Kew’s wartime legacy is tied closely with that of the birth of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). In 1916, Sir Arthur Hill, then assistant director of Kew, became the very first botanical advisor to work with the fledgling Graves Registration Commission, which had been hastily established as a result of the huge number of losses during the First World War.
Sir Arthur observed both the destruction and re-birth of the flora from the scarred landscape, as explosions brought weed seeds to the surface and resulted in fields full of poppies and other wildflowers. He wrote a little-known account of his travels, The Flora of the Somme Battlefield, which will be central to a commemorative talk being held next week at Kew.
The talk follows a trip by Kew staff to meet with CWGC director of horticulture David Richardson at the site of the Battle of the Somme, to explore the scientific and cultural character of the landscape.
On 6 July a free talk at Kew will consider the flora of the Somme and the wider relationship between plants and conflict landscapes, with reference to Sir Arthur's book. These commemorations will also feature on the Kew Science blog.
More information on the free talk is available here.