Edinburgh Book Festival: David Crane, Monuments to the Great War Dead

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David Crane with Andrew Kelly as Chairman
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In his introduction Andrew Kelly mentioned that David Crane is the Director of Bristol 2014, remembering the Great War Centenary events and that among his previous books were "Men of War" and that his new book, "Empires of the Dead", pays tribute to Fabian Ware. It was Ware who led the movement to ensure that the bodies of the dead would not simply be buried in mass graves, but accorded proper recognition and respect. David Crane is clearly an enormous enthusiast for his subject, Kipling had described the task that Ware set himself as being 'greater than the Pharaohs' and few people could have a more sympathetic biographer.

In a reading Crane described how the dead from the Great War would take over eighty four hours to march past. But the passage described the change of attitude to the way the fallen were treated was due entirely to one man - Fabian Ware. It is indeed true to say that the war cemeteries of the Great War represent to most people the impact of those years of conflict. But Ware was described as a paradox in the Edwardian age, being firstly a Tory imperialist, but also a social reformer. He was described as having a 'gloomy childhood' as his parents were Plymouth Brethren. He hated the Church of England and was described as a 'dreamer' by Crane, but he also showed himself to be a very good administrator. He had great personal ambition and hated both the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and the Treasury whom he saw as obstacles to his plans to provide individual war graves for the fallen.

This was an event where the passion and enthusiasm of David Crane shone through and everyone could feel the huge impact of the cemeteries and the most moving 'Last Post' played at 8pm each evening by the Menin Gate where the names are recorded of all those who have no known grave.