The largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world is called Tyne Cot, and is a 10minute drive (or 2hour walk) from the centre of Ypres in Belgium. In 1917 however it took months of battling in horrendous weather for the allies to reach here. The area (once a barn surrounded by block houses) was named by the British and was the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war.
They were literally fighting over yards during one of the largest battles of the First World War, which helps why explain this area took decades to be cleaned, restored and recover from the war. It may look peaceful and beautiful these days, but there was absolutely nothing remaining here after the war, and the land was unrecognisable even to those who lived and worked here before the outbreak of war. If you would like to learn more about the impact on land visit Denzil’s post.
A couple of years ago I said I would share a post on Sir Fabian Ware, the man whose vision and determination established the Imperial War Graves Commission, which later became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). Not sure why is has taken me so long to prepare this post, but here it is today a 100 years to the day after the first ‘official’ Armistice Day.
Born in 1869 and with a background in education and journalism, Fabian Ware was too old to become a soldier in the First World War. Instead he volunteered with the British Red Cross and became a commander of a mobile hospital unit. His unit was to support more than 12,00 casualties. His attention though soon turned to those who had been killed, and his concerns at the lack of any official or formal mechanism for marking and recording the location of the thousands of graves. Supported by a senior British Army officer, he decided to found a new organisation to rectify this.