Unique IDCWGC/2/2/1/565
TitleCOMMISSION MEETING NO.565 - June 1986


DescriptionMinutes of the 565th Meeting of the Commission
Content NoteTopics covered:

Chairman's welcome to Air Chief Marshal Sir John Gingell who was attending as a Commissioner for the first time; welcome to Commander Cootes (representing the New Zealand High Commissioner) and Mr David Parker (Organisation and Audit Officer), each of whom was attending his first meeting of the Commission; welcome to Captain Sir Miles Wingate, who was attending the meeting as an observer prior to taking up his appointment as a Commissioner;

report of appointment in May 1986 of the Rt Hon Nicholas Ridley MP to succeed the Rt Hon Kenneth Baker MP as British Secretary of State for the Environment and, ex officio, as a Commissioner; receipt of Royal Warrants for the appointments to the Commission of Captain Sir Miles Wingate on 1 July 1986, in succession to Sir David Muirhead, and of Major General Desmond Smith on 1 August 1986, in succession to Sir Edward Goschen;

announcement of the death in service of Fayez Omar, Head Gardener at El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt on 13 March, and of Mr C C B Fuller on 12th April, former Secretary-General of the Canadian Agency who had retired in 1975. Report also of the death on 15 April of Lady Black, wife of former Commissioner Sir Robert Black;

Honours and Awards:
Mr Philip Matthew, Deputy Director-General, had been awarded a CBE, and Mr Robert Todd, Director of the Western Mediterranean Area, an MBE; awards of the British Empire Medal to Mr Ahmed Rashid Farag, Head Gardener at Moascar War Cemetery, Egypt, and to Signor Aldo Balacca, recently retired Head Gardener at Coriano Ridge War Cemetery, Italy; award of the Royal Horticultural Society's Long Service Medal to Mr A E C Macdonald, Gardener Caretaker (1st Class) in North West Europe Area, for 40 consecutive years of service in horticulture with one employer. Mr Blelloch placed on record the pleasure that the news that Mr Matthew had been awarded a CBE had been received at the Ministry of Defence, and referred to his help with the arrangements for the commemoration of the dead of the South Atlantic War of 1982 at the San Carlos Cemetery in the Falkland Islands;

The Commission’s Administrative Organisation:
approval of the Commission's Administrative Organisation proposals for changes to senior level posts for an experimental period of up to one year to establish whether two posts at Assistant Secretary Level would suffice;

Matters Arising from the Minutes of the 564th Meeting:
including note on progress of work to re-roof the Arras Memorial; acceptance by the governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand of the proposal for the forward purchase of foreign currency by the Commission; report of favourable replies to the briefing of Heads of Mission received from the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Governments; report on proposed legislation to allow for the Tower Hill Memorial to be dismantled temporarily in order to facilitate construction of the London Docklands Railway (City Extension) without a satisfactory guarantee of reinstatement, with note that the bill had been amended to exclude the whole of Trinity Gardens, and that the Commission’s only outstanding concern now was to recover some of its costs in the matter; report on the Channel Tunnel Bill and assurance that the construction works associated with this project would not impinge upon war grave sites on either side of the Channel, either in Kent or in the Pas-de-Calais, although the tunnel might be bored deep beneath a churchyard on the English side which contained a single war burial;

Policy Review and Financial Management Survey by the United Kingdom Treasury:
discussion of the review, which had been a substantial and detailed examination of the Commission's workings, and which was generally supportive of its role and its performance. Attention was drawn to some of the recommendations of the review, including the provision of greater delegation of powers to the Areas, and the establishment of suitable unit cost measures, both of which the Commission viewed favourably. Attention was also drawn to the recommendation that the Commission investigate contracting out its horticultural work, but the Finance Committee was firmly opposed to this and doubted whether there was a commercial organisation which could take on the task to the Commission’s exacting standards and still turn a profit, and the effect on staff morale could be serious. Following a further discussion, it was agreed that this particular recommendation would be rejected by the Commission, but that full reasons for the decision would be provided to the Treasury;

Report of the 604th Meeting of the Finance Committee:
adoption of report, with notes on the costs involved in providing training, garage and storage facilities at Reichswald Forest Mobile Group; the cost of structural maintenance at the Ypres (Menin Gate); and the installation of a generator at the North Africa Area Office;

Report of the Eighth Meeting of the Commonwealth-French Joint Committee:
report from Sir Donald Maitland, who had attended the meeting, drawing attention to the concern expressed by member on the French side that the younger generation be made aware of the events that had taken place in France during the two world wars;

Burials and Commemorations:
approval of the alternative commemoration in the United Kingdom of 54 war dead, and approval of the classification as "not within the Commission's control" of an additional 30 war graves also in the United Kingdom;

Appointment to the Finance Committee:
appointment of Captain Sir Miles Wingate KCVO to the committee with effect from 1 July 1986;

