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War Graves

Volume 403: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has made to the French Government regarding the desecration of Commonwealth war graves. [107520]

No war graves were desecrated in the incident which took place at Etaples Military Cemetery south of Boulogne on the night of 26 to 27 March 2003. However, anti-British and American graffiti were sprayed on the central memorial in the cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who are responsible for the cemetery which contains the graves of nearly 11,000 British and Commonwealth graves from the two World Wars, took immediate action to remove the paint.The Department made no representations to the French Government, but on 3 April 2003 the French President wrote an apology to The Queen, expressing France's regret and condemning the shameful desecration of the cemetery. Also on that day there was a simple wreath-laying ceremony at Etaples attended by the French Secretary of State for War Veterans, together with the British Consul General and the British Naval Attaché in Paris. The French Government and the people of Etaples were greatly embarrassed by this regrettable incident and acted with commendable speed to condemn those individuals who carried out this shameful deed.