Today, 21 May 2017, marks the centenary of the founding by Royal Charter of the Imperial – now Commonwealth – War Graves Commission (CWGC). The Commission was the driving force in ensuring that those who died serving their country during the First World War were properly honoured and remembered.
In commemoration, we have upgraded or newly listed 15 of Sir Herbert Baker’s 24 English war memorials. The eminent architect, along with fellow principal architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Reginald Blomfeld, worked on designing and constructing the CWGC’s profundly moving, sombre cemeteries and memorials. Rudyard Kipling advised on inscriptions.
Winchester College war cloister. © Historic England
During the First World War, hundreds of thousands of soldiers were hurriedly buried in temporary cemeteries by their comrades, their graves often marked by a simple wooden cross, with their name and brief details. Government orders followed that no soldiers’ bodies were to be repatriated to Britain. Instead, under the auspices of the CWGC led by the dynamic Fabian Ware, most were moved from their wartime graves and reburied with identical headstones – no matter their rank, race, religion or background – in specially designed war cemeteries in France and Belgium.
Over 2,400 such cemeteries were created in the two countries during the 1920’s, with Baker designing and supervising the construction of 113. All continue to be meticulously cared for by the CWGC, along with others across the globe, ensuring that the 1.7 million people who died in both world wars will never be forgotten.
See 15 examples of Sir Herbert Baker’s English war memorials, plus his extraordinary Tyne Cot Memorial in the gallery below. Click on the picture to read the full caption.