Posts Tagged ‘Nick Stone’

War Graves and Girl Gardeners WW1

July 27, 2017

cwgc qmaac front

Amongst my collection of WW1 ephemera is this interesting illustration of ‘girl gardeners’ or, more correctly, members of the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Army Corps (Q.M.A.A.C.) tending war graves and planting flowers, part of the progress  towards the beautifully planted war cemetery gardens maintained by the CWGC .

I was reminded of this print whilst reading about Nick Stone’s The Returned project http://thereturned.co.uk/

I have written about this for  my local Cornish village war memorial blog https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/tending-war-graves-in-foreign-fields/

This print or illustration  is made whilst  the Commonwealth War Graves Commission CWGC began the long slow and ongoing job of erecting and maintaining  their  distinctive white headstones there to replace the temporary wooden crosses and metal name strips erected by the Graves  Registration Units (GRUs).

As it is cut out from a magazine, possibly to have been framed, it has no date, but a little detective work (below) suggest it is from April 1918 onwards, possibly 1918-1921 or later. Olive Edis’ photographs in the IWM Collection of such scenes appear to be c. 1918 / 1919.

Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Army Corps 1918-20

The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was formed following Lieutenant General H M Lawson’s report of 16 January 1917 which recommended employing women in the army in France. Mrs Chalmers Watson became Chief Controller of the new organisation and recruiting began in March 1917, although the Army Council Instruction no 1069 of 1917 which formally established the WAAC was not issued until 7 July 1917.

Although it was a uniformed service, there were no military ranks in the WAAC; instead of officers and other ranks, it was made up of ‘officials’ and ‘members’. Officials were divided into ‘controllers’ and ‘administrators’, members were ‘subordinate officials’, ‘forewomen’ and ‘workers’. The WAAC was organised in four sections: Cookery, Mechanical, Clerical and Miscellaneous; nursing services were discharged by the separate Voluntary Aid Detachments, although eventually an auxiliary corps of the Royal Army Medical Corps was set up to provide medical services for the WAAC.

In appreciation of its good services, it was announced on 9 April 1918 that the WAAC was to be re-named ‘Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps’ (QMAAC), with Her Majesty as Commander-in-Chief of the Corps. At its height in November 1918, the strength of the QMAAC was more than 40,000 women, although nearly 10,000 women employed on Royal Flying Corps air stations had transferred to the Women’s Royal Air Force on its formation in April 1918. Approximately, a total of 57,000 women served with the WAAC and QMAAC during the First World War. Demobilisation commenced following the Armistice in November 1918 and on 1 May 1920 the QMAAC ceased to exist, although a small unit remained with the Graves Registrations Commission at St Pol until September 1921.    (text from the National Archives file WO 398 website descriptor C15099)

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C15099

The print represents a somewhat floral and sanitised image of a First World War Cemetery, but similar frequently reproduced photographic images exist  in the Imperial War Museum  photographic archives such as images Q 8467 and 8468 WAACs (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps) at Abbeville, February 1918 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205214342

kew divers

James Wearn, Andrew Budden and Kew colleagues on the Somme mark the area where Kew Gardens WW1 casualty John Divers (pictured) was killed (Image: RBG Kew)

 

CWGC and Kew Gardens Somme 100 talks July 1916

Surprisingly a year has flown past since I attended the Somme 100 talks at Kew Gardens in July 2016

I thought of this floral war graves  print of the “girl gardeners” whilst listening to my research colleague Dr James Wearn at Kew Gardens last year talk about his recent Somme trip. James had been on a combined expedition between CWGC and Kew Gardens staff to take a fresh look at the Flora of The Somme Battlefields 100 years on. They also went to mark where some of their Kew staff like John Divers and Sydney Cobbold were killed and are commemorated.

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/such-is-the-price-of-empire-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-the-first-world-war/

Kew’s longstanding relationship with the CWGC began in February 1916, before the Battle of the Somme had even begun. Thus, Kew’s wartime legacy is tied closely with that of the birth of the Commission. This places it in a unique position to tell the story of the First World War in a new light, focusing on the relationship between people, plants, conflict landscapes and remembrance.

