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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Salient Sadness


Paul Johnson

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I have just returned from 4 days in the Ypres Salient where I spent a majority of my time visiting cemeteries.

Sadly, I found that some had suffered the loss or damage of their Registers and Visitors Books. At POTIJZE CHATEAU someone had tried to set light to one of the registers, whilst another was missing. At KLEIN-VIERSTRAAT BRITISH CEMETERY the Register had been ripped up and thrown around the entrance. At HOOGE CRATER the Register was in a poor state but this could be as a result of constant use as the cemetery is widely visited.

On top of this, I found that many of the cemeteries had rubbish dumped in or around their entrances. Much of this appeared to be the fall out from visitors and included sandwich boxes, crisp bags and empty drink containers. It was nothing more than shameful.

However, my greatest disappointment was at ZANTVOORDE BRITISH CEMETERY where I encountered two youths, presumably local, who were tampering with the Register Box when I appeared. I attempted to ask them what they were doing but they clearly gave me an unpleasant Flemish response and left. As I drove away they reappeared and again entered the cemetery, almost certainly to continue whatever they had begun.

I am not suggesting that all these acts were committed by Belgians as I am aware that Registers are frequently removed from cemeteries and damage is done by all sorts of visitors. It is just such a shame that the cemeteries are so wonderfully kept, very often by local people, only to be treated in this way.

I doubt that much can be done to prevent this but is it on the increase? I have visited many cemeteries in Europe over the years and this is the first time I have encountered such widespread theft, damage and disrespect for those who gave their lives.

Paul Johnson :ph34r:

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Sadly, I found that some had suffered the loss or damage of their Registers and Visitors Books. At POTIJZE CHATEAU someone had tried to set light to one of the registers, whilst another was missing. At KLEIN-VIERSTRAAT BRITISH CEMETERY the Register had been ripped up and thrown around the entrance. At HOOGE CRATER the Register was in a poor state but this could be as a result of constant use as the cemetery is widely visited.

Paul

The Registers do have a busy time at the more 'popular' cemeteries and are used in wind, rain (and snow a few weeks back) so I guess they will get well worn quite quickly, it must take a lot of effort to keep the Registers in a useable state.

The removal of them is not always down to locals of course, although it seems from the cases you described this could well be the case.

I now take copies with me of the Registers of the cemeteries we will be visiting so my groups can be sure to be able to look them up if needed, added advantage they can use them in the dry at the hostel before we go.

As I am sure you know Registers are readily available from CWGC, who will provide occasional copies free via e-mail. While this means you have to print a hard copy it does make searching for dates, units etc much easier.

Didn't see much evidence of litter a few weeks back but then it was a cold and snowy weekend.

Regards

John

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Hi John,

Thanks for the response.

I would not want anyone to think that I was pointing a finger solely at local people. Many of them help to take care of the cemeteries and take a great pride in them. You are right of course, some Registers do see a lot of action. I just can't understand why people remove them when, as you point out, copies can be obtained from the CWGC or downloaded from their website.

Despite my many visits to the battlefields, I think that this one shocked me a little when I saw what was going on. I think I just needed a place to whinge about it and this forum is a wonderful place to get things off your chest, because there are so many others who feel the same way about the Battlefields and Cemeteries across the world. Long Shall They Remain.

Regards

PAUL J :ph34r:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all

I worked as a gardener for the CWGC for a while and one of the regular problems we had were registers going missing. This tended to be worse in the more 'popular' cemeteries, although most cemeteries were affected at some point. We didn’t suspect it was locals; rather that it was visitors who were unaware that they could obtain registers by writing to the Commission and were taking them as souvenirs. There was one summer when all the registers with the brown covers were taken from cemeteries in a certain area and we suspected it was the work of a collector. When we discovered registers missing we reported it and they were usually replace within one to two weeks.

Litter was never a problem apart from the odd piece that blew in from outside. In some of the cemeteries located within towns, used syringes did cause a few problems from time to time.

Mick

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I didn't realise that the CWGC supplied copies of the registers. I have just looked at their website and can't see it mentioned. How much do they charge?

Regards,

Ken

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Ken

I have got copies by e-mail from the Enquiries Section.

Just ask for the register and they will send a copy back as a Word attachment.

I have never been charged for one or two registers but they may charge for large multipe requests.

Advantage of e-mail is you can do simple searches of register eg unit or date, disadvantage is if you want a hard copy you have to print it off.

As far as I am concerned the advantages out weigh the disadvantages.

Regards

John

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In a few years time it should be possible to access the internet from remote locations ie CWGC cemeteries!

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  • 3 months later...

I'm afraid that this seems to be a sign of the times. This vandalism crops up here in this country as well, there doesnt seem to be any sense to it, but on another website the damage caused in this most recent case was put down to religeous extremist's, I refrain from indicating who!!!!!!!!. I think a good case for bringing the cat back.

Len

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John,

Its a bit dangerous to mention cats on the forum, it trigger's an unusual amount of emotion, but in this case I wasnt indicating the feline type, but rather the naval version which is a lot nastier, the one of many tails, it would be just purrrrrfect for the miscreants who caused the damage.

Len

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