|THE ALL PARTY WAR HERITAGE GROUP
Monday 26th July 2010
5.00 pm, ROOM 3A, THE HOUSE OF LORDS
MINUTES OF THE MEETING
Present: Lord Faulkner, Baroness Golding, Lord Boswell, Damian Collins MP, Michael Dugher MP, Lord Fearn, Pat Glass MP, Kevan Jones MP, Lord Lyell, Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall, Ian Murray MP, Baroness O’Cathain, Lord Richard, Lord Rogan, Lord Rogers, Lord Roper, Meg Hillier MP, Baroness Seccombe, Baroness Sharples, Lord Waddington, Robin Walker MP, Lord Watson.
In attendance: Peter Barton, Peter Doyle (secretaries), Jean Hockings (website manager), Alanna Cawston (representing Lord Janner.), Chris Van Roon (representing Robert Buckland MP), Francis Moreton (War Memorials Trust), Frank Baldwin, Peter Burley, Simon Marsh (Battlefields Trust).
Apologies were received from: Lord Inge, Paul Maynard MP
Minutes of the last meeting
Were circulated and accepted as a fair record of what had transpired.
Lord Faulkner welcomed the new members to the Group, and invited them to introduce themselves. He took the opportunity to congratulate Lord Boswell on his elevation to the House of Lords.
The Chairman then went on to report the outcome of the Annual General Meeting in September, which involved an agreement to change the name of the Group from the All Party War Graves and Battlefield Heritage Group to the shorter All Party War Heritage Group. This was in tune with a broadening of remit following from Lord Cope’s request that the Group take into account a consideration of War Memorials, in addition to its other work. The suggestion was accepted and welcomed, with the new focus of the Group the promotion and support of war memorials, war graves and battlefield sites.
Lord Faulkner informed the Group of the agreed subscription rate of £5 for one session, £15 for Parliament.
New CWGC Cemetery, Fromelles, Northern France
Report on the new Cemetery and the 19th July Battle Commemoration (Note: The CWGC Fromelles film ‘The Lost Battalions’ was broadcast on 19 July at 8pm on Channel 4.)
Peter Barton reported what happened at the cemetery in Fromelles unveiling on the anniversary of the battle, on 19th July, attended by Prince Charles and the Duke of Kent, as well as the Governor General of Australia. Lords Roper and Faulkner were present at the ceremony representing the Group. The commemoration was remarkable with very many Australian families present to remember the 250 servicemen interred there; 96 of whom have been named. Fromelles is a major part of war heritage in Australia.
Given that he sensed a delicacy over Gallipoli, Lord Boswell enquired whether the commemoration and collaboration over Fromelles had been a success of diplomacy. Iit was agreed that the Australian authorities had indeed expressed satisfaction at the level of interest, concern and commitment of all who took part in the excavation and re-interment. Lord Roper congratulated Lord Faulkner’s role in ensuring the work was carried out in the first place, a view echoed by Lord Lyell.
The Tunneller’s memorial, Givenchy, northern France
Peter Barton provided a report of the recent unveiling of the new Tunneller’s Memorial at Givenchy in northern France, commemorating the actions of the military tunnellers in this sector during the First World War. The first mines had been blown in Givenchy, in 1914, the last ones too (in 1917). Mr Barton provided a short account of the life of the tunnellers on the Western Front, and one in particular, Sapper William Hackett. Sapper Hackett selflessly gave his life staying with a fellow miner after an underground explosion, a natural decision for an experienced miner, but one that would ultimately lead to his death. Hackett was working underground when an underground explosion buried the tunnellers alive. Three of the men buried escaped, but one, Thomas Collins, was badly injured. Hackett said that he would stay with Collins, but the tunnel collapsed again before they would be rescued. Sapper Hackett received the Victoria Cross posthumously. Although a ‘whip around’ had raised some money during the war, no memorial had been raised. Small donors funded the new memorial, with £30,000 raised. The unveiling, on 19 June 2010, was a great success, with many people attending the ceremony. The memorial itself, featuring a cut-out T that points to the site where these men died, is designed to make people ask questions at the site.
