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Title: The treatment of the British Military War Dead of the Second World War
Author: Spark, Seumas
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2010
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Almost nothing is known about the treatment of the British military dead of the Second World War. It is one of the few aspects of the conflict that has not been afforded attention by scholars. This is remarkable given that death is the most profound and important consequence of war. Drawing on extensive and previously unused sources in the National Archives and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the thesis endeavours to correct this oversight by examining the treatment of the military dead in the European, Mediterranean and African theatres of the 1939-45 conflict. It does this in parts, reflecting the three stages of the burial process. In the first part British burial policy and frontline burial practice are examined. The operations of the army and air force graves services, which were responsible for confirming the location and identity of the dead, are studied in the second part. The third part considers first the manner in which the Imperial War Graves Commission commemorated the British dead in battlefield cemeteries, and then the pilgrimages undertaken to these cemeteries by bereaved relatives in the early post -war period. The successes and failures of the burial process cannot be assessed without this perspective. The research shows that shortcomings in the planning and administration of burial and graves operations resulted in the loss of the remains and identities of thousands of British servicemen. The fact that the bodies of so many others were recovered, and accorded identified interment, is credit to the work of the military graves services and the thesis seeks to recognise their contribution to this hitherto- unexplored aspect of the 'People's War'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available