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Unknown soldier graves


Wesley Wright
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Unknown soldiers graves--On the European Mainland unknown soldier is represented by headstones with inscription "Known unto God"

Visited Gallipoli recently--appears they do not have a headstone--why??--was this because bodies not retrieved until 1919??

Wesley Wright

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Wesley,

My understanding is just the sheer numbers of unknown's on Gallipoli. When the graves registration teams went back in 1919 they were unable to identify the vast majority of the fallen. There are cemeteries that contain a few hundred fallen, but only five to ten are named.

There is one example on the Western Front, this being VC Corner Cemetery, on the old Fromelles battlefield. It contains the final resting place of 250 Australians. All of them are unknown and not one headstone in the cemetery.

Cheers Andy.

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I hope you won't mind my contradicting you, Andy, but VC Corner Cemetery contains the graves of 410 Australians. They all have individual graves but - as you said - there are no headstones.

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Unknown soldiers graves--On the European Mainland unknown soldier is represented by headstones with inscription "Known unto God"

Visited Gallipoli recently--appears they do not have a headstone--why??--was this because bodies not retrieved until 1919??

Wesley Wright

I have asked this question to a number of learned people and have received varied answers, I am unsure who and where the definitive answer should come from

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I have asked this question to a number of learned people and have received varied answers, I am unsure who and where the definitive answer should come from

Why not ask the CWGC? Get the response straight from the horse's mouth.

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Why not ask the CWGC? Get the response straight from the horse's mouth.

I did ask Dr. Edward Madigan who at the time was Chief Historian for the CWGC when he was a guest speaker at the Gallipoli Association Conference in 2012, his reply was based on his opinion and not officially from CWGC. He stated that he thought the costs would be too much.

When visiting 4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery in 2007 I met the then Regional Manager for Turkey and the Med, his reply was that it was because the Allies were defeated.

I will ask the question officially but it may be six months or more before I get a reply, if at all judging by the current reply time frame.

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At Gallipoli there are many reasons that the graves are unknown, it stems from two main reasons

  1. The men buried during the campaign in the major cemeteries were buried with honours and a cross was normally erected to mark their resting place, but these markers were materials that were available at the time mostly timber from packing crates. During the evacuation from the peninsular and the Allied return in 1919 many of these markers were lost mostly as they were used as firewood by the locals hence a lot of soliders known to be in a cemetery have their actual burial plot unknown.
  2. After the war a lot of bodies were re-buried from smaller grave yards and these graveyards were often not well marked. Remember that at Gallipoli and Helles there was barely a piece of ground that the Turks could not see so graves were often in the more exposed areas. During this process of forming the cemeteries and reburying the soldiers from the smaller graveyards if a soldier could be identified he was but this was rarely the case, some were identified to nationality or official records listed there burial location, so this was often used as the basis for the memorials in the cemeteries.

This I know is a complex issue and I have given a few of the main reasons. But having said that the biggest issue was the lack of organisation during the major offenses when the aid stations were over ran with wounded and dying , the soldiers just had to do the best they could with treating the wounded and dead, so many young men were buried quickly under the constant fire from the Turks and record keeping was the last thing on their minds.

Hope this helps.

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Thank you all for your answers-much appreciated.

Another Question--why is their no cemetery registers in Gallipoli??

Wesley Wright

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There are cemetery registers just none on site as you can find in Europe, I obtained a copy of the Northern Gallipoli cemeteries from the National Library of Australia. Possibly the maintenance of the European cemeteries is more intensive than the Gallipoli sites, hence there are no visitor books or registers.

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I was told a very different story by a guide- I would be very reluctant to repeat what he said.

Wesley Wright

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