Lord Lyell asked for details of how to get to the memorial site. Peter Barton explained that it was off the motorway at Bethune. Full details may be seen at the website http://www.tunnellersmemorial.com.
Proposed development adjacent to Hill 60 battlesite, Zillebeke, Belgium
Peter Barton was asked to provide a comment on a campaign that has been organised to oppose the building of a new house close to the First World War preserved battlesite of Hill 60, near Ieper in Belgium. This private campaign is called the ‘Save Hill 60’, organised by Mr Shipman, whose object is to try and preserve an at least partially un-obscured sight-line between the Hill and the city of Ieper (Ypres). The issue revolves around the permission granted to one landowner to build a house that would in part block the view as described. Peter Barton explained that the campaign is not universally accepted in the region, and that steps were being made to ensure that further study of the battlesite would result. There were local sensitivities.
There was considerable discussion. Baroness Sharples asked if other countries involved – none to date. Lord Rogan asked of the process that allowed a house to be built in this sensitive area – apparently permission has been in place for some time. There was a query about the major research scheme – this was apparently to satisfy the concerns over the house. It was noted that The Battlefields Trust has had an involvement too, and have provided a written response. It was agreed that further developments should be reported to the Group as they arise.
Threats to the Battlesite of Edgecote, Oxfordshire (1469)
Simon Marsh of the Battlefields Trust provided a summary of the threats to this site due to the construction of a high-speed rail link through the site. Edgecote was a battle of the Wars of the Roses in 1469, but is difficult to identify on the ground. The Battlefields Trust believe it is important to get the battle registered on the register of historic battlefields, and is seeking to discuss its concerns with the constructors of the High Speed Rail Link, so that if the work does go ahead it is required to have full archaeological work. Lord Boswell agreed that this is a problem, and that he would be more than happy to liaise and act to assist the Battlefields Trust, and the Group, with this matter. The Trust thanked Lord Boswell.
Possible programme of future activities
The National Inventory of War Memorials. Awareness of inventory would be a good idea. One alternative would be a good idea to examine the work, at the IWM. Lord F suggests we have a meeting there.
The Battle of Prestonpans. It was suggested that a member of society be invited to give a presentation.
Visit to the Lines of Torres Vedras (Portugal). Lord Boswell, agreed to set up a Friends of Torres Vedras group that will try and involve people from Parliament, the military and from outside. The lines were influential indeed and were important, and respresent an Anglo-Portuguese issue. Lord Boswell noted that it was early days yet but signs were promising. In response to a query about how many of the Lines still existed – Lord Boswell confirmed that a lot is present and that it was a sophisticated piece of engineering. Lord Rogan, associated with the Royal Corps of Signals, noted that the Royal Corps would be associated with their reconstruction. There are good links in Lisbon with the historical society, with the embassy.
Baroness McIntosh reported that she was associated with Bletchley Park, and enquired whether the Group would be interested in hearing about the site, the status of which is currently ambiguous. Lord Boswell confirmed that this would be worthy of consideration, possibly tied into a visit.
Jean Hockings (website manager) noted that the site (www.wargravesheritage.org.uk) receives lots of requests for links, and is successful, with around 25,000 hits. The main thing is that the site acts as a portal So far, the CWGC, IWM, BT, WFA, BCMI, WGPP and lots of others have asked to be linked. Mrs Hockings suggested that this could be used to greater advantage. Meg Hillier suggested that the site could be used in a more pro-active way to discuss developing issues.
Lord Roper, reported on the progress of initial discussions to commemorate the centenary of the Great War. He noted that the Belgians are keen to make contact, and might be useful to discuss matters with the Belgian ambassador. Frank Baldwin (Battlefields Trust) also noted the growing importance of this issue. Francis Morton suggested that the Group could serve as a clearing house for ideas and suggestions relating to the commemoration.
Date of the next meeting
Tuesday 14th December, 2010
APWHG. Chairman: Lord Faulkner of Worcester
Vice-chairs: Lord Boswell, Baroness Golding, Nigel Dodds MP
Treasurer: Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Secretaries: Peter Barton & Peter Doyle