Charles Cowling




First off, we think we’ve got the name right at last. The Ideal Death Show. It’s sufficiently edgy to be eyecatching without outraging some of our supporters.

We’ve got the right location. Brum. Big city. Easy for you to get to.

We’ve got brilliant community contacts to advertise the event locally.

The show runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime. The Good Funeral Awards (optional) occupy the Saturday evening. Come for the weekend, or just for the Saturday.

This show is for everybody. People love it because it gives them the chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones. It’s a place to debate ideas and share knowledge. Everyone goes home inspired. Nothing connects people better – which is why they come back year after year. It’s the social highlight of the funeral calendar.

How to describe it in a few words? Here’re some. Freethinking, diverse, open-minded and warmly welcoming. Unsolemn. Plainspeaking. Progressive. Creative. Great fun. Useful —


Most of the folk who come to the show haven’t got two ha’pence to rub together so we keep it as cheap as we can. The Good Funeral Guide and the Natural Death Centre give their work for free.

The public are invited and this year and lots are going to come. We want them to mingle and chat with the funeral people on a human level and on equal terms. No Us and Them, no experts dispensing expertise and ‘raising awareness’ –


We want the public to bring their curiosity and, in the process of learning about the death business, to discover that funeral people are just like them and that there can be nothing more normal than to die.

There will be exhibitors, all of them handpicked. But there won’t be the usual transactional scenario with stalls and selling, we want masses of mixing and chatting.

If you haven’t been invited to exhibit, let us know and we’ll see if we can fit you in.

The event is still coming together and will go on getting richer and richer. It’s the way we do it. There’s nothing cut and dried and corporate about this event, it grows organically, responsive to those who are coming. The talks and workshops are designed to be just as interesting to funeral folk as to the public.

Here’s just some of it so far – the tip of the iceberg:


Ximena Hernandez-Hudson

What Does Dying Feel Like? The Science

 Virgina Ironside

Let My People Go

 Anne Treneman

The Vital Importance of Being Buried

in the Right Place

 Caroline Goyder

How to Deliver a Great Eulogy

James Norris

Create Your Digital Legacy


 Claire Turnham, home funeral guide

Caring For Your Own: Your Final Act of Love


Annabel de Vetten

 There’ll be Death Cafes, of course. All sorts of things – a great richness of activities and happenings. You will be made welcome.

Book now and get our newsletter updates. And do, please, let us know what you think. For, as we say:



Cake by Annabel de Vetten

Charles Cowling



Jeremy Clarkson, writing in the Sunday Times about the death of his Mum:

Right in the middle of all that brouhaha about sloping bridges and Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe, my mum died.

So there I was, in Russia, in the middle of a Top Gear tour, trying to organise her funeral and tell the children and sort out all the legal stuff … and I knew that if I wept, which is what I wanted to do, because I was very close to my mother, the Daily Mirror would run pictures and claim they were tears of shame. It was a gruesome time.

And I knew that when I came home the BBC would still be bleating and the reporters would still be calling, and I’d have to go to her house and start sorting through her things. And where do you start with a job like that? Where did she keep her pension details, the deeds to her house, her insurance certificates? How do you cancel a Sky subscription? Did she have any shares? Premium bonds? And how do you find out if you haven’t got a sister who’s a lawyer?

Luckily, I do have a sister who’s a lawyer, but even though she could handle the paperwork, I’d still have to go through my mum’s things, and that would be a nightmare because I’m such a sentimental old sausage I even find it difficult to throw away an empty packet of fags. I think of the fun I’ve had smoking them and the people I’ve shared them with and I want to hold on to the wrapping as a keepsake, a reminder of happy times.

So what in God’s name would it be like in my mum’s house, surrounded by everything that made it hers, except her? And there’d be all those childhood memories. At some point it would be inevitable I’d find the egg cup I’d used every morning as a child and the cereal bowl with rabbits on it. That would tear my heart out.

At one stage I received a call from a middle-ranking BBC wallah saying they’d had a letter from some MPs, asking if I was going to be sacked, and I really wasn’t paying much attention because I was wondering what on earth I’d do with the mildly fire-damaged Dralon chair that my dad had bought for £4 in 1972.

Even by the standards of the time it was a truly hideous piece of furniture, and the years had not been kind to it. Any normal person would give it to charity or use it as firewood. But it was the chair my dad used to sit in. It had a cigarette burn in the arm from the time when he’d nodded off while smoking. I couldn’t possibly give it away, or burn it. And I sure as hell didn’t want it in my house. So what would I do?

