100th Anniversary of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Ottawa, Ontario, Tuesday, June 13, 2017
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I’m pleased to be here to mark the 100th anniversary of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Today is a day to reflect on the importance of all that you do, and to remember the fallen.
What you do it so important.
You help us honour those brave individuals who served their countries.
You help us remember them.
In 2014, I was in Belgium to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Ypres.
World leaders gathered at Menin Gate, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission site and a powerful monument to those lost in the First World War.
I imagined what those soldiers would have seen a century ago as they passed that spot, marching toward an uncertain fate, toward a fight they no doubt wished they did not have to fight.
I imagined them as I read their names—each one painstakingly carved into the stone. More than 54 000 names; the names of almost 7 000 Canadians.
The care and attention with which that monument was built and is maintained is a testament to the commitment of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The Commission has transformed our way of honouring the war dead.
For a century, it has fostered collaboration between nations to show respect to the fallen and to honour our veterans and their loved ones.
The numbers are impressive:
- The Commission has a presence in cemeteries and memorials at 23 000 locations, in 154 countries.
- It cares for the resting places of almost 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died in the two world wars.
- More than 300 000 historical documents have been uploaded to its online archive, allowing people to learn the stories of our veterans.
Today, across the Commonwealth, we work together in the hope of building a more peaceful, fair and just world. And we do that, in part, by visiting war graves and by never forgetting the sacrifice of those who came before.
I’ve laid dozens of wreaths across Canada and overseas during my time as governor general and commander-in-chief, some at Commonwealth War Graves sites. Each time I do so, I recall the profound importance of our duty to remember.
In 2000, my predecessor the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson gave the eulogy at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here in Ottawa. She said:
“It is a frightening thing for human beings to think that we could die and that no one would know to mark our grave, to say where we had come from, to say when we had been born and when exactly we died.”
Thanks to the work of the Commission, those graves are marked and those names and dates are preserved.
Thank you for everything you do.