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on 30 November 2013
I have been visiting the CWGC cemeteries for the past dozen years seeking, recording and photographing the 93 graves and memorials of the Fallen of our local Suffolk Benefice and also as a volunteer for the War Graves Photographic Project. In spite of this experience my understanding of the enormous task that the Commission had to deal with after both the wars has been greatly added to by this absorbing book. It should be widely read as we approach the commemoration of thestart of Great War - as it was termed in my youth.
11 people found this helpful
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on 17 May 2017
Fascinating book. We all know about the CWGC but I'd never given any thought as to how this came about, despite having two relatives honored by them over two wars. It was hard to believe given the scale of the casualties and the missing that anyone objected to theses burials, it made me think of my grandfathers brother, missing on the Somme who without the CWGC would have had no memorial at all, if he had been found my family could not have afforded to bring him home, and if the army had brought him home his fate like so many would have been a paupers grave. The vision of one man meant that all the dead regardless of who they where are honored equally, and it made me appreciate what an amazing thing this is.
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on 19 August 2017
The Commonwealth War Graves are one of those institutions that I find truly inspiring and noble in our determination never to forget those who died in war. I'd never even thought about how it came to be. Now I know. The project was a curious mix of traditional Imperial thinking yet exceptional deference to the burial traditions of different cultures and beliefs (particularly throughout the Empire), and the tales of the warring architects were a reminder that not much changes when it comes to public projects. I've given it four stars because I would have liked to know more about him, but to be fair that's not the purpose of the book. A good short history, with clear themes, well marshalled material and an interesting take. Well worth reading if you are visiting the cemeteries in France particularly, I'd have thought.
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on 23 December 2013
A fascinating story of a determined man. But amongst other powerful characters like Milner, Kipling, Lutyens etc Ware himself remains something of a cypher. There is much on his achievement, but little revelation of the man, and the inner springs of his determination. Much of the correspondence is official, and one feels that his abiding passion might have spilled over into his personal life and more might have been shown here.
This is a well-written history of the (I)CWGC, and I am aware that it is not biography of Fabian Ware. But I am left with something of the same feeling as when confronted with the great monuments he created: impressive,commanding, painstakingly democratic but somewhat austere and impersonal, without intimacy. For all that, it is a book I will gladly reread and I may in so doing prove myself wrong.
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on 31 May 2014
I had seen this book on the shelves on a few occasions but only flipped through the pages. It looked like an unassuming book, and probably that is why I did not buy it. I am a war grave photographer and eventually decided that I needed to know more about the organisation that created those vast "Empires of the Dead" so eventually bought the book.
It was nothing like I expected, instead it was a riveting read, I could not put it down.
The story of the founding of the CWGC is the main focus of the book, and as such it concentrates on Fabian Ware and the difficult task he had. It explores the quirky personalities of those who worked to create those memorials to the missing and the dead, it talks about the difficulties faced when it came to burying the thousands of casualties from the "Great War". A lot of the symbolism associated with the war cemeteries and memorials is discussed, and the work of those who maintain and care for these creations is also explored.
There was a sense of sorrow in this book, and in parts I found it very emotional. If anything the only real gripe I had was that it does not really go into the casualties of the Second World War and how they found their rest. I would have loved more photographs too, but I do understand the limitations of a book like this.
With the approaching centenary of the First World War it should be compulsory reading, because you come away feeling very humble, and with a whole new insight into the mass slaughter of the young soldiers who became the main focus of Ware and his colleagues.
Thank you David Crane. You created a masterpiece.
It is a wonderful read, and is definitely one of those books that I will return to.
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on 16 January 2015
I bought this as a Xmas present for my wife, she has been restoring photographic project work from 1980s when she spent summer months for three years in the Somme and Ypres battle field areas, photographing in some of the more unusual formats available then. She is a professional photographer, Fellow of the RPS, and one of the earliest female surrealist photographers.
This book has filled many gaps in her knowledge, and enabled her to really understand how/why the graves are laid out as they are.

If you need knowledge of this area, then read this book. (Loads brownie points as well).
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on 25 April 2015
Quite rightly short-listed for the Samuel Johnson non-fiction book prize, this is a very readable, relatively concise account of the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I picked up a copy prior to a visit to the cemeteries of Ypres and would thoroughly recommend it if you're thinking of doing the same; it enriched the visit greatly by providing a context to the cemeteries themselves and how they were created. The political scheming needed to drive the process to completion is also brilliantly handled. Fabian Ware, the force behind the original project, is vividly portrayed - one gets a sense of his energy and charisma, even if his politics were, by 1918, already a reflection of a time past. Thoroughly recommended!
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on 5 July 2016
Engaging account of the little-known story of Fabian Ware, who almost single handedly got the work of commemorating the World War I dead on the Western Front started and sustained through difficult early years. Takes a rather biaised view of the conduct of the war but this does not detract from the main story.
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on 31 December 2013
This is the definitive account of how the war cemeteries of the First World War came into being and of how they have reflected and affected attitudes ever since. No history of that war is complete without it.
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on 5 December 2017
This is a really good book that explains how difficult it was to get the Commonwealth War Graves Commission set up. Just a simple idea from nothing and look where it is today with the huge number of war cemeteries and memorials around the globe - truly one mans vision.
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