November 11th is Veteran’s Day in the United States. In other countries, it’s known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. It celebrates the end of World War I when the Central Powers; Germany, Austro-Hungaria, & Turkey, agreed to lay down their arms and cease fighting. The Great War, as it was known, lasted just over four years resulting in millions of casualties, both civilian and military. With 20 million dead and 21 million wounded, WWI opened the modern era of warfare in the most brutal and horrible fashion imaginable.
A whole generation was nearly scrubbed from existence. Throughout West Flanders in Belgium and Northern France, there are monuments and cemeteries dedicated to the soldiers and civilians who were affected by this calamitous war. In Belgium, you can visit cemeteries and memorials dedicated to British, Canadians, Welsh, Scottish, Americans, French, Indians, Australians, New Zealanders, and the Germans ranging from small & intimate to massive ones like Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial.
Tyne Cot is one of largest British cemeteries and memorials in Belgium and the final resting place of over 11,000 members of the British/Commonwealth military. It includes soldiers from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, India, New Zealand, and Australia. The memorial wall that surrounds one side of the cemetery holds the names of over 35,000 servicemen whose bodies were never found.
Each year, approximately 20 bodies are found in the fields of West Flanders. If there any artifacts that identify which military they served, the body is then moved to the appropriate cemetery. If none of that evidence is a name, the various organizations that maintain the cemeteries try to see if they can match the remains to a name. When they find a name, and if it’s one of the names on the memorial wall (or other Missing In Action memorials), they remove the name and put it on the individual grave marker. The unidentified bodies are given an unknown soldier grave with as much identifying information as was available, like a unit or country of origin. This is a photo of one of those graves in Tyne Cot.
This photo was taken on September 27th, 2017.