There is no single thing in the house of anyone’s mother that isn’t infused with a gut-wrenching air of sentimentality. It’s not just her jewellery or her clothes. It’s the little things as well. Her kitchen scissors, her bathroom scales, her flannel. Every single thing in each and every drawer is as impossible to discard as a first teddy bear.

I would need a very big lorry to handle all the stuff I’d need to bring home. I’d also need at least two months to go through it all. And I’d need about 4,000 boxes of Kleenex.

However, here’s the thing. My mum did not die unexpectedly. She’d known for some time that the cancer was winning and had therefore had time to put her affairs in order. A job she had undertaken with some gusto.

I’d always assumed that “putting your affairs in order” meant writing a will and remembering to reclaim your lawnmower from the chap at No 42. But in the weeks since my mum’s death I’ve learnt that actually there’s a lot more to it than that.

First of all, she had left many helpful instructions about what sort of funeral she wanted. No friends. No flowers. And no mention of God or the baby Jesus. My sister and I didn’t even have to guess what music she would have liked because she’d told us: Thank You for the Music, by Abba.

All the financial stuff was in a neat box with everything clearly labelled. And she hadn’t stopped there. Before she became too weak, she’d had a massive clear-out. Pretty much everything she owned had been thrown into a skip. “It’ll save you the bother when I’m dead,” she had said.

But by far and away the best thing she did in those last few months was to sort out a lifetime of photographs, putting the ones that mattered into albums and, crucially, writing captions. So now I know that the time-faded sepia image of a stern-looking woman in a nasty hat is my great-aunt and that the blurred picture of what might be a corgi was my grandad’s dog.

Ordinarily, I’d have thrown away the endless pictures of what appear to be a building site, but thanks to my mum’s diligence, I now know it was the house in which I was born. And how it had looked when she and my dad bought it in 1957.

I don’t know how long she had worked on her downsizing and the clear-out and the organisation of her things, but it’s something we should all try to do when we know the Grim Reaper is heading our way. Because not only does it spare our loved ones from the hassle of going through every single thing we’ve ever owned but also it spares them from the grief of deciding that the horse brasses and the Lladro figurines really do have to go to the tip.

The only trouble is that there’s one thing my mum did not sort out. Back in 1971 she made my sister and me two Paddington Bears. They were the start of what became a very successful business and they were very precious, but over the years one was lost.

I maintain the sole survivor is mine. My sister insists it’s hers. And she’s the lawyer . . . so I have the cereal bowl with the rabbits on it, and the Dralon chair.


Charles Cowling

Andrew Smith Funeral Services in Cheshire typifies the sort of superb funeral home that we at the GFG like to get behind. We like to put bereaved people in touch with the best, and that’s exactly what Andrew and his team are. We published some feedback we received about them recently.

Andrew sets incredibly high standards. He’s one of the few funeral directors we’ve met who truly understands ceremonial, which of course is all about creating a sense of occasion, not just putting on a show.

Andrew is extremely proud of his cars and runs a fleet of handsome Daimlers. We suffer from car-blindness at the GFG. But we do buy into ceremonial because this is what a lot of people want.

Andrew recently added the 1936 Rolls Royce pictured above to his stable. We love the quality of understated stateliness.

Andrew’s Rolls, immaculate in every particular, is available for hire by other funeral directors. If you’re interested, have a look at the website.


Charles Cowling

Does it get any better? The First Women Awards is the UK’s premium awards programme focused on senior-level business women and professionals. The Awards are founded by Real Business and the CBI, and are held in association with Lloyds Banking Group.

And this year’s winner, announced last night: Poppy Mardall.

Here at the GFG-Batesville Shard the inmates are breaking out the bunting and cracking open the Irn Bru. Huge joy for you, Poppy, and all the congratulations in the world.

Screenshot 2014-06-13 at 08

Charles Cowling



The Good Funeral Awards move this year to Bournville, Birmingham. The date: 6 September 2014. Nominations are open.

In just three years our little acorn has grown into a flourishing oak. To many funeral directors the Good Funeral Awards might once have looked like an impertinence. Who on earth were we, a bunch of industry outsiders, to stage a glitzy, fun-filled dinner and ask a celeb to bestow ‘Oscars’ on outstanding people? Come off it, what did we know?

The answer is: quite a lot, actually. We’re not self-appointed experts but we are, at the very least, knowledgeable observers of what goes on. Our judges, whose identities we do not reveal, have picked winners that have met with approval.

