Class Year


Document Type



This paper argues that sites administered by the Imperial War Graves Commission played a significant part in the British public’s mourning and understanding of the meaning of the Great War. Pilgrimages, due to their popularity, size, and accessibility, allowed the countless bereaved families to grieve the losses that they suffered during the war. Their visits to cemeteries were powerful experiences because of the painstaking work done by the IWGC to bury identified bodies, honor unidentified remains, and enshrined names for those whose remains could not be identified. The IWGC was a bureaucratic organization that overcame the cultural challenge posed by the question of how to memorialize hundreds of thousands of war dead. IWGC Director Fabian Ware oversaw the commission and was instrumental in creating a bond amongst the dead that redefined them to be an extension of the empire, in effect creating a constituency where the tombstones and memorialized names became grasped as a single entity.The IWGC relied on planned cemeteries and accompanying funerary, centered around the complex web of meaning that families, the nation, and the Empire assigned to the Great War. More than 100 years since the creation of the first IWGC cemeteries, the cemeteries remain a powerful reminder of the cost and meaning of the Great War.

Included in

History Commons