War Grave Memorials

There is a widespread misconception that War Graves are of a regulation shape and standard. It is also assumed that they are all maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

However, this is not the case. Whilst across the world there are thousands of beautifully maintained war cemeteries, a large proportion of casualties were brought back to their family home and buried within a nearby cemetery or churchyard.

The CWGC headstones for Canadian casualties will display one of four different insignias with an additional two distinctive styles found in Naval Cemeteries.

However, there are also hundreds of private memorials which differ in size, shape, colour and stone for the Great War Canadians commemorated in the United Kingdom.

In this section, we have selected just a few of the wide range of war grave memorials that can be found across the United Kingdom.

In many cases, there are no longer family members living to tend the private graves. Headstones and grave kerbs have gradually deteriorated or fallen into a sad state of disrepair. These memorials have too often been classed as dangerous and taken down by the local authority.

However, if such a private grave is reported to the CWGC, the Commission can agree to erect one of their own familiar headstones to mark the last resting place of the casualty.

Canadian War Grave

A familiar CWGC headstone with the Canadian Maple Leaf insignia

Other insignias for Canadian casualties:

Sailor

Sailor

Airman

Airman

Newfoundlander

Newfoundlander

Distinctive headstones are found in Naval War Cemeteries

Naval headstone
Naval headstone

Memorial Walls are common, especially when the exact burial place is unknown. Canadian Private O. Vartanian whose name appears on this wall at Beckenham Cemetery, Kent was buried in an unmarked grave in the common area.

Memorial Wall

As with many old or Victorian Cemeteries, Common burial areas are now disused and covered with dense overgrowth. Some have been transformed into nature reserves.

Disused burial area
Memorial wall

Some Memorial Walls like this one at Epsom Cemetery, Surrey have a corresponding numbered plaque in the ground to indicate the burial location.

Numbered plaque
Hastings

Hastings Cemetery

Hastings Cemetery, Sussex has a well maintained CWGC section. However just a few yards away, Private Hugh Brown was buried in the same grave as his uncle which was completely covered in thick grass for almost a century until exposed by the authors.

Private Hugh Brown

Private Hugh Brown

Thousands of different types of private headstones and memorials were found as the authors travelled the UK. A few samples are shown here. Sadly, some are in such a bad state of deterioration and neglect that they are in danger of disappearing altogether.

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