Skip to content

Second World War

The Second World War


A year after the Commission's programme was completed in 1938 war once again engulfed mainland Europe, forcing the Commission to evacuate its staff and leave the cemeteries.   Ware soon realised that this war was very different from the last one. It was global and the increased use of air power meant that casualties would no longer be restricted to military personnel. Extending its remit at the request of Winston Churchill, the Commission created a roll of honour that commemorated 67,000 civilians who died as a result of enemy action during the Second World War.

As the tide of war moved in the Allies' favour, the Commission began restoring its 1914-1918 cemeteries and memorials to their pre-war beauty. Then began the task of commemorating 600,000 Commonwealth casualties from this latest conflict.

In 1949, the commission completed Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery - the first of 559 new cemeteries and 36 new memorials.  A magnificent memorial to the Royal Air Force was created at Runnymede by the Commission's principal architect, Sir Edward Maufe, to commemorate the 20,000 men and women who died in operations over northern Europe and who have no known grave.  It was unveiled by the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth in October 1953.  As the construction programme of Second World War cemeteries drew to a close in the 1960s, the Commission updated its name to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to reflect the changing times.