It’s the glitz that gets us noticed

And the glitz is important. It’s the glitz that gets us noticed. We want the event to be eyecatching –we want the media to sit up and take notice.

Because our underlying purpose is very serious.

We are passionate about raising public awareness of issues around dying, death and funerals. This event helps dissolve some of the taboo around death. It gets people talking and thinking. When they realise that some of the nicest people in Britain work in the funerals business it helps make death feel so much more normal and the task of organising a funeral so much less of an ordeal.

It has always been our primary purpose to put bereaved people in touch with the best providers of services and merchandise. This event serves that purpose admirably. And it does something else. It rewards unsung heroes who work so hard for the bereaved and whose role can so easily be overlooked.

It’s where we get to say thank you

So it makes us fiercely proud that when gravedigger Bernard Underdown, winner in 2012, went to church as usual the following Sunday, his vicar began the service with a little speech about his achievement. When he finished, Bernard was treated to a standing ovation by the congregation. We’re proud that, in 2013, gravedigger Stuart Goodacre’s radio interview got top billing on BBC Radio 4’s Pick of the Week.

Above all, this event gives us the opportunity for us to say to people in the funerals business, on behalf of all bereaved people: ‘Thank you for being there for us at the time when we shall need you.’

There is value in the Good Funeral Awards being staged by outsiders, friends of the consumer. It’s what gives the Good Funeral Awards their essential credibility. Who else could do this? If the industry were to confer ‘Oscars’ on itself, it would look self-congratulatory and no one would pay any attention.

Priceless publicity

And just look at all the great publicity the event gains for the industry. A 1-hour, prime-time documentary by Sky. Loads of local and national radio. Acres of column inches in local and national newspapers. Can you think of any other event that makes the funeral industry look so good to the public? Especially the independent sector? We have already booked in our first camera crew for this year’s event.

If there’s someone you’d like to nominate, do that now on the Good Funeral Awards website. And remember, this isn’t a winner-takes-all event. There are certificates for all who are shortlisted, too, and local media is always interested in them as well. This year’s winner’s Oscar is a beautiful statuette of the Egyptian god of embalming (below).

Nominate someone now!

Go to the Good Funeral Awards website and NOMINATE SOMEONE NOW!


Charles Cowling



When the GFG, in conjunction with the Plunkett Foundation, announced a community funerals initiative back in 2012, we supposed that someone might pick it up and run with it. The Plunkett Foundation, far cleverer than us, was pretty confident they would.  They contacted all their community shops and community pubs and we waited with bated breath to see what happened next.

Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Squat.

So we are really pleased to learn of the emergence of a community funerals initiative on the other side of the world – in SE Australia in the steel town of Port Kembla, a place where, according to its community enterprise website, “no one wanted to live” until recently, but “now there is a change in the atmosphere”. It does look a bit like one of those unprepossessing places that brings out the best in people.

The purpose of the Port Kembla community funerals enterprise is to “empower people around death and dying, and offer a not for profit funeral service that is affordable and highly personalised to support healthy bereavement.” It is called Tender Funerals.

Tender Funerals will “offer affordable and flexible services and a transparent fee structure, to minimise the financial impact of funeral care. It will counter the idea that the amount of money spent on a funeral is a reflection of the amount a person was loved.”

“Tender Funerals will offer personalised services that demystify death and dying, and involve a model of community support, to assist healthy bereavement. This will include unique offerings of information and support, funeral services that celebrate and acknowledge both a person’s death and their life, and support and facilitation of active participation and community support in funeral care.”

They will also create an education programme to teach people about issues around death and dying: “We will develop and implement a community development model to provide ongoing support and community awareness … By providing a more open approach to death and the process around caring for the dead it is envisaged that people will become for familiar with death as an inevitable part of life.”

“Tender Funerals is re–imagining the way in which we as a community deal with death and provide a context within which the community is informed and empowered to ensure that the end of life process is one which is meaningful, authentic and good value.

“It will be a community resource and a funeral care provider that responds to shifts in community needs, attitudes, ideas and experiences in relation to death and dying.

“It will also develop a model for not-for profit funeral care that supports healthy bereavement, and empowered decision making at end of life, which can be replicated in other communities.”

The Port Kembla Community Project already has a scheme which offers no-interest loans up to $1,000.

Tender Funerals is presently crowdfunding to raise the money it needs to get off the ground. Check out the vision statement.

