Saturday 3 May 2014

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Lovingly tended, immaculate cemeteries with beautiful memorials – fitting tributes to our war dead – are something that we tend to take for granted these days.   However, the concept of the War Graves Commission is owed to one man – Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, KCVO, KBE, CB, CMG.

During the First World War, Ware was too old to fight so instead he commanded a mobile Red Cross unit on the Western Front.  He was appalled at the number of casualties and his unit began to record all the graves they came across.   In 1915, this initiative was officially recognized by the British Government and was incorporated into the British Army as the “Graves Registration Commission”.

Ware wanted his work to reflect the sacrifice of all the nations that helped Britain during WW1 and, with the encouragement of the Prince of Wales, who was himself a soldier on the Western Front during WW1, the Imperial War Graves Commission was set up with a Royal Charter.

The Commission demanded very high standards for its work. Three of the most famous architects of that time - Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Reginald Blomfield - were chosen to design and build cemeteries and memorials.  Rudyard Kipling was given the task, as its literary advisor, to advise the Commission with regard to inscriptions.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has an enormous task as there are official graves all over the world.  If you want to find out details of where a family member killed during a war is commemorated, all you have to do is visit the Commission website -

Thank you to all those who work at The Commonwealth War Graves Commission – especially those who tend the graves and keep the cemeteries in trim – you are doing a wonderful job.