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Note of the death of Mr W J C MacDonald, Gardener-Caretaker 1st Class in France and son of current serving member of staff, and Mr Rene Massigli, French Ambassador in London (1944-1955) and former member of the Commonwealth-French Joint Committee.
Reported that His Excellency Dr P Cherian Alexander, Indian High Commissioner had returned to India to take up post of Governor of Tamil Nadu. Reported that interviews were shortly to take place to appoint a successor to Captain M J du Preez as Secretary of the South African Agency.
Reported the award of the British Empire Medal to Mr George Psailas, Gardener at Corfu British Cemetery.
Matters arising from the 571st meeting:
Reported that the Burmese authorities considered the erection of historical notices in Rangoon War Cemetery was inappropriate until a war graves agreement had been reached with the Commission; that Sir Bernard Feilden, Professor Sir Peter Shepheard and Mr Osborn would now be visiting the Villers-Bretonneux memorial in May; report of Chairman’s visit to Tanzania and problems with lack of adequate funding for maintenance of the cemeteries there.
Grant-in-Aid from British Government – Accounting Procedures
Paper presented and discussed on the Grant-in-aid from British Government, covering the transfer from the Treasury to the Ministry of Defence of payment of the Commission’s grant-in-aid. Concerns over year-end carry-over of funds raised and noted for inclusion in a Financial Memorandum. Commonwealth representatives generally had no objections but would remain vigilant to ensure there were no arbitrary cuts to expenditure or lack of independence of the Commission. As a consequence, the Secretary of State for Defence in the UK would be appointed to the Finance Committee if he so wished.
Delegation of Powers to the Secretary and Director-General:
approval to increase the financial limits of the powers delegated to the Secretary and Director-General, and authorisation for them approve agency services work
Accommodation in Rome:
Decision made not to lease part of the Old Chancery building in the grounds of the Villa Wolkonsky in Rome as the intentions of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (the major occupier) towards its own use of the building had altered, making it difficult to accommodate the interests of the Commission.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission Superannuation Scheme )1952): Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVC):
Paper presented giving an overview of the introduction of Additional Voluntary Contributions to the Commission’s superannuation scheme in line with the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS) as a result of the Social Security Act 1986 which obliged occupational pension schemes to allow members to pay additional contributions
Commonwealth War Graves Commission Superannuation Scheme (1952): Investment Advice and Fund Management:
approval of the change in nominee appointment in respect of investments outside the UK, from Charterhouse Bank Limited to Capital House Investment Management Limited
Commonwealth-Foreign Joint Committees: Appointment of Members:
Five appointments to the Commonwealth-Foreign Joint Committee were approved
Burials and Commemorations: Unmaintainable Graves in the United Kingdom, Austria and South Africa:
approval of the alternative commemoration of 218 war dead in the UK, one war dead in Austria and one war dead in South Africa.
Annual Report of Exhumations and Reinterments: 1987
Report on the exhumations and reinterments was noted.
Tours by Commissioners and Head Office Officials:
The Chairman reported on a recent visit to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, with specific mentions of Nairobi War Cemetery, Dar-es-Salaam War Cemetery and Zanzibar (Grave Island) Cemetery and reference to the good condition of sites in Malawi where the maintenance was maintained by the Commonwealth Ex-Services League in Malawi with some support from the Malawian army;
Mr Osborn reported on his visit to sites in Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia; including visits to sites in Melbourne and Launceston; visits to two of the new Gardens of Remembrance under construction in Melbourne and Adelaide for the post-war commemoration of servicemen under responsibility of the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG); reference to visiting 30 sites in New Zealand, and comment that it was clear that the interval between inspections was too long and that the Department of Internal Affairs , who were responsible on behalf of the Commission for the maintenance of war graves in the country, had requested additional funding from the New Zealand government; and visit to Bourail War Cemetery, New Caledonia, where a recent cyclone had damaged a number of trees.
Mr Noakes reported on his recent tour in West Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, the Gambia and Senegal, with specific mentions of the poor state of Freetown (King Tom) Cemetery, the care taken by the local inhabitants of an isolated war grave on Bonthe island, and Fajara War Cemetery, where it was commented that the good condition and arrangements for its maintenance could serve as a model for sites elsewhere; also reference to the maintenance work in Nigeria being undertaken by the Nigerian army, and visits to two civilian cemeteries in Senegal which were clean and tidy but which lacked any planting and where extensive weed killer was being used.
Comment by Colonel Mehta on the significance of war cemeteries to local army commanders in India which frequently served as the focus for wreath-laying ceremonies involving the participation of large numbers of serving soldiers
Report on a recent visit by the Hon Russell Marshall, the New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs, to Suda Bay War Cemetery, Crete where a relative of his was buried
Note on the forthcoming pilgrimage of Canadian veterans to the Far East to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. The pilgrimage would be led by the Hon. George Hees, the Canadian Minister of Veteran Affairs, and while in Japan would hold a remembrance ceremony in Yokohama War Cemetery.
Sale of cemeteries by Westminster City Council:
Discussion on the sale of Hanwell, East Finchley and Mill Hill cemeteries (which included the Netherlands Field of Honour in Mill Hill which was maintained by the Commission under a reciprocal arrangement with the Oorlogsgravenstichting (the Netherlands War Graves Foundation)) for 5p each. A sharp decline in the standard of maintenance was noted. The new company in ownership of the cemeteries went bankrupt shortly after the purchase and the Commission had to deploy staff to do necessary maintenance as it was unable to enter into a maintenance agreement with any party. The Council agreed to repurchase the cemeteries but responsibility for maintenance remained unclear. Discussions had taken place with Lady Porter, the Leader of the Council.
Damascus War Cemetery:
Report on the recent vandalism to headstones in Damascus War Cemetery in which 12 headstones were severely damaged and would need to be replaced. The British Interest Section at the Australian Embassy were pressing the Syrian Government to expedite the issuing of visas for the Commission staff who were planning to visit and inspect.
Admiral Sir David Williams GCB DL (Vice-Chairman of the Commission) in the Chair
His Excellency the Hon Douglas McClelland AC (High Commissioner for Australia)
General Sir Robert Ford GCB CBE
Major General Desmond Smith CBE DSO CD
The Rt Hon J D Concannon
Sir Derek Day KCMG
Sir Nigel Mobbs DL
Mr J De Goede (Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of the Republic of South Africa)
Mr K C Macdonald CB (Representing the Secretary of State for Defence in the United Kingdom)
Mr M O’Sullivan (Representing the Secretary of State for the Environment in the United Kingdom)
Mr J Rowsome (Representing the High Commissioner for Canada)
Colonel Y K Mehta (Representing the High Commissioner for the Republic of India)
Ms C J McDonald (Representing the High Commissioner for New Zealand)
Professor Sir Peter Shepheard CBE BArch PPRIBA MRTPI PPILA, (Honorary Artistic Adviser)
Sir Arthur Hockaday KCB CMG, (Director-General)
Also in attendance:
Mr J Saynor JP, Assistant Secretary, Deputy Director-General (Operations)
Mr D Kennedy, Assistant Secretary, Deputy Director-General (Administration)
Mr N B Osborn FRICS, Director of Works
Mr G C Reddie, Legal Adviser and Solicitor
Mr T F Penfold, Director of Personnel
Mr R J Dalley, Director of Secretariat
Mr P J Noakes BSc MIHort, Director of Horticulture
Mr R D Wilson ACMA, Director of Finance
Mrs M E Meads, Senior Executive Officer (Secretariat)
Mr S T Bell, Secretariat