Its originators have had a film made about them – you can see the trailer at the top of the page.

Here at the GFG we’ve sent them a few bob to help them on their way. And we wish them every possible success.

Charles Cowling



In the Guardian, Niall Booker, head of the Co-op bank, writes:

We got ourselves into a mess … That’s why this week we will be asking our customers for their views on our ethical policy and wider values. Refreshing our existing ethical framework and also asking about three new areas – responsible banking, transparency and treating customers fairly. Our customers can help us define the kind of bank we want to be. We will reinject that pioneering spirit into banking with fresh values and ethics. After our consultation we will produce a new ethical policy. We will develop products and services that bring our ethics to life in a sustainable way. And we will stand up, once again, for what we and our customers believe in.

Lucky bank customers. What about some of the same for Funeralcare customers, Mr Tinning?

Charles Cowling



The devaluation of the Social Fund Funeral Payment is the main cause of funeral poverty, but there are others. Some families sign up to more than they can afford – and funeral directors let them. The impact on both parties can be devastating. While the great and the good convene conferences to debate solutions, a practical lesson may come from, of all unlikely sources, the debt collection sector.

Templegate Recoveries is a debt collection agency that has been recommended to us by a funeral director whom we know and admire and like. So we asked Joanna Rogers, who founded the business with her sister Alex, to write about what they do to help funeral directors and families to avoid the misery of unpaid bills. Jo is on standby to respond to your comments. 

After 25 years in the Debt Recovery business my sister and I decided to start Templegate Recoveries Ltd. We wanted to service the small to medium size businesses in a more personal and ethical way than what was on offer from the large debt collection agencies. Our main priorities are ensuring that the good name of our clients is protected and the feelings of their customers are treated with respect and consideration at all times.

Because this ethos has attracted many funeral directors who want a more personal and sympathetic service we have, over the years, become experts in the collection of funeral debt

We have made it our business to keep up to date with all relevant legislation within the industry and now find ourselves not only recovering our client’s debt, but also assisting the debtors themselves. We make sure they know all the payment options open to them, where any assistance is available and provide forms where necessary, so our clients receive their money back at the earliest opportunity and the families who have lost their loved ones have peace of mind.

We regularly encounter genuinely cash-strapped individuals trying to bury their loved ones alongside the frivolous money’s-no-object (until the bill comes in) family member who believes the bigger the funeral the more loved the deceased. Unfortunately there’s a real lack of knowledge when it comes to funerals and many people still believe the government will provide financial assistance – that is, until they find themselves responsible for a large bill after the funeral.

We have come across many situations where a family have got the unemployed, benefit-claiming sibling to sign for the funeral in the hope the DWP will pay. However, if there are working family members the DWP won’t pay, leaving a big bill with someone unable to pay it and more often than not the funeral director considerably out of pocket.

In this situation honesty is always the best way forward, both on the part of the funeral director and the family arranging the funeral. Funeral directors have historically found it difficult to discuss cost with a distressed family that have just lost their loved one, and families find it difficult in such an upsetting time to be realistic about what they can actually afford. However there is help on both sides.

Here at Templegate we have spent considerable time with our Funeral Directors  tightening up their in-house procedures, helping them spot families that are likely to have problems paying, providing extra information forms for them to use and modernising their terms & conditions to include a debt recovery clause. This offers protection for both parties. It is the responsibility of the Funeral Director to help steer the family towards a funeral that will be financially viable for them, and for the family to recognise that at the end of the day the Funeral Director is a business that needs paying for their services.

There clearly needs to be more transparency about the help available for individuals on benefits who have no ability to pay for a funeral at all. For example there is the SF500 form which is a crisis loan from the government  that historically helps with housing repairs, clothing allowances etc but will now help considerably with funeral costs. Further, if there are no other family members in employment the DWP will also pay up to around £1,400 towards the funeral.  If you are a family, however, which does not qualify for any of the above there is absolutely no shame in having a public health funeral that is far more manageable financially.

Funeral  Directors suffer hugely due to the fact that they are the only industry that offers the amount of credit that they do with very few questions asked. Quite often they are family run businesses that arrange all their funerals on blind trust that at the end of the day they will be paid, but sadly this is often not the case. Businesses that have been in families for many years are getting into a considerable amount of financial difficulty due to unpaid funeral bills and disbursements that have to be paid up front. We believe this needs to change to reflect the tougher times we now find ourselves in.

