Rory Ngah, 23, from Islington, London beat hundreds of applicants to become a Commonwealth War Graves Foundation (CWGF) Intern this year – working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) in France, at some of the most important sites commemorating those who died in the two world wars.
Rory has been based at the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world, The Thiepval Memorial, on the battlefields of the Somme. Here he has welcomed visitors of all ages and nationalities, providing tours of the site, answering questions and helping them to find out more information about their own family history. The memorial commemorates 72,000 men of British and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. It is also the location of 600 Commonwealth and French graves.
In June Rory also attended the National Commemorations in Normandy, marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Here he met veterans from the Second World War and their families and helped them discover more about the work of CWGC. He also provided tours of CWGC’s Second World War Cemetery in Normandy, Ranville War Cemetery, which holds over 2,500 graves of men who fell during the Normandy Campaign.
Later in June Rory, who has a History degree from the University of Exeter, was asked to attend the opening of CWGC’s new visitor centre, the CWGC Experience. Here he was introduced to HRH the Prince Royal, as she took a tour of the new facility near Arras in France. He was able to share with the Princess a little about his role as a CWGF Intern.
The CWGF Internship was launched for CWGC’s 100th anniversary in 2017 and was originally funded by a LIBOR grant from the UK Government. It is now supported by the CWGC’s new charity – The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation (CWGF). Members of the public can join and support the Foundation via our website at www.cwgc.org The Foundation has been specifically created to keep the memory and the stories of those who died in the two world wars alive for generations to come.
Xavier Puppinck, the CWGC’s Director of Western Europe France, explained: “We welcome hundreds of thousands visitors to our cemeteries and memorials in France every year, but with the passage of time, many of those visitors are looking to the CWGC to provide more information about those who died, the wider history of the two world wars, and the work we do to care for such places.
We are delighted to have young people such as Rory on site to be able to guide our visitors and enriching their experience.”
Rory also attended a reburial of an Unknown Soldier of the Great War in Guards’ Cemetery, Lesboeufs (Somme). Speaking about his experience, Rory said: “Working at Ranville Cemetery during the D-Day 75 Commemorations was undoubtedly the most special experience of my internship, and has left me with memories that I will long treasure. On one level, it was amazing to meet WWII veterans and share in the party atmosphere that enveloped most of the events. On a more somber note, however, it gave me a deeper understanding of how important the CWGC’s work really is. Whilst the living links to our WWI sites have faded, seeing children visit the graves of their fathers and veterans pay their respects to their comrades offered a truly tangible demonstration of war’s destructiveness, thus underlining the importance of the CWGC’s role in making sure such sacrifice is never forgotten.”
The CWGF Centenary Interns programme is a unique opportunity for young people to travel, live and work with the CWGC in France and Belgium over a four-month period. Applications for the 2020 programme opens later this year but you can sign up to receive more information at www.CWGC.org/interns.