12 November 2011

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Yesterday I wrote about my visit to northern France to visit the graves of my ancestors William Watson and Harry Stratford. I first learnt about their involvement in the Great War, and their deaths, when I visited the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Upper Stoke last year, as part of a local history walk led by Alan Marshall.

Both their names were listed, along with sixteen others, on a plaque (pictured below) commemorating those from the Parish who had given their lives in the service of King and country.

Wondering how I might go about locating their graves, I thought how impossible that was likely to be given the hundreds of thousands who died in northern France and Belgium between 1914-1918. But after a bit of digging on various genealogy websites, I managed to track down war records for both William and Harry, detailing personal information and their service history, including the date of their deaths.

I was then able to use the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to track down the location of William’s grave and the place where Harry’s name is listed amongst tens of thousands who have no known grave.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter in 1917.  It pays tribute to the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars by maintaining graves and memorials across the world, the bulk of which are in northern France and Belgium.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website doesn’t just give the detail of servicemen’s graves, but also provides quite a lot of very specific information about the individual battles in which these young men died.

Take a look at the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission by clicking here. Be sure to navigate to the ‘debt of honour’ page where you can search for specific ancestors. You can also visit the very useful website of the War Graves Photographic Project by clicking here - another excellent resource!