The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
owes its existence to the vision and determination of one man
- Sir Fabian Ware.
Neither a soldier nor a politician, Ware was nevertheless well
placed to respond to the public's reaction to the enormous losses
in the war. At 45 he was too old to fight but he became the
commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross. Saddened
by the sheer number of casualties, he felt driven to find a way to
ensure the final resting places of the dead would not be lost
forever. His vision chimed with the times. Under his
dynamic leadership, his unit began recording and caring for 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.
Ware was keen that the spirit of Imperial cooperation evident in
the war was reflected in the work of his organisation. Encouraged
by the Prince of Wales, he submitted a memorandum to the Imperial
War Conference. In May 1917, the Imperial War Graves Commission was
established by Royal Charter, with the Prince serving as President
and Ware as Vice-Chairman.
The Commission's work began in earnest after the Armistice. Once
land for cemeteries and memorials had been guaranteed, the enormous
task of recording the details of the dead began. By 1918, some
587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties
were registered as having no known grave.
The Commission set the highest standards for all its work. Three
of the most eminent architects of the day - Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir
Herbert Baker and Sir Reginald Blomfield - were chosen to begin the
work of designing and constructing the cemeteries and
memorials. Rudyard Kipling was tasked, as literary advisor,
with advising on inscriptions.
Ware asked Sir Frederic Kenyon, the Director of the British
Museum, to interpret the differing approaches of the principal
architects. The report he presented to the Commission in November
1918 emphasised equality as the core ideology, outlining the
principles we abide by today.
Click below to read more about the History of our
Cemeteries and Memorials:
Today, Tomorrow and the