Remembrance – The story of how the world famous rose got its name.

Posted on Aug 8, 2014 by


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In the 1980s, a representative of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) arrived at the Harkness Nursery in England looking for suitable roses for their plantings. They needed a low growing variety which would not obscure the inscriptions on the graves, one that flowered a long time and one which would grow in many different parts of the world. It also had to be hardy. Harkness suggested a Patio Rose. A trial order for several hundred bushes was placed. In the years that followed thousands more were ordered.When it occurred to the CWGC that it ought to have its own special rose, Harkness suggested a poppy red seedling similar in colour to the poppies of Flanders. It had all the desired qualities of low cushiony growth and length of flowering. The CWGC Committee suggested it be named Remembrance but invited suggestions from supporters. There were hundreds, but Remembrance prevailed. The rose was launched at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1992.

That autumn thousands of bushes were shipped to the battlefields of Europe, North Africa and elsewhere. To see packages addressed to Somme, Ypres, Arras and other battlefield cemeteries brought pangs to Nursery staff as they thought of the bravery of so many men and women who gave their lives for the cause of freedom.

The Imperial War Graves Commission, established by Royal Charter during WWI in 1917, was renamed The Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1960. Those commemorated include the graves of men and women of Commonwealth forces who died in two world wars. Headstones are uniform with no distinction made for military or civil rank, race or creed.

CWGC owes its existence to the vision and determination of one man. During WWI. Sir Fabian Ware, too old to fight, was made Commander of a unit of the British Red Cross. As the British Army had no system for recording deaths, he was driven to find a way to ensure the final resting places of men. He began caring for all the graves his Unit could find. By 1918, 587,000 graves had been identified. He was able to give the next of kin a photograph of their loved ones graves and told them how they could visit it. A further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave.

CWGC maintains graves and memorials at 23,000 sites in over 150 countries. Of the 1.7 million commemorated are included the graves of 935,000 identified and 212,000 unidentified. The names of a further 760,000 victims are on memorials to the missing. In addition to commemorating Commonwealth forces CWGC maintains 40,000 war graves of other nationalities and 25,000 non-war military and civilian graves.

The largest of the Commission’s memorials to the missing is the Thiepval Memorial in France. 45 metres high it carries the names of 72,000 casualties from the Battle of the Somme. Designed by English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, completed in 1932 it was unveiled by the Prince of Wales and the President of France.

Extract taken from Harkness Roses the stories behind the names by Pamela Shields

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