Kew’s wartime Assistant Director, Arthur Hill (later ‘Sir Arthur’ in recognition of his internationally significant work) was given the honorary title of Botanical Advisor to the Commission and the temporary rank of Captain. In March 1916 he headed for France to complete the first of several trips to advise the Commission on planting within war graves cemeteries. Just as the Commission has provided respectful remembrance of lost soldiers, Sir Arthur and Kew helped pioneer the creation of the natural tranquillity which surrounds them.

Taking inspiration from Sir Arthur’s travels on the Somme and his two little-known, poignant accounts – The Flora of the Somme Battlefield (1917) and Our Soldiers’ Graves (1919) – in June [2016], three of Kew’s current staff (led by Dr James Wearn) [met] the CWGC’s Director of Horticulture (David Richardson) and members of the French CWGC team on the Somme.

Kew’s aim is to re-trace Sir Arthur’s footsteps in an emotive journey through the physical space and the psychology of plants and war. The visit will also be moving a tribute to the men of Kew who lost their lives on the battlefields in 1916. (6th July 2016 talk pre -event information)

http://www.kew.org/discover/blogs/kew-science/plants-and-conflict-landscapes-%E2%80%93-somme-and-beyond

Equally interesting was listening to David Richardson, Director of Horticulture of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission talking about their immense and ongoing job in perpetuity  of maintaining the horticultural side of these war graves.

Keeping grassy lawns  and English cottage garden planting from the Edwardian era of Mrs Jekyll going in desert or arid areas in the Middle East is one challenge. Sustainable water use aside, there are also other emerging threats such as vandalism of  cemetery crosses, cemeteries in war zones  or current no-go areas and also  dealing with the effects of climate change such as floods  in Madras in India and sea level rise storm surges in Sierra Leone, Africa.

http://www.cwgc.org/about-us/what-we-do/horticulture.aspx

These areas of sustainable water usage, conflict zones and climate change are very familiar from our zoo animal conservation role in zoos and our overseas projects.

David Richardson claims that the CWGC is probably the largest amenity horticulture organisation in the world, employing over 850 to 900 gardeners worldwide. It is also now taking onboard being a conservation or heritage organisation of hundreds of historic monuments by top architects such as Lutyens and his Thiepval Memorial as it approaches 100 years old.

http://www.cwgc.org/about-us/most-popular-questions/fast-facts.aspx

I was surprised to learn that of the 23,000 cemeteries and burial plots in over 150 countries worldwide,  over half are to be found in the United Kingdom. In 2016, I  visited local WW1 CWGC headstones in a local Newquay cemetery near Newquay Zoo to pay our respects  as part of  the Living Memory project to mark the 141 days of the Somme  http://www.cwgc.org/about-us/cwgc-projects/living-memory.aspx

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/the-somme-the-ennor-family-living-memory-and-our-local-cwgc-headstones-in-newquay/

Somme100

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Kew Joddrell Laboratory / Lecture Theatre, 2016

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

A relaxing place to sit and wait of an evening  for the 6th July talk, 2016 Kew Gardens

One clue for the researchers, on the back of the Q.M.A.A.C “girl gardeners” magazine illustration are featured these senior and well-decorated men :

cwgc qmaac back

Possible clue to the WW1  1918-21 date of the print , being the reverse page of the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Army Corps  illustration, undated – what links all these officers?

A quick coffee break check suggests that these are the memorial portraits of well-decorated senior men, many of whom had died throughout mid to late 1917:

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/73256/LEIGHTON,%20JOHN%20BURGH%20TALBOT

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/508940/KERRISON,%20ROGER%20ORME

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/99349/MAXWELL,%20FRANCIS%20AYLMER

This suggests a magazine date at the earliest of April 1918 onwards, when the QMAAC received its royal name change from the WAAC.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 27 July 2017


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