War Graves in the UK
There are more than 170,000 Commonwealth war graves in 12,000
different cemeteries and churchyards in the United Kingdom. The
majority of those commemorated in the UK are the men and women who
died at home in military hospitals. Others may have died in
operations over the United Kingdom, in training accidents or air
raids or at sea in coastal waters, their bodies washed ashore.
In the UK, all war graves are inspected on an approximate 3-4
year cycle by Regional Supervisors who check for legibility,
unacceptable damage etc. and when necessary, arrange for
replacement headstones to be erected. We treat our headstones with
a masonry biocide every two to three years to help keep them free
from algae and lichen. Between treatments, however, a lot depends
upon the location of the headstone.
How Can I Help?
We are often approached by members of the public who wish to
assist us by cleaning their local war graves. We welcome these
initiatives and greatly appreciate the involvement of the
If under heavy tree cover it is common to find that the headstone
will "green up" more quickly than if located in the open air. Often
those situated under tree cover also suffer from extensive soil
splash as effective ground cover planting/grass cannot establish
easily in such shady conditions.
For WW1 casualties it was not unusual for a more local stone to be
used for Commission headstones such as Stancliffe, which is a
British sandstone. Portland became the more widely used stone for
WW2 casualties and as replacement stones. Although a high
proportion of Commission stones are made from Portland, over 30
different stones have been used. Sandstone is a naturally
darker colour than the "white" of Portland stone.
Cleaning a Headstone
If the headstone would benefit from an additional clean then a
brush down with water and a soft bristle brush is usually
effective. Do not use bleach or any other product on the
headstone as this can cause damage.
If you are going to clean headstones, then we would ask that you
contact the authority (Cemetery or Church) for their permission as
we do not own the majority of sites where war graves are situated
in the UK.
CWGC United Kingdom Area
Warwickshire CV31 1XS
Tel: +44 (0) 1926 330137