In this episode Gyles & Aphra Brandreth are joined by HRH The Duke of Kent, President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Royal biographer Hugo Vickers, for a special recording to mark Remembrance Sunday.
Speaking from York House in London they share war poems from across the Commonwealth to remember the contribution and sacrifice of the many men and women from all around the Commonwealth who died during both world wars. This episode highlights the incredible work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, a global organisation, which cares for war graves at 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries and which commemorate almost 1.7 million individuals.
Poems this episode include: In Flanders Fields by John McCrae; The Gift of India by Sarojini Naidu and The Landing by George Street.
About the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The CWGC is a global organisation, caring for war graves at 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries and territories. They commemorate almost 1.7 million individuals, ensuring that all the Commonwealth men and women who died during both world wars are commemorated in a manner befitting their sacrifice.
Since its establishment by Royal Charter they have constructed 2,500 war cemeteries and plots, erected headstones over graves and where the remains are missing, inscribed the names of the dead on permanent memorials. More than a million burials are now commemorated at military and civil sites around the world.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission war records databases record the details and commemoration location of every Commonwealth casualty from the First and Second World Wars.
You can find out more about the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission including finding war cemeteries and memorials, or searching their war records databases, by visiting their website.
HRH The Duke of Kent
The Duke of Kent is involved with over 140 different charities, organisations and professional bodies which cover a wide range of issues, from commemorating the war dead, to fostering the development of British technology and industry. His Royal Highness undertakes numerous engagements each year in support of these organisations, both in the UK and across the Commonwealth.
The Duke of Kent is passionate that future generations should be encouraged to remember the sacrifice made by so many during the conflicts of World War I and World War II.
The Duke has been President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission since 1970, an organisation that commemorates Commonwealth servicemen and women who died in the two world wars, and cares for memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 countries.
Hugo Vickers is well known as a biographer, lecturer and broadcaster, and is an acknowledged expert on the Royal Family. The Financial Times recently described him as: ‘the most knowledgeable royal biographer on the planet.’
He has written many biographies of 20th century figures, including Cecil Beaton, Vivien Leigh, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Andrew of Greece, and the Queen Mother. In May 2022 he published a book with HRH The Duke of Kent, entitled A Royal Life.
When not writing, he travels through the Commonwealth and Overseas Territories, establishing Commonwealth Walkways, and as such has visited many countries from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, to the Cook Islands, the Falklands and, as he puts it, was once obliged to spend seven weeks touring the Caribbean. In July 2022 Prince Edward unveiled the Platinum Jubilee Walkway in Birmingham.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The Gift of India
Two verses from The Gift of India, an Indian war poem by Sarojini Naidu, an Indian poet and activist. The poem illustrates the complicated and controversial issues of Indian soldiers fighting in the first world war, and remembers the sacrifices made.
Can ye measure the grief of the tears I weep
Or compass the woe of the watch I keep?
Or the pride that thrills thro’ my heart’s despair
And the hope that comforts the anguish of prayer?
And the far sad glorious vision I see
Of the torn red banners of Victory?
When the terror and tumult of hate shall cease
And life be refashioned on anvils of peace,
And your love shall offer memorial thanks
To the comrades who fought in your dauntless ranks,
And you honour the deeds of the deathless ones,
Remember the blood of my martyred sons!
Under the pall of drifting smoke
In the dark of the dawn they came,
And the hidden death of their thin ranks broke,
And the great guns talked in flame.
The strip of sand, and the cliffs’ high-face,
And the hard, grim work to do –
But the pride of Australia set the pace,
And they saw the tough job through.
But we who know that his doom shall fall
As the faithful months march on,
Have another dream, for we hear the call
To Australia’s Marathon.
And we see afar through the smoke and flame
Of a day that is yet to be –
The mighty strife with its blood bought fame
That shall keep Australia free.