Unique IDCWGC/2/2/1/544
TitleCOMMISSION MEETING NO.544 - March 1981


DescriptionMinutes of the 544th Meeting of the Commission.
Content NoteTopics covered:

Welcome to new attendees, including His Excellency the Honourable Marais Steyn, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa and General Sir Robert Ford, and thanks expressed to those who were attending for the last time, including His Excellency Sir James Plimsoll, High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia, who was leaving later in the month to become Ambassador in Japan, and Mr B J Lynch and Mr F C Murray;

Secretary of State for Defence (Chairman of the Commission):
note that Mr Nott had succeeded Mr Pym as Secretary of State for Defence and as Chairman of the Commission;

South African Agency:
announcement of changes to the staff of the South African Agency, namely that Mr P C van Blommenstein had succeeded Mr M M du Preez as Chairman of the South African Agency, that Captain M J du Preez had been appointed Secretary following the retirement of Lieut Colonel A D Cilliers, that Liet General Holtzhausen had succeeded Lieut General Boshoff, and that Rear Admiral Bekker had succeeded Lieut General Lemmer;

New Year’s Honours List:
note that Mr E H Pooley, Head Gardner 1st Class, France Area had been awarded the BEM;

Historical Notices:
note that due to pressure of other work Mr Chandler would be unable to continue working on the Historical Notices for the 1914-1918 cemeteries in France and Belgium;

Minutes of the 543rd meeting:
Minutes of the 543rd meeting were agreed and signed, with the following matters arising noted:
updates were given on the progress of the new buildings for France area accommodation; papers were circulated on the discussion of ‘Quangos’ in the House of Commons; note on the situation concerning the threat to cemeteries in Libya; update on the situation in Iraq, noting that there had been no damage to the Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery nor any interference with the gardeners, but that the Iraqi military were still using the cemetery for training, with comment from Dr Prakash Singh that the Indian Ambassador in Baghdad, in consultation with the British Ambassador, was doing his best to help the Commission as circumstances permitted; update on the situation in Gallipoli, Turkey , where the Turkish authorities were planning a National Park together with hotel, day camp sites and display centres along with museums. The Turkish authorities had stressed that the character of the whole area would remain as it was and no Commission sites would be affected; report on the visit to Normandy by Mr Stanley, the Minister for Housing and Construction; update to the situation in Malta where there was a proposal from the Maltese Prime Minister, Dom Mintoff, to concentrate the service cemeteries into one site, with note that Lord Carrington, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs had met Mr Mintoff;

Report of the 585th meeting of the Finance Committee:
the report of the 585th Meeting of the Finance Committee was adopted with following points noted:
sale of the Commission’s French office in the Place du Marechal Foch, Arras; increase in entertainment allowance payable to certain officials; note of concern from non-manual staff over abolition or down-grading of posts; note on the experimental reorganisation of horticultural groups in France and Belgium as part of the continued search for greater efficiency and economy, including the introduction of weed suppressant chemicals, coupled with the use of larger machines, a suggestion of arranging a trial for use of radio communications;

Commonwealth War Graves Superannuation Scheme (1952) – Appointment of New Trustee:
appointment of Air Chief Marshal Sir John Barraclough as a trustee of the scheme in succession of General Sir Noel Thomas following the latter’s imminent retirement;

Imperial War Graves Endowment Fund – Appointment of New Trustee:
appointment of Air Chief Marshal Sir John Barraclough as a trustee of the fund in succession of General Sir Noel Thomas following the latter’s imminent retirement;

Proposed United Kingdom/German Democratic Republic War Graves Agreement:
report on the recent negotiations that had been carried out between the Commission and the East German authorities, with recap of the events which led to the negotiations (relating to the poor maintenance of Berlin South Western Cemetery), the Commission’s desire to retain control of maintenance of its sites, granting of access to site, and comment on untraced graves;

Annual Report of Exhumation and Reinternment: 1980
members took note of the report;

Unmaintainable Graves – United Kingdom – Plymouth (Weston Mill) Cemetery, Devon:
approval of the erection of a panel in Plymouth (Weston Mill) Cemetery to commemorate six First World War burials in the cemetery which were classed as unmaintainable;

Commonwealth-Foreign Joint Committees: Appointment of Members:
approval of recent appointees to the Commonwealth-Belgium; Commonwealth-French; Commonwealth-German-French; Commonwealth-Italian; Commonwealth-Japanese; Commonwealth-Netherlands; and Commonwealth-Thai Joint Committees;

Execution of Documents:
approval of the execution of documents, including those concerning a legacy from a Mr F A Phipps, who had lost two sons in the Second World War, and who had left a bequest to both the British Red Cross and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which was believed to be the largest bequest the Commission had ever received. There followed a discussion touching on the increasing interest and inquiries about legacies to the Commission, and the best way in which such funds could be used by the Commission; and those concerning the sale of a property which had been purchased in 1973 for a Commission driver, but as the driver had now retired there was no longer any need for the house;

