The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Graves at the London Cemetery and Extension British and Commonwealth Military Cemetery 1914-1918, near Longueval, Northern France
A young visitor reaches for the Visitors' Book.
A young visitor reaches for the Visitors' Book.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, established by Royal Charter in 1917, has a number of responsibilities:

In total the Commission is responsible for 1.7 million graves and memorials throughout the world.

Finding a WW1 Grave or Memorial

Cross of Sacrifice, a feature of most British and Commonwealth military cemeteries, at London Road Cemetery & Extension, near Longueval, Somme battlefield.
Cross of Sacrifice at London Road Cemetery and Extension.

The information held by the CWGC can be very useful for people researching their family history (genealogy) or simply trying to find out more about the recipient of a First World War medal. The details provided by the CWGC can help to locate the actual grave within a cemetery or the name commemorated on a WW1 memorial if you're planning to make a visit.

Since January 2012 the CWGC website has been relaunched with new search features available to examine the information held by the CWGC in its database.

Search for Casualty or Cemetery Online

You can search online at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for all 1.7 million deaths of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars and subsequent conflicts.

The information you will be provided with by the CWGC register will be:

The Stone of Remembrance, a feature of most British and Commonwealth military cemeteries, at London Road Cemetery & Extension, near Longueval, Somme battlefield.
Stone of Remembrance at London Road Cemetery and Extension.

Additional information which may be included on the Register, if it has been recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, may be the person's military unit (at the time of death), age, and next of kin with an address.

If you only know the surname of the person you are looking for, and it is a common name, you may find that there is a very long list of names to search through. The online search offers an Advanced Search to add in more details which should help to narrow down your search. These details are:

Example of a CWGC Search

Grave of Corporal T H Parker at London Road Cemetery & Extension, near Longueval, Somme battlefield.
Grave of Corporal T H Parker at London Road Cemetery and Extension.

By way of an example, the details provided by the CWGC for Corporal Thomas Henry Parker are as follows:

Link to Search the CWGC Online Register

Graves and summer flowers at Tyne Cot cemetery, Passchendaele in the Ypres Salient battlefield.
Graves and summer flowers at Tyne Cot cemetery, Passchendaele in the Ypres Salient battlefield.

To search the online register of British and Commonwealth war dead go to the CWGC website at:

Website: www.cwgc.org

Grave Location Enquiries by Post, Telephone or Email

Records are held at the Commission's Head Office in Maidenhead. If you cannot find the information you require from an online search you can make an enquiry by post, telephone or email. Generally, traces for a grave will be free for immediate relatives, but others may have to pay a small fee for this service. Contact details for the CWGC are given below.

Visit the CWGC Website

Gordon Cemetery near Mametz on the Somme battlefield.
Gordon Cemetery near Mametz on the Somme battlefield.

To find out all about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, its work, learning and educational resources, news and events go to the CWGC website at:

Website: www.cwgc.org

Contact Details for the CWGC

CWGC Head Office

Address: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Head Office, 2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 7DX

Telephone: +44 (0)1628 634221

Fax: +44 (0)1628 771208

Website: www.cwgc.org

CWGC Area Offices

Renovations being carried out in 2008 to the grass at London Road Cemetery and Extension, Somme battlefield.
Renovations to London Road Cemetery and Extension, Somme battlefield.

Area offices with responsibility for maintaining the graves of British and Commonwealth forces who died on the battlefields of Belgium and France can be visited. The offices hold a set of registers for the cemeteries and memorials.

Northern Europe Area: Ieper (Ypres)

Address: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Elverdingsestraat 82, B - 8900 Ieper, Belgium

Telephone: +32 (0)57 20 01 18; Fax +32 (0)57 21 80 14

See our page for the location of the CWGC office in Ieper (Ypres) at:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Ieper (Ypres) Office

France Area: Beaurains (near Arras)

Address: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Rue Angèle Richard, 62217 Beaurains, France

Telephone: +33 (0)3 21 21 77 00; Fax +33 (0)3 21 21 77 10

Related Reading

Cover for book title Empires of the Dead

Empires of the Dead

by David Crane

A new book published in 2013 telling the fascinating story of Fabian Ware and his vision for the building of the First World War cemeteries. Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction.

304 pages. Published by William Collins (26 Sep 2013). ISBN-10: 0007456654. ISBN-13: 978-0007456659

Cover for book title Remembered by Julie Summers

Remembered

The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission by Julie Summers, Brian Harris and Ian Hislop

Features images by award winning photographer Brian Harris, never before seen photographs from the Commission's own archives and a new history of the Commission by renowned author Julie Summers.

Cover for book On Fame's Eternal Camping Ground

On Fame's Eternal Camping Ground

A Study of First World War Epitaphs in the British Cemeteries of the Western Front by Trefor Jones

Based on five years' research, this book presents more than 1,500 epitaphs on First World War headstones in the cemeteries of Belgium and France. These tributes to young sons, husbands and brothers of that lost generation, buried far from home, provide an eloquent and moving demonstration of the power and beauty of language.

Cover for book Lutyens and the Great War

Lutyens and the Great War

by Tim Skelton & Gerald Gliddon

Sir Edwin Lutyens did many works in connection with the First World War; Thiepval memorial on the Somme for example. This book describes the variety of these moving works and the stories behind them.

Cover for book The Unending Vigil

The Unending Vigil

This book by Philip Longworth tells the Commission's story from its beginnings on the Western Front during the First World War under the direction of Fabian Ware, describing the contribution made by the architects, sculptors, engineers, horticulturalists and men of letters who combined to create the war cemeteries and memorials that are so familiar today.

Related Topics

The largest French military cemetery in the world, with 40,057 casualties buried, at Ablain St-Nazaire (Notre Dame de Lorette) cemetery on the Artois battlefield.
Ablain St-Nazaire (Notre Dame de Lorette) French cemetery on the Artois battlefield.

War Graves for WW1 Dead on The Western Front

Read our article about the task of burying and commemorating those killed in unprecedented numbers on all sides in the First World War as a result of the battles on the Western Front.

War Graves for WW1 Dead on The Western Front

Research a WW1 Ancestor

For information about getting started and where to find military records, research resources and archives for First World War research see our index page at:

WW1 Research and Sources of Information

British First World War Medals

Preserved trenches at Vimy Ridge Canadian Memorial Park on the Artois battlefield.
preserved trenches at Vimy Ridge Memorial Park

To see our information about WW1 medals see:

British First World War Medals

Visiting the Western Front Battlefields

For information about sites to see and places to stay on the battlefields on the 1914-1918 Western Front see our page at:

Visiting WW1 Western Front Battlefields

Acknowledgements

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission: www.cwgc.org