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RAF Graves in Iraq

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RAF Graves in Iraq

Old 4th Nov 2007, 11:56
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RAF Graves in Iraq

The photo below was taken at a British Cemetery in Iraq about 1 year after the recent occupation.
At the time, I wrote to the War Graves Commission asking if they had any plans for rehabilitation of the sites. I had a very nice reply stating something along the lines of ‘there was an employee in charge of the site but that, given the current security situation, there was little that could be done until things improved’. The War Graves people were also able to identify some of the people from other photos in which headstones are visible.
It seemed clear to me that the site had been vandalised but I have not been able to return to the area and so have no idea if things have improved.
My question is quite simply: should we – given that we seem to be withdrawing from Iraq – be leaving the remains of these servicemen behind?
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Old 4th Nov 2007, 12:15
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It's a difficult question but there may be all sorts of legal issues lurking; possibly requiring consent from relatives. Then being sure of the identity of each body coupled with the problem of the exhumation and transport of bodies which will be in a pretty poor state of decay.
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Old 4th Nov 2007, 16:26
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It's a difficult question but there may be all sorts of legal issues lurking; possibly requiring consent from relatives. Then being sure of the identity of each body coupled with the problem of the exhumation and transport of bodies which will be in a pretty poor state of decay.
To be fair though, it may be preferable to move them. I'm sure any living descendants would be happier knowing their relative's grave is safe from further vandalism and desecration.
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Old 4th Nov 2007, 17:16
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The British War graves in Al Amarah are were well looked after the last time i saw them in 2003..... Anybody have a update.
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Old 4th Nov 2007, 22:03
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Graves in Iraq

Even if / when we withdraw from Iraq, I am sure the CWGC will maintain the graves when it is safe to do so.
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Old 5th Nov 2007, 10:41
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Many thanks to all for their comments.
My personal view is that, as we draw down our forces in Iraq, in all probability these sites will be subject to vandalism. Perhaps ‘desecration’ is a more correct word to use.
In a number of instances this has already happened:
May 21 2003
A British World War I cemetery in Iraq, which was restored by United States marines as a sign of gratitude for Britain's participation in the recent conflict, has been desecrated by Iraqis.
The cemetery in the eastern city of Kut, site of some of the fiercest losses the British military has suffered in the region, was vandalised hours after a rededication ceremony attended by British generals and Anglican bishops.
Some gravestones of tens of thousands of British and Indian troops who fell in Kut after being forced to retreat from Baghdad by Turkish forces in 1916 have been toppled. The Union Jack which was hoisted during the ceremony was ripped down and burnt and its metal flagpole bent to an angle of 45 degrees.
US marines in Kut expressed their anger. "We were real proud of our efforts to restore it and now it's just been trashed again, which makes me and a whole lot of people so angry," said Lieutenant-Colonel Bob Zangas, of the 4th Civil Affairs Group, who has been heavily involved in the project.
This month, US marines under the command of General Richard Natonski set to work to clear the burial site, which was "eyeball high" in rubbish and weeds, after Britain stopped paying the caretaker after the 1991 Gulf War.
The battle of Kut, described by T. E. Lawrence as a "slow-drawn agony", lasted 143 days. Only 2000 out of 23,000 men survived.
On Monday children were swinging on the bent flagpole, leaping over the cracked or broken headstones which had clearly been hit with heavy objects and throwing stones at dogs under an old memorial arch.
Local people outside a shop selling icons of Shiite clerics opposite the cemetery said its desecration was not surprising.
"We respect the dead, whatever their religion, but the soldiers put up the British flag as if to emphasise that they are occupying us and many men put lots of effort into the restoration," said Abbas Jaber, 32, a glazier.
"At the same time we are suffering from lack of food, electricity and security. If only they put as much effort into sorting these problems out."
Colonel Zangas admitted that the restoration should not have been given so much weight so soon after the war: "It sent out the wrong message, renovating a Christian cemetery when you're occupying a Muslim country."
The Telegraph, London
I understand that current policy is to let these bodies lie as they are and I would be happy with that if they really were allowed to ‘Rest in Peace’.
See also this:
http://www.xhaltonbrat65.com/hab-wargraves-page.html
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