He answered his country’s call
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is an organization whose principal function is to mark, record and maintain the graves and places of commemoration of military service members who died in the two World Wars. The principles of CWGC are:
- Each of the dead should be commemorated by name on the headstone or memorial.
- Headstones and memorials should be permanent
- There should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed
Cemeteries with over 1,000 burials have a Stone of Remembrance to commemorate those of all faiths and no faith. The Cross of Sacrifice is placed in any cemetery with over 40 graves. Most CWGC cemeteries have a bronze registry box which contains a registry of burials and a plan of the cemetery. The box also contains a visitors’ book.
His duty done
Graves in CWGC cemeteries are arranged in straight rows marked by uniform headstones, rectangular in shape with a slightly arched top. Headstones with cut corners identify military personnel who served in the war but did not die in conflict. The original headstone dimensions were 76 cm. tall, 38 cm. wide and 7.6 cm. thick. This solid shape and the use of marble or granite are essential in maintaining a permanent memorial.
To honor the award of the Commonwealth’s highest military decoration, the religious denomination (cross, etc.) is replaced with the Victoria Cross emblem.
The rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty is inscribed using standard uppercase lettering without punctuation. A more personal dedication may be chosen by relatives.
Oh for a glimpse of the grave where you’re laid only to lay a flower at your head.
Christian headstones are inscribed with a cross, and Jewish headstones display the Star of David.
Burials of military personnel prior to 1918 are identified with symbols. Artillery, such as cannons or a rifle, on a gravestone usually represents military service. A flag is often found on veterans’ graves signifying patriotism.
A soldier on a horse is also representative of a soldier’s grave. If the horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If only one leg is raised, he died as a result of wounds; and if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person probably died of natural causes.
And when he gets to Heaven,
To Saint Peter he will tell:
‘Just another soldier reporting, Sir.
I’ve served my time in Hell.’
Unknown Warrior’s Tomb, Westminster Abbey, London
A few feet inside the main entrance, at the far western end of the nave, is a black marble tombstone permanently surrounded by a border of greenery and poppies. It is the only gravestone in the Abbey that may not be walked upon, and contains the remains of an unidentified soldier of the first world war.
The remains of the unknown soldier were laid to rest in a solemn national ceremony on Armistice Day (November 11), 1920, in a service attended by King George V and his family. The following year, the US government announced that it was awarding its highest military decoration – the Congressional Medal of Honor – to the man whose remains are buried here. That medal may be seen today in a frame hanging on a pillar a little way from the tomb.
Engraved with brass from melted down wartime ammunition, the full text of its inscription reads:
Beneath this stone rests the body
of a British warrior
unknown by name or rank
brought from France to lie among
the most illustrious of the land
and buried here on Armistice Day
11 Nov 1920, in the presence of
His Majesty King George V
his ministers of state
the chiefs of his forces
and a vast concourse of the nation.
Thus are commemorated the many
multitudes who during the Great
War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that
Man can give life itself
for King and country
for loved ones home and Empire
for the sacred cause of justice and
the freedom of the world
They buried him among the kings
had done good toward God and