If you are reading this article and you have sadly lost a loved one and are looking to arrange a funeral, remember the following. The person signing the arrangement form is the person legally responsible for paying the account, therefore if you are paying as a family then all family members should sign. Secondly, Funeral Directors do not hold a credit licence, therefore you will need to pay the account in its entirety after the funeral has taken place. Try to remember the type of funeral you can afford is not a measure of how much you love the deceased and if you are honest with the funeral director they will provide you with a very dignified service that is still within your budget. There is nothing worse than grieving for a loved one and worrying about how you are going to pay their funeral bill on top.

Further, if you are a Funeral Director reading this article please be mindful of the fact that times are changing and that you are in fact a business. It is just as important to offer a family a suitable service within their budget as it is to get all the details right on the day. There is not a company anywhere that would offer you a considerable amount of credit with no questions asked and the same applies to Funerals. If you feel you need any further assistance with either outstanding accounts or wish to make use of our consultancy service please go to for more information or alternatively call us on 01932 269412.

Finally, If you are an individual worried about how you are going to pay for the funeral of your loved one, please do not hesitate to call and ask for Jo, Alex or Irene and we will be happy to help.





Charles Cowling




There was a time, way back when the world was new and green (remember green?) and a joyous revolution in funerals was imminent. It was a time when scarcely a day passed without the launch of a new online memorial website. The concept ticked all the boxes, floated all the boats, captured the zeitgeist: innovation + web technology + new trends in commemoration (remember the great Baby Boomer Fallacy?) Some were in it for love, others for money. The GFG team celebrated every new arrival.

In the right hands the online memorial website is an excellent concept capable of offering much solace to the bereaved. But only great techies with their hearts in the right place can ever get the concept to work. There have been some egregious turkeys.

Our own favourite, the Titanic of the genre, was the late lamented EternalSpace, pictured above, which launched in 2009 awash with venture capital and sunk days later. It offered grievers highly monetisable “peaceful, serene online environments” where you could choose “your own tranquil landscape that could be “customized to reflect and honor an individual’s life and legacy”. You could buy “virtual tribute gifts, selecting from a diverse range of items including flowers, trees, candles, hobby and sports memorabilia, and other unique gifts that reflect the personality, interests and life of each individual.” It was truly madly deeply bonkers.

Over the years, new sites have sprung up overnight to a blare of PR-inspired publicity, then withered and perished along with all their memories becoming, in their extinction, the antithesis of everything they had aspired to be.

Startups have declined to a trickle in the last 3 years. The very few stayers have improved their functionality, refined their service and worked on their sustainability. In addition to giving bereaved people a place to go, day or night, where they can reflect on the person who has died and share memories, online memorial sites now, also, facilitate online fundraising; and they have partnered with funeral directors, offering them an own-branded memorial site, bringing a welcome element of localism to what can seem a remote and cloud-borne entity. This has enabled them to bring more people into awareness of their presence at the same time as enabling funeral directors to enhance their service by offering their clients a useful grief resource. All good. Market stable.

Then the other day we noticed that Tamworth Co-op and Midlands Co-op had signed up with HeavenAddress. Never heard of it? Nor had we. So we checked it out. Loads of funeral homes in the South Pacific; no others in the UK except for AB Walker in Reading. What’s so special? Nothing we could see. Baffled. If we missed something, tell us.

Check out the Tamworth Co-op page here.

And then do what we do, and compare it with MuchLoved’s branded site for, say, Arthur C Towner here.

Little point in checking out Midlands Co-op because, doh, HeavenAddress links it to a memorial website called RememberedForever (nope, we hadn’t either) not to be confused with RememberedForever (you’d be forgiven). The latter is a dot org, but we can’t find it at Companies House or the Charity Commission. Its ownership is a mystery. We’d love to post a screenshot of its home page so you could enjoy the misspelling of ‘remembrances’ at the top right, but its Ts and Cs threaten dire consequences: “any re-publication of the Websites or content on the Websites is strictly prohibited, and You agree that the consequences of commercial use or re-publication may be so serious and incalculable that monetary compensation may not be a sufficient or appropriate remedy.” Incalculable? Heck, what would be appropriate? Baseball bats? We offer them the words of Psalm 112:  Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered foreverThey will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LordTheir hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

Anyway, you can see the misspelling here

Apologies for the digression. As we say, in the right hands the online memorial website is a great concept. We at the GFG have long been fans of MuchLoved because we think their heart’s in the right place and they’re impressively bright — they’re ethical and they’re savvy. They’re also a proper charity. If someone better came along, of course we’d switch allegiance just like that.

