If you have relatives who fought in World War 1 or if you are just interested in recent History, visiting Commonwealth War Cemeteries is something you might consider. Yesterday I visited two such cemeteries as there are lots of them in my area – French troops were stationed further east. The following explanations are based both on my own observations and on a Wikipedia article.
A typical cemetery is surrounded by a masonry wall with an entrance through wrought iron gates. In larger sites a stainless steel notice gives details of the respective military campaign – in the first cemetery I visited the notice explained that it contained the graves of 65 British, 1 Australian and 41 South African soldiers and when they fell in action. There were also a map and some explanations about the battles fought by these soldiers.
In most cemeteries, you’ll find a bronze register box – in the wall – containing an inventory of the burials and a plan of the plots and rows as well as a visitor’s book.
Typically, cemeteries of more than 40 graves have a Cross of Sacrifice designed by architect Reginald Blomfield.
Individual graves are arranged, where possible, in straight rows and marked by uniform headstones, the vast majority of which are made of Portland stone.
Most headstones are inscribed with a cross, except for when the deceased was not a Christian or was known to be an Atheist.
Many gravestones are for unidentified casualties; they consequently bear only what could be discovered from the body.
The land on which the Commonwealth cemeteries and official memorials are situated was given by the French government and are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.