Posted 13 July 2003 - 08:31 pm
It is obvious from the numbers and the circumstances that there will mistakes of attribution in World War One cemeteries. What counts is that people did their level best to provide a respectful burial for as many as possible. I can’t be sure absolutely sure that my uncle Oscar lies under his headstone in Dantzig Alley but it is very likely that he does. And if he does not, there is no great harm done. As far as I know, my son and I are the only people ever to have visited his grave, and I still have the knowledge that his colleagues did their best for him. The John Condon grave is quite different. It receives many visitors precisely because of the accepted circumstances of his life and death. If these are not as they have been thought to be, then they are visiting on a false premise. If, almost 90 years on, there are grounds for reasonable doubt then this surely forms a proper subject for investigation by World War One historians. It has been suggested that it is somehow unworthy to look into the matter but I simply can’t agree with that. History is the attempt to recover the lost knowledge of what happened and why.
On the wider dispute I am not competent to comment so I will merely generalise by saying that good manners and natural justice demand that the initial right of report lies with those who initiate a work or who perform the bulk of it. That said, no one has proprietorial rights to a topic. I am afraid it is very common for people in offices, factories, shops and every other walk of life, to find their projects pre-empted or worse, highjacked. It is upsetting and the impulse to walk away is understandable. But that usually fades and gives way to a determination to provide the definitive account. I am looking forward to it.