The Commonwealth War Graves Commission expects that gravestones damaged recently by a mob in Libya will be replaced within the next few months. The gravestone of at least one Canadian killed during the Second World War was among an estimated 200 damaged.
The vandalism was apparently sparked by the recent burning of Qur’ans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
The Commission says the cemeteries will be restored “to a standard befitting the sacrifice of those commemorated” in the Benghazi War Cemetery and the Benghazi British Military Cemetery—once it’s safe for the work to be done. Meanwhile, temporary markers will be erected over the graves. The gravestones will be produced at a CWGC facility in France.
Among them is the grave of Martin Northmore, 26, a Toronto fighter pilot who was killed in action in 1943 when his plane went down in the Mediterranean. Nine Canadians and more than a thousand British servicemen are buried in Benghazi.
Libya was the site of fierce fighting during the Second World War. Italy, which had annexed Libya in 1934, had stationed more than a million troops there. Libyan nationalists, who saw the war as a stepping stone to independence, supported the Allies; the Libyan Arab Force, better known as the Sanusi Army, served under British command. Libya declared independence in 1951.
Libya’s transitional government has condemned the desecration of Commonwealth graves and says it is seeking the vandals.