UK Home Front
More than 300,000 Commonwealth dead of the two World Wars are commemorated in the United Kingdom, in almost 13,000 different locations. Over 130,000 of these men and women died during the First World War, more than 37,000 of whom were lost or buried at sea while serving with the Royal or Merchant Navies. More than 90,000 servicemen and women were buried in the UK, many of whom had been treated in military hospitals for wounds, injuries or sickness. Among them were many thousands who died during the influenza pandemic which began in 1918. Others died in training accidents or air raids, or while fighting the enemy in the air or at sea. The graves of those Commonwealth personnel for whom the United Kingdom was not home are often found near hospitals or military bases. Wartime service burials for those who died in their own countries were not strongly regulated, so many families laid their relatives to rest where they wished, often in churchyards or civilian cemeteries all across the country.
The sites selected below represent just some of the CWGC's locations around the United Kingdom:
The largest war cemetery in the UK, this is the final resting place of more than 5,000 Commonwealth service personnel of the two world wars. More than 1,600 served in the First World War, most of whom died in hospitals in London and were buried at Brookwood after land was set aside for Commonwealth and American servicemen in 1917. French, Polish, Czech, Belgian, Italian and German burials are also found here.
Vale Cemetery, Bristol
By 1917 there were no fewer than 16 military hospitals in Bristol, including the Beaufort War Hospital, which had been an asylum before the war. The first hospital trains arrived in the city in September 1914 carrying 120 wounded of the Battle of Mons. Over the course of the war, trains would bring over 69,000 cases to the city's hospitals. A further 36,300 would land at Avonmouth in hospital ships.
Soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Divisions, based at Aldershot, formed one third of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in 1914. Nearly 700 service personnel were laid to rest here during the First World War, representing many regiments and several Commonwealth countries. The garrison's Cambridge Military Hospital became the first in the UK to receive battle casualties from the Western front.
The British Army constructed war-time camps at Brocton and Rugeley that became important training centres for Commonwealth units. As many as 500,000 troops trained here over the course of the war including the officers and men of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. The majority of the Commonwealth burials here are New Zealanders, many of whom died in the 1918 flu pandemic.
Margaret's Churchyard, Bodelwyddan
Nearby Kinmel Park housed a large military camp during the First World War. A system of practice trenches, some of which has been preserved, was intended to acclimatize thousands of men to the complex battle-lines of the Western Front. Some 15,000 Canadians were housed at Kinmel after the Armistice, and most of those laid to rest here died of influenza while awaiting their passage home.
John's Churchyard, Sutton Veny
Sutton Veny and the surrounding area accommodated thousands of men in several military camps while they trained on Salisbury Plain. Hospital facilities of around 1,200 beds treated the sick and wounded. In December 1916, Sutton Veny became the home of No. 1 Australian Command, which remained here until after the war's end. More than 140 of those laid to rest at St John's were Australian soldiers.
Nicholas' Churchyard, Brockenhurst
In June 1916, No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital was established in the New Forest, taking over facilities which had been serving Indian troops. In a dedicated plot in the churchyard lie 93 New Zealand servicemen, as well as three Indian soldiers, a Canadian, an Australian, eleven United Kingdom servicemen and three unidentified Belgian civilians who had been working at Sopley Forestry Camp nearby.
During the war, King Edward VII Hospital (now Cardiff Royal Infirmary) and the Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital (formerly the Cardiff City Asylum at Whitchurch) treated sick and wounded servicemen. Most would recover, but many who died were buried here. Most of the 466 First World War burials are British, but the cemetery is also the final resting place of several Australians and Canadians.
This memorial commemorates First World War servicemen and women of the land and air forces who were lost at sea. It bears nearly 1,900 names, including those of more than 600 South Africans of the Native Labour Corps who died when SS Mendi sank in the Channel in 1917. Alongside their names is that of Lord Kitchener, at the time Britain's most famous soldier, lost in HMS Hampshire off the Orkneys.
Waldorf and Nancy Astor, prominent figures in Edwardian society, opened up their estate to a Canadian Red Cross hospital, which treated hundreds of men during the First World War. Some 42 servicemen and nurses who died here are buried in this unique Italianate garden plot, located within the grounds of the National Trust property, where their headstones lie recumbent against the turf.
Seaford Cemetery, East
In the cemetery of this small seaside town, among the graves of local servicemen who were brought home to be buried, can be found nearly two hundred members of Canadian units, several soldiers of the 36th (Ulster) Division, and 19 men of the British West Indies Regiment. Their units, along with many others of the British forces, spent time near Seaford during the First World War.
The majority of the First World War servicemen buried here died in the Quintinshill (or Gretna) rail disaster on 22 May 1915, in which more than 220 men of the Royal Scots were killed, and nearly 250 injured, while bound for Gallipoli. Most of the dead, many of whom hailed from Leith, were laid to rest with full military honours in a mass grave. The Gretna Memorial screen walls serve as their headstone.
Andrew's Cemetery, Newcastle upon
The military authorities took over the Westgate Road Workhouse and Infirmary to create 1st Northern General Hospital, with 1,500 beds for officers and men, one of four military hospitals established in Newcastle during the war years. Some of those who did not recover were buried here in a plot set aside for servicemen who died locally. The cemetery contains over 180 First World War graves.
During the war, 3rd Southern General Hospital was housed in many university buildings, including the Examination Schools. Its wards could accommodate over 1,500 officers and men. A specialist neurological section, Ashurst War Hospital in Littlemore, opened in 1918 in the former County Asylum. There are 165 burials from the First World War here, along with hundreds more from the Second.
More than 200 hospitals in London cared for soldiers, sailors and airmen with every sort of medical condition. In 1915 the Edmonton Union Infirmary, located less than a mile from this cemetery, became Edmonton Military Hospital with some 2,000 beds for servicemen. One of London's 'Central' military hospitals, it received casualties directly from the battlefields, carried here by hospital ship and ambulance train.
(Queen Mary's Hospital) Military Cemetery, Lancashire
In April 1915, Whalley County Asylum became the Queen Mary's Military Hospital, and by the following year the hospital could care for up to 2,500 patients. Over the course of the war, some 56,800 patients were treated in the hospital, and nearly 300 men died. The majority were buried elsewhere around the country, but 33 were buried here, in an acre plot within the asylum's small cemetery.
2nd Western General Hospital used facilities across Manchester and Stockport and could accommodate up to 16,000 military patients. Prisoners-of-war were treated at the Nell Lane Military Hospital, and Manchester was also the site of a number of convalescent homes, as well as specialist centres for limbless servicemen and neurological cases. Many of those who did not survive were buried here.
In 1917, a large Canadian military hospital opened at Kirkdale as a clearing hospital for wounded soldiers being returned to Canada. Over 100 of the 357 Army burials of the First World War in this cemetery are men of Canadian units. More than 80 officers and men of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment are here, many whose families came from communities like Fazakerley, Walton, and Kirkdale.