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

Keep the home fires burning…

Keep the home fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though the lads are far away,
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark clouds inside out,
‘Til the boys come home.’

Click here to listen to a recording performed by popular wartime vocalist John McCormack in 1917 (MP3 format 457kb).

Click here
for the text version of the recording.




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Singing this optimistic song could not change the fact that many, many of ‘the boys’ (and the girls) never did come home.

Nothing can bring back to life those 1.7 million from the Commonwealth who died in the two world wars. A great deal can be done to ensure that they are not forgotten and that their friends and families have something tangible to remind them, whether it’s a headstone in a beautifully maintained cemetery or a name carved on a memorial. This is the mission of the CWGC.


Soldiers sitting on train steps tended by nurse

Can you take these statistics in?

  • The CWGC is responsible for 1,694,829 commemorations to members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars.

  • There are Commonwealth graves and memorials in 148 countries across the world.
    This may open a new browser window - Map showing the location of CWGC Click here to see where they are located

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It’s always hard to imagine numbers on this scale and these are only the people who died. Still more difficult to imagine are the numbers of parents, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, the girlfriends, the boyfriends and the neighbours left behind to pick up the pieces of their own lives after suffering the loss of someone they loved.



Belgian orphaned girls, 1917, standing in a line.

Home, sweet home?

Those who did survive the war without physical wounds were sometimes mentally scarred by their experiences and many found it hard to reintegrate into civilian life once more.

Young men had known no other adulthood apart from fighting for their country: older men found their pre-war jobs had been taken and they had to fight once more – this time to earn a living. The families, the wives and the children, to whom the men returned, had to adjust too, having learned to carry on with their everyday lives with no man about the house.


Group of girls one of which is holding a banner reading "MY DAD'S AT THE FRONT"


The statistics of loss

In France after the First World War there were an estimated 600,000 widows and 700,000 orphans. In addition to the human losses the advent of modern methods of warfare used on a large scale meant that there was also massive material damage.

Needed clearing


Needed repairing


nearly 10,000 square miles of farmland


233, 000 miles of barbed wire


2,300 square miles of building land


11,000 public buildings


350,000 houses


38,500 miles of roads


1,154 miles of canals


Over 3,000 miles of railway track

Look at this:

Passchendale village, before and after the Battle of Passchendaele (rollover for after image, rollout for before image)


Statistics don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, convey the impact on individuals and their communities when loved ones have been killed. However they are a starting point to demonstrate the enormity of the cost for some people. Presenting statistics graphically can help to illustrate the facts clearly.


World Wars: local tragedies pop up window

Look at the following case studies from around the Commonwealth. Each of these tells the story of a family or community greatly affected by loss during either the First or Second World War.


Bringing the war home: what did it mean to your locality?

  • You’ve looked at a number of communities across the Commonwealth.
  • You’ve gained some insight into the enormity of the local impact of a world war
  • You’ve learned to use statistics to present information

Now you are going to look at your local war memorial, cemetery or churchyard and see what you can find out about the impact of war on your own community.

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All in the past?

Perhaps you were thinking all this happened a long time ago and asking yourself why anyone bothers? The First World War ended nearly ninety years ago and the Second World War sixty years ago. It is a very long time but the families and friends of those who died do not forget. Read through the following recollections which may help us to see why remembering is as important today as it ever was.

Click on the portraits to find out what their relatives remember. Key - Pop up window

Click here for relatives' memories of Horace Iles. This will open a pop up window
Click here for relatives' memories of Jack Banks . This will open a pop up window

A gardener tending the borders of the graves

By maintaining the cemeteries, headstones and memorials to those who died in the two world wars, the CWGC provide a fitting focus for the families and friends left behind with only their memories and their sadness. Equally, the CWGC honours those people who have no one left to remember them.

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