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The World war i: monuments and memorials in the commonwealth of nations
MONUMENTS AND MEMORIALS IN
THE COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS
2. The Background…The Great War of 1914-1918 was so terrible and inflicted
such large numbers of casualties on all sides that when it was over it
was believed by many to be “The War to end All Wars”. By the end
of four years of fighting from August 1914 to November 1918 many
thousands of families around the world were affected by the
tragedy of the wounding or loss of one of their own. Communities
were depleted of many of their young men.
Preserving the memory of the people involved in the fighting,
those people who were forever to be scarred by their involvement in
the First World War, and the places ravaged by the war, was at the
heart of a desire in the 1920s to find a way to mark their participation
in such a large-scale, world-changing event.
Memorials to the First World War are many and varied. Official
and private memorials are to be found on the battlefields of the various
theatres of that war and in the home nation of those who served from
the many countries which were involved in it
Probably one of the most well
recognized WW1 memorials is the
Cenotaph, located in Whitehall,
London. Each year on November
11th, there is a spectacular parade
past the monument of groups such
as the Royal British Legion, various
representatives, and veterans from
a number of Britain’s more recent
The nation observes a two-minute
silence at 11am, with cannons near
beginning and end of the silence.
Wreaths of poppies are laid at the
foot of the monument to signify the
fields of the Somme where most
British lives were lost. The vastness
of the parade and the national
respect for this event is highly
4. Menin Gate, Ypres, BelgiumWhilst not located within a Commonwealth nation, the Menin Gate is a
memorial to missing soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth. The
town of Ypres as a strategic stronghold during the war, and the gate forms
the point at which forces left the town to advance towards the front line.
The memorial itself consists of a large vaulted archway, with thousands of
names of soldiers whose bodies were never found inscribed onto the walls.
However, even up until today, many remains of soldiers are being
discovered in the surrounding area, and once identified, they are properly
buried in a war cemetery, and their names are removed from the Menin
5. Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, New ZealandOne of the more recent Commonwealth memorials is the Tomb of the
Unknown Warrior in Wellington, New Zealand. In 2004, remains of a New
Zealand soldier were exhumed from the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery in
France, where many New Zealand soldiers fought, and were repatriated to
the nation’s capital. Most of New Zealand’s soldiers that died during the war
have not been officially found or identified, so this unknown warrior is a
moving symbol of all those that were lost and who never made it back.
6. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Warsaw, PolandWhile not a Commonwealth nation, there is no doubt that Poland was one of the
countries involved in WW1 that suffered most and had most to gain from the
war’s end. Remembrance Day also acts as Poland’s Independence Day since the
end of the war signaled the beginning of Poland as a nation independent from
various empires. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw annually sees
spectacular military processions on November 11th. Throughout the year, the
tomb is guarded, and a changing of the guard takes place every hour; the
permanent guard and reverence for what the monument represents shows how
significant the end of the war was for Poland.
7. Australian War Memorial, Canberra, AustraliaThe Australian War Memorial is found in the country’s capital city,
near the city’s key government and legislative buildings, which effectively
reflects the importance of the memorial. The memorial is extensive and spreads
over a large area, which includes not only the traditional shrine and lists of
names but also a museum and gallery. The museum gives visitors a context for
the memorial so that they can understand its significance. It is the high point of
Anzac Parade, a street along which many other war memorials are located.
Remembrance Day services are held at the memorial, in the main forecourt.
8. Tyne Cot Commonwealth Cemetery, Passchendaele, BelgiumThis Commonwealth cemetery, located just outside the small Belgian town of
Passchendaele, is the single largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world.
While the majority of graves are British, there is a significant number of graves
representing soldiers from other Commonwealth nations, such as New Zealand,
Australia, and Canada. The cemetery features iconic white gravestones, neatly
arranged upon an immaculate lawn, which is located atop a small hill and looks out
over the battlefields where many of these soldiers died. The cemetery was started
during the war but was lost to the Germans before being recaptured by Belgian
Forces. Tyne Cot is immensely moving and truly gives a sense of the scale of lives lost.
9. Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh, UKFound within Edinburgh Castle is this haunting WW1 memorial. The
memorial itself is a building similar in style to that of a church, with gothic
architecture in keeping with the rest of the castle. It commemorates Scottish
soldiers from WW1 as well as WW2 and more recent conflicts. The most
poignant part of the memorial is the central altar, on which there is a casket
containing the Rolls of Honour of roughly 147,000 names of Scottish soldiers
killed. It is now possible to look up the names of the soldiers online, allowing
descendants to find out more about their relatives who lost their lives.
10. National War Memorial, Ottawa, CanadaCanada’s principle WW1 memorial is an imposing granite archway 20 metres in
height, with bronze statues of soldiers that were lost. It is at the centre of
Confederation Square in Ottawa and is guarded by ceremonial sentries. Although it
dates from 1939, in 2000 a tomb was added to the front containing the remains of an
unknown soldier that had been repatriated from France. It is the focal point of the
Remembrance Day ceremony and has come to represent lost soldiers from all of
Canada’s wars, past, present, and future. A member of the Royal family is often
present at the Remembrance Day service, or if they are visiting at another time, they
will also visit the memorial to lay a wreath.
11. Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli, TurkeyOne of the most well known battles from WW1 was the Battle of Gallipoli, which
involved the combined forces of many Commonwealth nations, including Australia
and New Zealand, against the Ottoman Empire. The operation was so significant for
Australia and New Zealand that the commemoration of it (Anzac Day) is observed
more commonly than Remembrance Day. One of the most poignant reminders is Lone
Pine Cemetery, which commemorates mainly those whose bodies were never found.
It is so named due to a single pine tree found at that spot, from which some soldiers
took pine cones that have since produced memorial trees in Australia. Today, there is
a lone pine there although it is not the original.
12. National Heroes Square, Bridgetown, BarbadosThe contribution of smaller Commonwealth nations is often overlooked, which is
why the WW1 memorial in Barbados is so poignant. Along with other Caribbean
nations, Barbados was called upon to provide troops to the war effort and
suffered casualties just like the others. In National Heroes Square, a military
parade is held on Remembrance Sunday, with the WW1 cenotaph as the focal
point. Dignitaries, government representatives as well as military chiefs attend
the ceremony. Although a small nation, the war efforts of Barbados are
nonetheless rightly celebrated.
War Memorial: The Story of One Village's Sacrifice from 1914 to 2003
Paperback – 7 Nov 2013 by Clive Aslet