About the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
About the CWGC
Remembrance is a year-round, worldwide task for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
Founded by Royal Charter in 1917, we commemorate the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars.
Our cemeteries, burial plots and memorials are a lasting tribute to those who died and can be found at almost 23,000 locations, in 153 different countries around the world.
Another important part of our work is to maintain the records of those we commemorate, ensuring that the location of individual burials, or names on memorials, can always be identified.
The cost of this work is shared by the member governments - Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom - in proportions based upon the number of their graves.
Most of the war cemeteries and memorials are maintained by the CWGC's own staff, but a number of governments also carry out care and maintenance on our behalf. The care of war graves in civil cemeteries and churchyards is mostly entrusted to local authorities and contractors.
Our work is guided by the following fundamental principles:
- Each of the dead should be commemorated by name on the headstone or by an inscription on a memorial
- The headstones and memorials should be permanent
- The headstones should be uniform
- There should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed.
These values and aims remain as relevant now as they were almost 100 years ago.
The CWGC and the Centenary of the First World War
Ensuring our sites are ready for the centenary during 2014-18 is perhaps the biggest single operational challenge we have faced since the end of the Second World War.
It is a challenge that has brought together all the CWGC's staff, departments and disciplines to deliver a solution that will not only honour those who died, but also engage people around the world with what we do, and those we commemorate.
The years 14-18 encompass not only the centenary of the Great War, but also the founding of our own organisation in 1917. Although our goals have not changed, the equipment, processes, skills and techniques required to achieve them have.
As well as ensuring our cemeteries and memorials look their best for the centenary period, we want to make sure that members of the public understand more about each location. New information panels are being installed at 500 of our cemeteries and memorials across 30 different countries worldwide, explaining the history behind each site and the experiences of those commemorated. Each has a QR (quick response) code which can be scanned with a smartphone to reveal personal stories of a selection of the men and women commemorated at that site.
Remembrance trails are being developed, focusing on particular areas, battles or aspects of the war. Combining famous and less well-known sites, each trail has a downloadable leaflet, including a map of all the locations and some help with travelling times and distances.
The centenary will be about reflection and remembrance, but for many people it will also be an opportunity to discover and learn about the First World War and those who served.
'Discover 14-18' highlights a selection of our cemeteries and memorials, and explains how they relate to battles, campaigns and aspects of the wartime experience.
As the site develops over the centenary period, we hope that it will encourage you to visit, to learn and to reflect.