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Restoration of the Benghazi War Cemetery, Libya
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), of which Australia is a member, is responsible for the official commemoration of Commonwealth casualties of the two world wars, and the maintenance of those commemorations in perpetuity. The CWGC cares for 1.7 million commemorations at 23,000 sites in 150 countries worldwide, including those located in six cemeteries in Libya.
The Benghazi War Cemetery was damaged by an armed, radical Islamist militant group on the weekend of 25-26 February 2012. The cemetery contains the graves of more than a thousand Commonwealth and other servicemen, 55 of them Australian, 48 of them identified by name. At the same time, the nearby Benghazi British War Cemetery (no Australian graves) was also damaged. In the Benghazi War cemetery 52 Australian headstones (representing 53 casualties) were damaged.
The high proportion of Australian headstones damaged arises from their being located side by side in two rows close to the Cross of Sacrifice which appears to have been the focus of the attack.
In April 2012 the site was cleared and the damaged headstones were removed and replaced by temporary markers. Following delays caused by instability in Benghazi, the replacement of the headstones and cross of sacrifice commenced on 2 October 2012.
Since the incident took place, the CWGC has made significant progress in restoring the desecrated commemorations in Benghazi. To date, the 241 damaged headstones at Benghazi War Cemetery have been re-erected in their entirety. The Commission has also seen fit to erect a sign in both Arabic and English stating that the Cemetery includes Muslim soldiers who died liberating the people of Benghazi.
Work is now also underway to replace the damaged commemorations in Benghazi Military Cemetery. The Commission has been working with the local Libyan police and other Libyan authorities to progress matters. Written permission has been granted to continue with the re-erection of the 84 outstanding headstones and tablets and work is scheduled to recommence on the 17th May. The Commission continues to monitor both cemeteries on a regular basis.
The Libyan Government is meeting all restoration costs for the damage incurred in Benghazi War Cemetery.
View a list of the damaged graves.
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In any year, the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) may undertake a range of projects, from refurbishing and upgrading existing graves, memorials and cemetery features, to developing new official national memorials at overseas sites significant to Australia's military history.
OAWG continually assesses cemeteries and Gardens of Remembrance to ensure that the standards achieved in the better known Commonwealth War Graves Commission war cemeteries in France and Belgium are reflected in the work undertaken by OAWG in Australia and PNG.
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