The Duke of Cambridge had quite a busy day of events on Thursday. He attended the dedication ceremony for Centenary Fields at Kensington Memorial Park and a star-studded gala and awards ceremony for Centrepoint at Kensington Palace. His final engagement involved His Royal Highness visiting Willesden New Cemetery and the war graves located there.
He visited the cemetery to see the work done by Living Memory, which is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The CWGC encourages local communities to visit their local war graves and memorials and to learn the stories behind those who died during the First World War.
Remembrance started earlier this year, and the CWGC, in partnership with The Big Ideas Company, managed to set up 141 groups to hold 141 events. The significance of the number of groups and events was to mark the 100th anniversary of the Somme Defensive, which lasted for 141 days, from 1st of July through 18 November 1916. The Battle of the Somme was a major turning point for WWI.
The project has been quite successful. To date, over 650 groups have requested information about the initiative, and 230 events have occurred throughout the United Kingdom. At Thursday’s event, the Duke of Cambridge met students from local schools and other community groups, and he planted poppies with them. His Royal Highness also paid tribute to several CWGC war graves. A moment of silence was observed before the Duke laid flowers at the Cross of Sacrifice.
Director of CWCG’s External Communications, Colin Kerr, said, “The CWGC was honoured to have an opportunity to share some of the amazing projects that Living Memory has inspired with His Royal Highness.”
Mr Kerr explained why it’s so important for citizens to explore the CWGC war graves by saying, “Within three miles of your front door, is the final resting place of someone who fought and gave their lives for us in the two world wars. The CWGC wants more people to discover these places, explore their rich history, cherish them and remember them.”
He continued, “Our message, this remembrance time and always, to those who lie here in Willesden and those who are commemorated in thousands of Commonwealth War Graves Commission sites up and down the United Kingdom is this: the sacrifice you made will never be forgotten.”
Virginia Crompton, CEO Big Ideas Company said, “It’s been a brilliant experience working with communities here in Willesden. They have taken the war graves to their hearts and are Living Memory Champions, just like hundreds of other groups taking part right now across the country.”
Ms Crompton then said, “This year more than 250 groups have joined the project to mark the Somme Centenary. There are war graves in every corner of the British Isles, but almost all of us are unaware. It’s a great honour to have the opportunity to introduce the Duke of Cambridge to the project in Willesden New Cemetery – his visit will shine a light on this important and inspiring story.”
You can read more about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission here.