Secretary’s Tour in South and South East Asia and the Pacific
report of the Secretary’s tour, with specific references to Karachi War Cemetery, where negative changes to the surrounding area and to the water supply compared to his previous visit in the 1950’s were noted; and note of positive discussions with the Pakistan authorities in Islamabad on the open invitation for their return to membership of the Commission; Delhi War Cemetery, again noting issues with water supply and damage caused by vibration from a nearby tank repair depot, and reference to current issues in visiting sites in North East India; Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, where it was reported that the stalls located outside would be removed or moved away from the cemetery entrance; Rangoon War Cemetery, with mention of talks held with the British, Australian and Indian Ambassadors regarding the current threat to the cemetery; Stanley Military Cemetery, where complaints of misbehaviour by the public, including the playing of badminton in the cemetery, were investigated but little justification found for the complaint, and that an explanatory notice would be erected in the cemetery; Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery, where it was noted that the screening was starting to take effect; Rabual (Bita Paka) War Cemetery, where extensive damage which had been caused by a recent earthquake were noted, and Lae War Cemetery, where there had been much deterioration of stonework, Suva Military Cemetery, Fiji, with note that the Prime Minister and Government of Fiji had wished to petition the Queen on the repatriation of the remains of a Fijian Victoria Cross holder, but that after some discussions they had issued a press statement which had accepted that the remains should not be returned; Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery, New Caledonia, where it was agreed that new quarters were not necessary; Oahu Cemetery, Honolulu, where it was noted that the war graves, which had deteriorated and needed replacing, were visited once a week by a 90 year old British resident; and general comments about the tour as a whole, noting the importance of historical notices to help explain the existence of the cemeteries to visitors, the lack of registers and visitor books in most of the cemeteries visited as they had been removed, which might have been an overreaction to some occasions of vandalism, and the benefits of conducting tours to be able to hold discussions with people and encourage assistance and understanding of the Commission’s work;

Sir Edward Goschen spoke of his recent visit to Hong Kong and Singapore, noting that he had seen no evidence of vandalism in Hong Kong, and that he had witnessed two coach loads of tourists at Kranji War Cemetery, with comment that historical notices would clearly be of value at such sites
Lord Wallace commented on his visit to Hong Kong, noting the general respect shown by young people and that he did not think that those buried in the cemeteries would mind children playing there.
Mr Lynch spoke of his recent visit to France and Belgum, visiting some 40 war cemeteries and memorials, including Thiepval, Vimy and the Menin Gate, and the headstone workshop in Arras, and noted some lingering unease amongst staff about the coming experiments and changes regarding the horticultural groups;

Other Business:
Valedictory statements of thanks made to General Sir Noel Thomas after 10 years’ service to the Commission, including 7 years as the Vice-Chairman, and presentation of a silver salver as gift.

General Sir Noel Thomas KCB DSO MC (Vice-Chairman of the Commission), in the Chair
Sir Arthur Hockaday KCB CMG, Representing the Secretary of State for Defence
Mr John Stanley MP, Minister for Housing and Construction
Mr G A Cowley, Representing the High Commissioner for Canada
His Excellency Sir James Plimsoll AC CBE, High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia
Mr B J Lynch, Representing the High Commissioner for New Zealand
His Excellency the Honourable Marais Steyn, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa
Dr Indu Prakash Singh, Representing the High Commissioner for India
Sir Robert Black GCMG OBE
Miss Joan Woodgate CBE RRC
Sir John Winnifrith KCB
Mr Edward Gardner QC MP
Lord Wallace of Coslany
Air Chief Marshall Sir John Barraclough KCB CBE DFC AFC FRSA
Sir Edward Goschen Bt DSO
Admiral Sir David Williams GCB

Mr A K Pallot CMG, Director-General

Also present:
Mr F C Murray, Official Secretary, Australian High Commission
Mr A E van Niekerk, Minister, South African Embassy
Brigadier V Madan VSM, Military Adviser, Indian High Commission
Mr R A Gomme, Directorate of Defence Services, PSA, Department of the Environment
General Sir Robert Ford GCB CBE ADC (Gen)

And the following officials of the Commission:
Mr A S Laing CBE MVO, Assistant Secretary, Deputy Director-General
Mr J Saynor, Assistant Secretary, Assistant Director-General (Administration)
Mr I E Morgan, Legal Adviser and Solicitor
Mr W H Dukes OBE, Director of Works
Mr J B Paton NDH, Director of Horticulture
MR P H M Swan, Director of External Relations
Mr H Westland MIPM, Establishment Officer
Mr W J Symons, Chief Finance Officer
Mr S G Campbell MC ARICS, Assistant Director of Works
Mr J P Gee, Secretariat
Date18/3/1981 - 18/3/1981
Extent1 file
ArchNotePlease note that the downloadable document is the final version of the Committee Meeting minutes. Additional information, including the verbatim minutes and subsidiary reports, may be available in the physical file.
The two sons of Mr F A Phipps mentioned in the minutes in relation to his bequest to the Commission are believed to be Sub-Lieutenant Frederick Ernest Phipps, buried in Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, and Corporal Wilfred James Victor (Jim) Phipps, buried at Yaba Cemetery.
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