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CWGC marks centenary of First World War poet's death

14 April 2015

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of First World War poet, Rupert Brooke, by participating in a unique exhibition on the Greek island of Skyros where he is buried.

The exhibition 'Centenary of the Death of Rupert Brooke' has been organised by the Skyros Municipality and Central Greece (Sterea Ellada) Regional Authority in cooperation with the British Embassy, to showcase the life of the poet and will open on 23 April - the day that Brooke died - until the end of the summer. IWM and the Rupert Brookes Association are partners in the project.

The CWGC, which cares for Brooke's grave, will be highlighting its work in Greece.   "We are delighted to have a presence at this exhibition during this significant historic milestone.  This opportunity will give a unique insight into our work to commemorate 18,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women who died in Greece during both world wars," said David Symons, CWGC's Director for the Mediterranean Area. 

"We hope that this exhibition will inspire more people to visit the war graves in our care ensuring that those who died will never be forgotten.  These include graves throughout Greece, including the island of Lemnos which played a critical role in the Gallipoli Campaign during the First World War."

The war poets have significantly shaped the way that we see the First World War and the CWGC commemorates more than eighty published soldier poets who lost their lives in this war.

Brooke is the first great poet who died in service during the First World War.  In February 1915, he set sail for Gallipoli in Turkey and on board ship developed septicaemia.   He died on St Georges Day  - 23 April 1915 - on a hospital ship off Skyros and was buried in an isolated olive grove on the island.  His gravestone is engraved with his most famous poem 'The Soldier:'

"If I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England."

Using personal influence, Brooke gained a commission in the Royal Naval Division in September 1914 and saw the latter stages of the withdrawal from Antwerp in October.

He embarked for the Dardanelles in April 1915, but contracted septicaemia on the way and died on a hospital ship in the Aegean two days before the Gallipoli landings. Brooke was buried in a solitary grave on the island of Skyros.  Instructions on how to find his grave can be found on CWGC's new app and on the website at

At the outbreak of war, Brooke was the leading light of the Georgian movement - a group of English poets whose works appeared in a series of five anthologies named Georgian Poetry, published during the early years of the reign of King George V.

His five 'war' sonnets of 1914, upon which his reputation as a war poet rests, reflect accepted attitudes at the outbreak of war - patriotism, idealism, sacrifice, romantic death - ideas abandoned by many later poets in the face of the realities of the trench warfare that Brooke never experienced.

Young, handsome, talented and privileged, Brooke's early death came to symbolise the heroic sacrifice of the 'fallen warrior'.  His obituary in The Times was written by Winston Churchill.

The CWGC has also produced a free teaching resource on the war poets  for schools.  Poets of the Great War  is an insightful introduction to a variety of poets who inspired generations. The booklet engages pupils through poetry, personal history and poignant imagery.

Poets of the Great War can be used as a teaching resource for pupils within Key Stage Three and Four and incorporates:
• English literature
• Citizenship
• History
• Remembrance activities

Full press release available below: