Memorials and cemeteries

At the end of the First World War the British and the French built memorials and cemeteries to pay tribute to the soldiers who died in action.

Monumental architectural sites were created by the British to pay homage to their missing, the soldiers whose bodies were never found or identified. In Thiepval, nearly 72,200 names of soldiers who died in the Battle of the Somme are recorded. In Ypres (Belgium) the Menin Gate bears the names of more than 54,000 dead soldiers. The architects of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission designed these monuments: Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) in Thiepval and Sir Reginald Blomfield (1856-1942) in Ypres.

In France large cemeteries were also built after the war. Notre-Dame de Lorette in Ablain-Saint-Nazaire (Pas-de-Calais) was built following a decree of January 16th, 1924. It is the largest military cemetery in France, comprising 20,000 individual tombs and eight ossuaries. The national cemetery of Douaumont (Meuse) was inaugurated on June 23rd, 1929. It groups the bodies of soldiers who died in the Battle of Verdun with 16,000 tombs of French soldiers and an ossuary for 13,000 bodies.

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  • Thiepval Memorial, early 1930s, photo, coll. Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne © Y. Medmoun

    Thiepval Memorial was built between 1929 and 1932 in the Somme. In this photo the memorial had yet to be completed. It was inaugurated on August 1st, 1932 in the presence of the future British king, Edward VIII and the French president, Albert Lebrun.

  • Notre-Dame de Lorette. View of the tower, first quarter of the 20th century, postcard, coll. Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne

    The National Cemetery of Notre-Dame de Lorette comprises two main monuments, the Roman-Byzantine style chapel designed by the architect, Louis-Marie Cordonnier (1854-1940) and the Lantern Tower, which was inaugurated on August 2nd, 1925. The latter contains an ossuary.

  • Menin Gate in Ypres, digital photo, © In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres

    The Menin Gate in Ypres was inaugurated on July 24th, 1927. This monument in the shape of a triumphal arch was built where the door of the Vauban fortress once stood, which was destroyed by successive bomb attacks. Every evening, since the end of the 1920s, the citizens of Ypres organize the ceremony of the « Last Post » here to commemorate the fallen soldiers.

Thiepval MemorialNotre-Dame de Lorette – vue de la TourMenin Gate in Ypres