Commonwealth Foreign Joint Committees: Appointment of Members:
approval of appointments;

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Superannuation Scheme (1952): Appointment of an Additional Member-Elected Trustee:
after a recent request from the Trade Union side for an additional member-elected Trustee, and after the existing Trustees had considered the request fully, it was confirmed that no additional member-elected Trustees of the Superannuation Scheme (1952) should be appointed;

Tours by Commissioners and Head Office Officials:
Mr Noakes reported on a recent visit by Professor Bell to Commission cemeteries in Japan and Hong Kong, noting that Professor Bell had been asked to examine the practice at Yokohama War Cemetery of burning off in the spring turf which had died during the winter, and that he would be consulting experts at Kew on the matter. Professor Bell had also noted considerable damage to trees at Yokohama caused by a typhoon, and had commented on the good appearance and dedication of staff at Stanley Military Cemetery and Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery;
Mr Symons reported on Mr J P Gee's recent visit to the Soviet Union, noting that day to day maintenance of Archangel Cemetery had improved, but that some issues remained such as dirty headstones and repairs to the surrounding wall, but that due to the sensitivities associated with the cemetery, which dated to the post-First World War intervention period, a cautious approach to the local authorities was called for. Murmansk Cemetery had also been visited and local officials were noted to have been very helpful and keen to tidy up the site, and valuable contacts had been made with officials at the co-ordinating ministry in Moscow. It was also reported that Mr Gee had not been permitted to visit the two Commission sites at Vladivostok.
The Chairman reported on his visit to France and North West Europe Area, and commented on the string team spirit he had found in the staff, and was pleased to see that the reorganisation of the maintenance of cemeteries by mobile groups had not led to any diminution in standards
Sir Robert Ford spoke of his visit to almost 30 sites in North West Europe, and made specific reference to the cemetery at Kassel which he found to be impressively maintained by a dedicated young German gardener with little supervision;

including a report on a recent visit by three Polish officials to Head Office, and their presentation of medals and badges to the Commission and its staff in recognition of the Commission's maintenance of Polish war graves in many parts of the world; the cancellation of a planned visit of two officials of the Belgian Ministry of the Interior; a report on an outbreak of vandalism at Tower Hamlets Cemetery, London, in which the memorial had been sprayed with paint and a bucket of paint poured over the base of the Cross of Sacrifice, with note that urgent consideration would now be given to the alternative commemoration of those commemorated there; notice of a proposal that meetings in 1987 of the Commission and the Finance Committee should be held on Wednesdays instead of Thursdays, as had been customary, in order to make it possible for the Chairman of the Commission to preside occasionally over a meeting (since Thursday was normally the day assigned for meetings of the Cabinet);

Other Business:
farewell and thanks to Sir David Muirhead on his retirement after four years as a Commissioner, with the presentation of a copy of "The Unending Vigil" which had been signed by the President; and a farewell to Sir Edward Goschen who had not been able to attend the meeting, who would be retiring after 9 years, and who would also received a signed copy of the book.

Admiral Sir David Williams GCB DL (Vice-Chairman of the Commission) - in the Chair
Mr J N H Blelloch CB (Representing the Secretary of State for Defence in the United Kingdom)
Mr R A Gomme (Representing the Secretary of State for the Environment in the United Kingdom)
Mr J Rowsome (Representing the High Commissioner for Canada)
Mr L B Maher (Representing the High Commissioner for Australia)
Commander D A Cootes (Representing the High Commissioner for New Zealand)
General Sir Robert Ford GCB CBE
Sir David Muirhead KCMG CVO
Sir Donald Maitland GCMG OBE
Professor The Baroness McFarlane of Llandaff
Air Chief Marshall Sir John Gingell GBE KCB

Professor Sir Peter Shepheard CBE BArch PPRIBA MRTPI PPILA, (Honorary Artistic Adviser)

Sir Arthur Hockaday KCB CMG, Director-General

Also in attendance:
Captain Sir Miles Wingate KCVO
Mr P R Matthew CBE (Assistant Secretary, Deputy Director-General)
Mr J Saynor JP (Assistant Secretary, Assistant Director-General (Administration))
Mr W J Symons OBE (Assistant Secretary, Assistant Director-General (Operations))
Mr H Westland MIPM (Establishment Officer)
Mr N B Osborn FRICS (Director of Works)
Mr G C Reddie (Legal Adviser and Solicitor)
Mr R J Dalley (Director of Secretariat)
Mr M S Johnson ACMA (Chief Finance Officer)
Mr D R Parker (Organisation and Audit Officer)
Mr P J Noakes BSc (Hort) (Director of Horticulture)
Mr H Mackay (Senior External Relations Officer)
Mr S T Bell (Secretariat)
Date19/6/1986 - 19/6/1986
Extent1 file
CategoryMeeting Notes
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.
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