cemeteries in Northern France alongside those who had been buried hastily where they fell but whose burial ground was to be beautifully ordered and maintained.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission across the world continues its charge of maintaining calm and orderly respect at the burial places of our war dead. This is a work of honour, so different from the practices after battle of earlier generations. Today as we mark the centenary of their foundation, we gather to express our thanks, to celebrate their achievement and to honour those who have held high the torch.

At the start of the service, the Commission’s Royal Charter Supplement and two supplementary Civilian War Dead Rolls were processed through the Abbey Church and presented to the Dean at the High Altar.

The Address was given by His Excellency The Honourable Alexander Downer AC, Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Testimonies were read by Lieutenant General Ravi Eipe, Commonwealth War Graves Commission Honorary Liaison Officer, India; and Joey Monareng, Technical Supervisor, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, South Africa.

The Right Honourable Sir Michael Fallon KCB, Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, read Job 19: 23-27; and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence KCVO CB ADC, Vice-Chairman, read 2 Corinthians 4: 5-12.

Her Excellency Janice Charette, Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, read Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Christopher Stoltz, Minor Canon and Precentor, and said by: the Reverend David Kettle CMM CD, Secretary General, Canadian Agency, Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Edward Chaplin CMG OBE, Commissioner, Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Victoria Wallace, Director General, Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Wayne Harrod, Gardener, Commonwealth War Graves Commission; and the Reverend Professor Vernon White, Canon in Residence.

The service was sung by the Westminster Abbey Special Service Choir, conducted by James O'Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers. The organ was played by Daniel Cook, Sub-Organist, and before the service by Matthew Jorysz, Assistant Organist.

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