The Archive's Aim
The aim of the Commission's Archive is to collect, manage and preserve a variety of original materials which document the history of the organisation, and, where possible, to make such records accessible to the public.
We receive thousands of requests for information each year and we use the records regularly to check and confirm details of the casualties and cemeteries we look after.
The documents are also used to maintain the Register - which records the name and details of each casualty - and at each cemetery and memorial you will find a printed copy showing the service details and, in some cases, family details, of the men and women buried or commemorated there.
Commonwealth war dead are still discovered each year as a result of various activities. The Commission works closely with its Member Governments to aid identification and to arrange the burial and commemoration of these individuals and ensures that their details are documented and added to our records.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was founded in 1917 by Fabian Ware following a resolution passed by the heads of government of the United Kingdom, the Dominions and India at the Imperial War Conference held in that year.
Its duties were officially defined in a Royal Charter which came into force on 21st May 1917. Its core commitment is to preserve the memory and the physical graves and memorials of those members of the Commonwealth Forces who died as a result of the two world wars. The archive chronicles the history of the Commission, from the period leading up to its official founding, to its role in documenting and commemorating casualties in relation to both World Wars, and its activities right through to the present day.
The archive itself is split into two distinct sections:
The Historic Archive contains records concerning the formation of the Commission and its growth and development. The majority of the records date from the period 1917-1967, although the archive continues to grow as new material is added in order to continue to document the on-going work of the organisation.
Mainly consisting of administrative files, correspondence, minutes and reports, the collection also contains a small amount of other material, such as objects and minor effects found on the battlefields, maps and cemetery plans, and photographs of various sites.
- The Casualty and Cemetery Archive
The Casualty and Cemetery Archive is made up of documents which record the details and commemoration location of each casualty the Commission is responsible for.
After the end of the First World War the Commission began work on the construction of cemeteries as we know them today. Small cemeteries were concentrated into larger ones, and the battlefields were searched for human remains. Some existing cemeteries were re-ordered. Records were kept for each casualty and headstones were ordered for those with known graves. The records were also used to produce the lists of those with no known grave, which were later added to the memorials to the missing.
The records themselves include grave registration documents, casualty registers and headstone schedules. In many cases these represent the earliest recorded information that the Commission was able to gather about those who came under its care. These records also acted as working documents for the Commission, and over the years have been amended on a number of occasions as inaccuracies were discovered or new evidence came to light.
Click here to view a full catalogue of our archive holdings
Click here to view and browse our online casualty database
Our archive collection is kept at our head office in Maidenhead and is accessible to researchers and the general public via appointment. We recommend you contact us to make an appointment at least 10 days in advance. While we may be able to answer some enquiries relating to the archive collections, we unfortunately cannot undertake extensive research.
Click here for more information about visiting our archive, including opening times
To make an initial enquiry, please contact the Records and Archives department at: firstname.lastname@example.org