AT the age of 45, Fabian Ware was too old for the First World War. Instead, he led a Red Cross ambulance unit in northern France and, deeply affected by the numbers of casualties, was determined that the final resting places of the dead would not be lost.

Ware - a teacher at Bradford Grammar School in the late Victorian period - went on to establish the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, creating a lasting memorial to those who fell in the 1914-18 conflict.

Next week, at Bradford Grammar School, Sir Fabian Ware is the focus of a public lecture by war graves historian Max Dutton. The event, in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), is part of the school’s commemorations of former pupils who served in WWI.

Some of the following is taken from a biography of Fabian Ware by Nicholas Hooper, retired Bradford Grammar School head of history, who is researching BGS boys’ WW1 service.

Fabian Arthur Goldstone Ware was born in Bristol in 1869. His parents were Plymouth Brethren, who focused on ‘the individual’s personal responsibility’. He was educated largely at home then became a schoolteacher while studying for a degree. He later went to Paris and took a Baccalaureate in science. He returned to the UK and before long moved north to take up a position at Bradford Grammar School which, back then, was on Manor Row, perched above railway lines into Forster Square Station. The headmaster was William Hulton Keeling who, determined to develop an institution that would meet the needs of the city of Bradford, divided the school into Classical and a Modern; the latter specialising in French, German, mathematics, science - subjects suitable for the commercial life of ‘Woolopolis’.

In 1900 the school purchased land for playing fields on Frizinghall Road, the school site since 1949. After his death in 1912 a eulogy by City Council Labour leader, and old Bradfordian, William Leach called Keeling “the friend of the scholarship boy”, adding: “We remember how you have advocated the cause of parents who have children to educate and little money wherewithal to do it. We remember further that the public schools are far too largely the homes of priggism and snobbery and that it is chiefly due to Dr Keeling that Bradford Grammar School is an honourable exception to that.”

Under Keeling, the Bradford Grammar School to which Ware came to teach was not a ‘conventional and insular English public school’. He arrived, aged 25, for the autumn term in 1894, joining a teaching staff of 15 with two assistants, in addition to Keeling who taught Greek and Divinity. Ware taught English, French and history at the school for four years. He and his wife, Anna, lived at Cleveland Road, Manningham.

Ware later became an education inspector and wrote volumes on educational reform, but with the outbreak of WW1 his career in education ended. The Red Cross ambulance unit commanded by Ware had, by October 1914, added a mobile hospital and medical staff. Ware was concerned by the lack of official marking of locations of those killed and, under his leadership, his unit began recording all the graves they could find. By 1915 their work was given official recognition by the War Office and incorporated into the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission. By October 1915 the new Commission had over 31,000 graves registered, and 50,000 by May 1916. Ware’s organisation was transferred from the Red Cross to the Army.

Encouraged by the Prince of Wales, Ware submitted a memorandum to the Imperial War Conference and in May 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter, with the Prince as President and Ware as vice chairman. After the Armistice, once land for cemeteries and memorials was secured, the huge task of recording the dead began. By 1918, 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave.

Leading architects Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Reginald Blomfield were chosen to design the cemeteries and Rudyard Kipling, whose son John was killed, aged 18, in the Battle of Loos in 1915, was literary advisor to inscriptions.

In 1922 Ware was made a Knight Commander of Royal Victorian Order. In the Second World War he was appointed Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries at the War Office, while continuing as CWGC vice chairman. He died in 1949 and his grave, at Amberley, Gloucestershire, has a CWGC-style headstone. There are memorials to him at Westminster Abbey and ‘Boulevard Fabian Ware’ at Bayeux War Cemetery.

* The Fabian Ware lecture is Friday February 1 at Bradford Grammar School, 6.30pm. Visit

* On Saturday February 2, at Bradford’s City Hall from 11.30am-3pm, there will be a CWGC roadshow for the public to take WW1 objects. A partnership between the CWGC and Oxford University, the aim of Lest We Forget: Keep Their Stories Alive is to create a national digital archive. See this Saturday’s T&A for more details.