For now, however, it seems to us, they remain way, way out in front.

Charles Cowling



“By all means have memorials. Make them out of Government stone if you like. Make them uniform. But you have no right to employ, in making these memorials, the bodies of other people’s relatives. It is not decent, it is not reasonable, it is not right.”

“When the widows and mothers of our dead go out to France to visit the graves they will expect to find that equal honour has been paid to all who have made the same sacrifice and this result cannot be attained if differences … are allowed in the character and design of the memorials.”

The words in the first quote were spoken by Viscount Woolmer in a parliamentary debate in 1920. He spoke for many  — but by no means all — parents of dead soldiers who either wanted their sons home, buried in the village churchyard, or commemorated more fittingly, in accordance with their beliefs and values, where they lay. By what right did the British Army commandeer their bodies and prescribe their memorials?

The words in the second quote were issued by the Trades Union Congress and reflect the growing democratic values of the time.

Today, most people, probably, regard the cemeteries for the dead of World War 1 as oases of peace and serenity, the antithesis of the horror and brutality that spawned them — beauty born of ugliness, a marvellous creation. Far from being impersonal in their uniformity and scale, you may feel, they are poignantly respectful of each and every person they commemorate.

But you can see what brought Woolmer to his feet.  And he had a case. The dead, in law, belong to their families, not the state.

The story of what we now know as the Commonwealth War Graves  is told in the book Empires of the Dead by David Crane – a good read.  The British Empire war cemeteries were the achievement of one man, Fabian Ware, pictured below, whose name, today, is almost entirely forgotten. For a man who dedicated his life to ensuring that the dead would be forever remembered, that’s quite an irony.


Fabian Ware


Ware was an imperialist. Today, his political philosophy looks as authoritarian as it does democratic. The life of man, he believed, is a constant struggle between the pursuit of individualism and submission to the needs of the collective. But when push comes to shove “the individual is submerged in the family … the family in the nation … and so the nation … in the highest attainment of human collectivity the world has yet seen … the empire … So long as patriotism … is the controlling force … no sacrifice will be thought too great in the cause of unity.”

Freedom of the individual must be subordinated to the need for national unity.

For all his democratic values and dedication to the collective, Ware was never a committee man. This explains how he was able to get so much done. The Imperial War Graves Commission — now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) — was his creation and his fiefdom. His achievement was the product of a combination of tireless high-handedness and nimble diplomacy. Today, standing as his legacy, there are 23,000 CWGC cemeteries in 153 countries commemorating 1,700,000 men and women.

Repatriation of British soldiers was banned in 1915 because it was reckoned discriminatory – only the wealthy could afford to have their sons brought back. At the end of the war the French and Americans brought numbers of their dead home, but ne’er a Brit. Repatriation had never been the practice of the British, and indeed only became official policy in 2003.

British Army soldiers were buried as close as possible to where they fell, side by side, regardless of rank, generals next to privates, beneath identical headstones modelled not on Christian but on classical lines because, explained the guiding architect, Edwin Lutyens, “besides Christians of all denominations there will be Jews, Musselmens, Hindus and men of other creeds, their glorious names and their mortal bodies all equally deserving enduring record and seemly sepulture.”




Most people picture masses of crosses when asked to recall a 1st WW war cemetery. That would be the French and the Americans. There is, though, one cross in every Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery with more than 40 graves. Fabian Ware opposed this because he wanted the cemeteries to be inclusive of all faiths and none, but he was overruled on the grounds that the British Empire was a Christian empire. Hence the Cross of Sacrifice (below) often found together with Lutyens’ faith-neutral symbol, the Stone of Remembrance (above).




At the beginning of the war, no one had any inkling  of the scale of sacrifice of human life that was about to ensue. So gigantic did the task of interring the dead become, together with marking their graves and registering them, that the French briefly considered cremating their dead on a chain of funeral pyres. The British Army went into the war with no preparations for the decent burial of its dead. What resulted  owes everything to the vision and the hard work of one whose name also deserves to live for evermore: the forgotten Fabian Ware.

British Empire dead:
Buried in named graves : 587,989
Buried but not identifiable by name : 187,861
No known graves: 526,816,
Not buried at all : 338,955 (includes Royal Navy lost at sea)

In the words of an Armistice Day broadcast: “Imagine them moving in one long continuous column, four abreast. As the head of that column reaches the Cenotaph, the last four men would be at Durham.”