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CWGC Then CWGC Now Hitting Home Matters of Life and Death Who cares? Requiem Truth? One Boy

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
– the unfinished history

In this unit you will look at:


The CWGC after the First World War to the present day


Bringing the work of the CWGC right up to date, with
your own ideas



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Printable task sheet
Adobe Reader PDF file

A new harvest of death

After the First World War, the Commission worked for many years to complete all the memorials and cemeteries. Fabian Ware spent time talking to the opposing nations, believing that common remembrance of the dead was a way of bringing everyone together in lasting peace. His hopes came to nothing. While still burying newly found bodies from one war, the Commission had to begin preparations for ‘a new harvest of death’ at the start of the Second World War.

Click here to listen to a recording by Fabian Ware which was recorded in November 1938 (MP3 format 138kb).

Click here for the text version of the Fabian Ware speech.

To listen to the audio file we recommend using Windows Media Player
which can be downloaded here



  El Alamein Cemetery, Egypt

A war across the world!

Although the death toll in the Second World War turned out to be less than that in the First, the new challenge to be faced was that this really was a ‘world war’ with cemeteries and memorials needed in 148 countries. As well as the men and women in the services, the Commission also keeps records of the many civilians of the Commonwealth whose deaths were due to enemy action.

Look at this popupPDF File map showing the location of CWGC* war graves and memorials. What does this tell you about where the fighting was concentrated during the two World Wars and the resulting loss of life?

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*You may need to enlarge this on your screen or print off to
see the details clearly.

  Second World War aircrew

Ages old

How old are you? How old would you be now if you were your present age in 1918? (the end of the First World War) and in 1945? (the end of the Second). The average life span around the world is now about 65 for men and 70 for women. Taking these figures, in which year could there be no one left who was born before 1945? It’s not very far away, is it?

CWGC cemeteries

popupHere are some pictures of CWGC cemeteries from around the world. Each location has a very different climate and this is reflected not only in the plants chosen, but also in the design and layout of the headstones. Factors such as severe frosts can damage stonework whilst the possibility of earthquakes or flooding mean the structures must be stable enough to withstand any movement in the surrounding earth.

See if you can use the visual clues within the pictures to locate the following different cemeteries:

Kantara, Egypt

Gallipoli, Turkey

Rangoon, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma)

Murmansk, Russia


  War veterans remember

Your Commission needs YOU!

It’s important to let younger people know about what’s happened in the recent past, before all the first-hand memories are lost. The CWGC is keen to make sure this work continues – they want you to be interested and involved both today and in the future. How about you thinking of some ideas that will inspire your generation to keep the work going?

Your task

Design a memorial and a garden for those who died in the two World Wars, which appeals to young people of today, yet shows respect for the feelings of older generations.

Your turn
Click the button to download a detailed design brief.


Follow-up Activities - Pop up window


  Statue of a unicorn on Portsmouth Naval Memorial

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