The Care and Marking of War Graves



The Care and Marking of War Graves


A document describing the activities of the Imperial War Graves Commission.



Temporal Coverage




Two printed sheets


This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit and





Imperial War Graves Commission,
Wooburn House,
Wooburn Green,
High Wycombe, Bucks.
February, 1942.
[page break]
During the war of 1914-18 the marking and care of the graves of those who fell were entrusted by the people and Governments of the Empire to the Imperial War Graves Commission. War Cemeteries were laid out in all parts of the world, and the graves were marked by headstones of a simple pattern – the same headstone for all, of whatever rank, symbolizing equality of sacrifice. These Cemeteries have been universally recognised as places of beauty, and the uniform headstone as mark of honour reserved for those who gave their lives for others. The photograph below shows these headstones and a War Cemetery. It is proposed to follow the same practice in this war.
(1) Abroad, cemeteries will be formed and the same pattern of headstone will be erected, wherever the forces of the British Commonwealth have been engaged.
(2) In the United Kingdom, in addition to Military Cemeteries, there are reserved plots in public cemeteries, and in some cases there are single burials in cemeteries or in churchyards. The Commission are prepared to mark with the same standard headstones all War Graves, not only
[page break]
in these Military Cemeteries and Service Plots, but also in those cases of single and private burial where the relatives wish their dead to the share this distinction with their comrades who rest in foreign lands.
The headstones cannot, however, be erected now, either abroad or in the United Kingdom, owing to shortage of labour, to lack of transport and to the risk of damage by air raids. As a temporary measure the graves are being marked wherever possible by specially designed wooden crosses, by the Shield of David in the case of Jewish graves, or by other appropriate form of memorial. The Commission will, nevertheless, write to you shortly to obtain from you, first, the full particulars to be recorded on the headstone, if the grave is known, so that everything may be ready to make and erect it as soon as the opportunity comes, and, secondly, the details to be recorded in permanent printed Registers. [inserted] LETTER NOW ENCLOSED [/inserted]
The Commission’s funds are provided by the Governments of the Empire, and no charge is made for either the temporary marking or the headstone. In the case of privately owned graves, care is being taken to ensure that the wishes of relatives are ascertained before the temporary marking is erected.
(3) As in the last war, many are missing and have no known grave. Other arrangements will be made for their commemoration ; after the late war, for example, the names of all sailors who had no grave but the sea were inscribed on memorials such as that shown in the above photograph. In these cases also the Commission will invite you to help them by supplying the necessary particulars.


Imperial War Graves Commission, “The Care and Marking of War Graves,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 27, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.