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Hedley Malloch

A market for worn-out CWGC headstones?

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Hedley Malloch

The thread on stolen headstones reminded me that somewhere on the Somme (Pozières or Courcelette comes mind, but I cannot now remember) I have seen a garden with a load old and broken CWGC headstones awaiting some building use. I have no idea how they were acquired. This was a couple of years ago.

Is there a market for old headstones run by the CWGC? They are replaced and the old ones must go somewhere. Would we be interested in buying them? Could the CWGC market them? It seems a good opportunity for a cash-strapped organisation.

But think of the possibilities. Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, a death-plaque, a certificate and a matching headstone. How much would that grouping fetch on eBay? Once you allow a market then the appearance of that particular bundle is only a question of time.

Clearly, too, there are some questions of ethics and good taste.

What do people think?

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Guest Pete Wood
Is there a market for old headstones run by the CWGC?

I would be very interested in acquiring 'part' of the headstone; the regimental badge that is.

I have long thought that about the possibilities of the CWGC making extra money by providing such a service - on NEW stone.

If a headstone is damaged, I personally can't see the harm in retrieving the badge. Nor would I object to paying for it. But if this market were to be allowed to take place, it would only encourage the 'nasty' element of society to steal headstones and break them up. So it can't be allowed IMHO.

I would not be happy about the whole worn headstone being sold, for the same reason as above. Nor do I think that the CWGC would entertain such an idea - plus the fact that wherever possible the old headstones are re-cut.

In other words, if the CWGC were to provide regimental badges cut in new stone - there must be offcuts - count me in.

But the sale of original headstones - or parts of - then it has to be NO...!!

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paul guthrie

I am having the headstone of a local black Canadian soldier replaced. The new one should go up any day and I will let you know and get some one ot post a picture. I asked on this forum if it was OK to acquire the old one, got a couple of positive answers.

I asked Ottawa CWGC, they said policy is to destroy to avoid use in gardens, for construction etc but said they may waive that, why did I want it what would I do etc. Got to thinking, what might happen after I am dust and decided I should not get it after all, it will be destroyed. The man has no idnetifiable family.

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Hedley Malloch
... (snip) ... But if this market were to be allowed to take place, it would only encourage the 'nasty' element of society to steal headstones and break them up. So it can't be allowed IMHO.

That's a good point. Theft would follow as night follows day.

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Terry Denham

CWGC would not normaly entertain the idea of selling old headstones. TPots ideas of engraved badges may be different though. The trouble is their workshops are flat out producing headstones - not much time to spare for marketing ideas!

However, most money making ventures by CWGC would be ruled out by their Charter and, in any case, any cash made from such 'side' ventures would only encourage the Treasury to cut their funding even more!

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Max Poilu

A couple of years ago at Ovillers cemetery a number of headstones were being replaced. The old ones were left outside the cemetery with a pile of other rubbish. The stones had the names struck/ground out by the CWGC workers and were deliberately broken up into a number of pieces as well as being defaced with black paint or a marker.

I was able to salvage a piece of one stone with the MGC badge still intact together with part of the writing. I don't think there is anything ethically wrong with this, although I am sure others may disagree. The stones were as I say removed of all trace of name/number and destined for a skip.

Occasionally the original German wooden crosses come up for sale, these were all replaced with the familiar stone type in the late 20/30's.

I have to say I have a couple of these original wooden crosses too! - at the risk of digging up the old thread on battlefield relics the choice is between these British/German stones/crosses being destroyed or purchased by a collector and preserved for future generations.

The problem of present stones being stolen as in the other thread is a different matter and nigh on un-believable.

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Paul Reed
The thread on stolen headstones reminded me that somewhere on the Somme (Pozières or Courcelette comes mind, but I cannot now remember) I have seen a garden with a load old and broken CWGC headstones awaiting some building use. I have no idea how they were acquired. This was a couple of years ago.

You are referring, I think, to the collection of the late Yves Foucat of Pozieres. He worked for CWGC for 47 years, and acquired some headstone badges when headstones were replaced; he only had the top of the stone with the badge on, not any text of who it commemorated. He had about 50+ of them. They are all now in a museum in Lille (Seclin), as I understand it.

Another collector on the Somme took rubber moulds from all these and did intend making plaster copies of them (I have one; it is rather nice), but hasn't gone any further.

I am not sure CWGC would ever sell them, and I am not sure they should, but I personally don't think it wrong to own a stone badge - an entire headstone to a soldier is another thing. I know of several which have been stolen by British 'collectors' over the years, and fear the sale of even bits of headstones would give out the message it was okay to tamper with them, or even remove them. Sadly some 'collectors' 'collect' anything.

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ianw

Must agree that I would love to have a few badges from used stones but it would ultimately encourage and validate theft so I think it's no go.

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Will O'Brien

I've got to say that I feel personally uncomfortable with the notion of worn out headstones being sold on. I understand the interest in obtaining a badge.........but no not for me if it came from an actual grave marker. I also believe that opening up a market such as this would increase the number of thefts.......I can even imagine some of the more well known or infamous casualties having their headstones stolen to order.

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