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First World War

The First Cemeteries


In 1921 the Commission built three experimental cemeteries. Forceville in France was considered the most successful. Garden designer Gertrude Jekyll advised on the planting and the architects created a walled cemetery with uniform headstones in a garden setting. Sir Reginald Blomfield's Cross of Sacrifice and Sir Edwin Lutyens' Stone of Remembrance were the formal features.After some adjustments, Forceville became the template for the Commission's building programme. Over the course of the decade over 2400 cemeteries were constructed in France and Belgium, while work progressed in Italy, Egypt, Palestine, Macedonia, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The pace of building was extraordinary and the energy brought by the individual architects gave character and often great beauty to the cemeteries they built.


Memorials to the Missing


"He is not missing, he is here."  Field Marshal Lord Plumer at the unveiling of the Menin Gate Memorial, July 1927

The memorials to the Missing gave the individual architects scope to try to express the enormity of the human sacrifice made. The first to be commissioned and completed was Blomfield's magnificent memorial in Ypres, The Menin Gate Memorial, which commemorates the names of more than 55,000 men on 1200 panels. Other memorials followed: Tyne Cot in Belgium designed by Sir Herbert Baker; the Helles Memorial on Gallipoli designed by Sir John Burnet; the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme is the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens while the Missing in Salonika are commemorated at Lake Doiran on a monument by Sir Robert Lorimer.  Later individual member states erected memorials to their own country's dead: the Canadians at Vimy Ridge, the Australians at Villers Bretonneux and the South Africans at Delville Wood.