12 Months of CWGC

An annual reflection from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Thank you all for your support this year

This has been a year like no other for many of us all around the world, yet despite the difficulties and anxieties Covid-19 has caused this year, we are grateful and heartened by the continuing support and encouragement we have received. In the face of the challenges 2020 has presented, we are proud to say that we have managed to continue to care for the fallen of the two world wars as we have done for the last century. As we reach the end of 2020, we take a look back over some of our highlights of this unique year.
Once-in-a-Generation Restoration

In January 2020, we carried out the once-in-a-generation restoration of two Portland stone globes at the Liverpool Naval Memorial. The memorial was originally unveiled on 12 November 1952 and commemorates more than 1,400 seamen, but after decades of exposure to the elements the two half-tonne globes were in need of some extra care. You can watch the restoration in progress by clicking here.

Return to Aleppo

Recent conflicts in Syria have meant that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has been unable to maintain some of our cemeteries in the country, including Aleppo War Cemetery. But in February, for the first time in almost seven years, our staff were able to safely gain access to the site to begin restoring the site. Read more by clicking here.

Fifty Not Out

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was of course not immune to the spread of Coronavirus around the globe. In March, our operations were suspended and teams were forced to work from home, with new ways of working becoming the norm. However, just before  the lockdown in the UK, we were able to mark His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent’s fifty years as President of the Commission. Read more by clicking here.

It’s a Digital World

As the world began to adjust to new ways of working and moved towards digital engagement, in April, a series of heart-breaking letters were digitally published from the CWGC archives for the first time. Thanks to the newly released archive material, the stories of thousands of families’ search for closure after the First World War could be retold for the first time in generations. To discover some of these stories for yourself, click here.

A Virtual Remembrance

As people around the world celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day in May in a socially-distanced way. We offered the public the chance to take part in a virtual act of remembrance, and hundreds of people paid tribute to those who served to secure our peace on our Wall of Remembrance. You can add a tribute of your own via social media, using the hashtag #ShareYourTribute, or visit the wall by clicking here.

A Fitting Tribute

Every year, on 6 June, veterans and relatives return to the CWGC’s cemeteries in France to remember those killed on D-Day and during the other pivotal battles of the Second World War. Yet, under this year’s unique circumstances, tributes were instead laid by our gardeners on behalf of those who could not make their annual pilgrimage to Normandy. You can read more here.

Not the Last Post

Throughout 2020, we brought you a programme of online talks via our Facebook Live series, covering the work of the CWGC and our role in commemorating the Commonwealth men and women who died during the World Wars. In July, hundreds of you tuned into our live broadcast of the first socially-distanced Last Post ceremony at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Ieper, following months of lockdown in Belgium. If you missed it, or wish to revisit the moving ceremony, click here.

VJ Day 75

August marked the 75th anniversary of VJ Day and the end of the Second World War. We spoke to 100-year old veteran and former prisoner of war, Albert Warne, who reflected upon how lucky he was to survive his time fighting in Singapore. Unable to travel to visit his fallen comrades this year, the CWGC laid a tribute on the grave of Bert’s commanding officer, Captain Lambert, in Chungkai War Cemetery in Thailand. You can watch Bert’s emotional reaction to the tribute here.

Our War Graves, Your History

Whilst many people associate our work with the vast cemeteries and memorials of France and Belgium, we also maintain stunning cemeteries and memorials across Great Britain. With many people unable to travel further afield to visit the battlefields of the two World Wars – from the Western Front to the Far East – we have been encouraging members of the public to reconnect with their local history and heritage through our new interactive resource, Our War Graves, Your History.

Remembering their Contribution

Rows of identical headstones, or columns of names inscribed on tablets of Portland stone, can give the impression that the people we commemorate were all alike. And yet, though they may now appear identical in death, in life they were diverse. October marked the UK’s Black History Month, and Historian Lynelle Howson took the opportunity to highlight the contributions of Sergeant Leslie Gilkes and Flight Lieutenant Emanuel Thomas. Read the blog here.

Shine On

On 11 November 2020, an Armistice Day like no other, members of the public joined with us to pay tribute to the 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead in a unique act of remembrance. Thousands of you made use of the Commission’s extensive records to name a star after a casualty of the two World Wars, and stood outside your doors to look up at the stars and remember the fallen. Many of you joined with us for this remarkable moment of Remembrance on our Facebook livestream, which you can rewatch here.

Looking Forward

Our global teams are now taking a well-earned break over the Christmas and New Year’s period. We thank you all for your continued support through this unique year, and while 2020 has been full of uncertainty, we hope to be able to welcome some of you back to visit a CWGC site in the not too distant future in 2021.

Copyright © 2020 Commonwealth War Graves Commission, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DX


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