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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Upkeep in ww2


davidfegga

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This has probably been asked before, but I was wondering if the Commonwealth cemetries were tended by anybody during the German occupation of Belgium and France, and if so by who, and were they paid etc?

Dave

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Dave

IWGC evacuated all their UK staff at the beginning of the German invasion. Unfortunately, they did not all get away in time and some had to join the streams of refugees. A small number subsequently died during the occupation.

Therefore, there was no formal care for the cemeteries and they were left to the attentions of Mother Nature. However, in several cases local staff continued to do what they could to keep them maintained and also, in some places, the general populace also helped. This would all have been without pay and done through loyalty to the job.

The Germans did not interfere with the cemeteries not least because several of them also contained German graves.

There is at least one case of a local IWGC gardener being part of the escape chain and hiding British personnel on cemetery property before they could escape to the UK.

Obviously, IWGC returned staff as soon as they could after the war.

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Thanks terry, must have meant quite a bit of work after the war.

Dave

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In "The Unending Vigil" the history of the Iwgc and Cwgc there is a picture of Belgian Civilians trying to do some tending of Tyne Cot cemetary during WW2. The whole place is extremely overgrown with high grass and all the shrubs having grown to their maximum obscurring most of the headstones which can just be seen here and there.

However no cemetery was physically interferred with and post war it was just a question, as with any overgrown garden of plenty of hard pruning and grass cutting and general tidying up. The only memorial destroyed was in Flanders commeroating the first gas attack and accusing the Germans of a crime against humanity. That seemed to get up their nostrils and so it didnt long survive the occupation. British and french and other allied memorials and cemeteries seem to have just been left alone. SG

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The book unending vigil, is a very good book and covers the entire history of the IWGC/CWGC, well worth a read, it also has photos of the cemeteries after the war, with the grass uncut, and the end stones, covered in moss. They did a marvelous job restoring them back to there former glory.

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I'm sure I read somewhere about the Germans removing part of an Australian memorial near St Quentin because it showed an Anzac bayoneting a German eagle. Will see if I can find anything on the web about this.

Swizz

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Fron The Unending Vigil. The picture unfortuneately hasnt scanned well but one gets the general impression of Tyne Cot and the planting now very mature and overgrown obscurring many of the headstones. But thankfully no obvious physical damage. SG

post-4532-1128282089.jpg

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Dave

IWGC evacuated all their UK staff at the beginning of the German invasion. Unfortunately, they did not all get away in time and some had to join the streams of refugees. A small number subsequently died during the occupation.

Many of them had married local girls, and very few of these even tried to leave in 1940. In my early days of visiting France and Flanders some of these gardeners were still living in Arras and Ypres and had some harrowing tales of the occupation period.

The memorials known to me which were destroyed were: French Memorial to gas attack near Yser Canal, 2nd Australian Divisional Memorial at Mt St Quentin and Zeebrugge Memorial.

The Indian Corps Memorial and Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (shown above) were both damaged by fighting, and several cemeteries around Ypres and Arras also still show 1940 'battle damage'.

The 'Unending Vigil' for some reason claims Blighty Valley Cemetery on the Somme was ploughed up; after some investigation it seems that this is incorrect.

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As far as I can tell, Tyne Cot and other cemeteries in Ypres Saliënt were in the care of the local city/town councils during WW2. I think the people on the Tyne Cot picture are Zonnebeke town council employees.

Those IWGC employees who stayed behind were offcourse intered. A man in Paris who is the son of one of them is doing extensive research on this subject.

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The situation varied from area to area according to the German commander's feelings on the matter.

I came across one account - don't know if it's true - that one commander had a lawnmower brought in from Germany so that the locals could look after the cemetery.

It was roughly the same situation as there was with regard to the German cemeteries where many Jewish memorials were ripped out (you can pick them out today as they are stone rather than the metal crosses), but in some places the commanders refused to allow this and they were left alone.

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