Europe is filled with war cemeteries and memorials commemorating the millions of lives that were lost during both World Wars. These sites have become tourist sites to remember and pay respects to the soldiers buried and named there. Some of these cemeteries are huge in size, holding thousands of graves and even more names marked to remember the missing soldiers whose bodies were never found.
This article takes a look at the ten biggest allied war cemeteries in Europe confirmed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC.)
Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium
Undoubtedly the biggest of them all, Tyne Cot Cemetery holds the graves of almost 12,000 soldiers from World War One. It’s named after a barn that was nicknamed Tyne Cottage by the allied soldiers in the area during the war. The barn was in German territory and had several blockhouses and pillboxes surrounding it. The area was considered a strategic advantage during the war to both sides fighting due it having a good view of the surrounding landscape. Australian and New Zealand divisions in October 1917 captured it and work on the cemetery began for British and Canadian soldiers who died in the war. The Germans took back the land on April 13th, 1918 and it was then recaptured by Belgian troops in September later that year.
Once the war was over graves were moved over from smaller cemeteries that were nearby from the battles of Passchendaele and Langemarck and Tyne Cot grew greatly in size. There are also four German graves of men who were treated there after the battle, as the pillbox was a Dressing Station for wounded men.
Etaples Military Cemetery, France.
Etaples was home to 16 hospitals and dozens of reinforcement camps for Commonwealth soldiers during the First World War. The town suffered heavy bombing from the Germans due to the high concentration of soldiers based there, but was able to withstand it.
The cemetery holds the graves of more than 10,000 soldiers from World War One and a further 119 men from World War Two as the Second World War saw war hospitals return to Etaples. Soldiers from the UK, India, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are interred in its grounds.
Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.
The second largest military cemetery in Belgium, Lijssenthoek is located in West Flanders and holds 9,901 interred there. Most of the Allied soldiers who are buried here were war casualties who were wounded near Ypres and then died at the four Allied casualty-clearing stations positioned in the area. There are 35 unnamed soldiers in the cemetery and one non-World War burial too.
St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France.
For the entirety of the First World War, the town of Rouen was surrounded by hospitals and camps for the Commonwealth soldiers. The majority of the dead from these hospitals were buried in St. Sever and in September 1916 an extension was constructed where the last burial occurred in 1920. The same happened in the Second World War and many Commonwealth soldiers were buried in the extension during the German occupation as prisoners of war.
There are 8,676 men buried in the cemetery, 328 of these are men from the Second World War buried in ‘Block S.’
Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, France.
Named after a small café that stood close to the site before it was destroyed by shellfire in March 1915, this cemetery holds 7,657 soldiers graves. After the café was destroyed, a communication trench was named after it that led the troops to the front lines.
Allied soldiers began burying their fellow troop members here in March 1916, but the cemetery was only small until the end of the war when approximately 7,000 graves were moved here from smaller graveyards nearby. More than half of the men buried in the cemetery remain unidentified.
Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
Soldiers who were killed all over western Germany during the Second World War are interred here, and Reichswald remains the largest Allied war cemetery in Germany. The Commonwealth soldiers interred here came from soldiers killed during the air attacks on Germany, or men who had lost their lives supporting the advance into Germany. The cemetery has 7,592 graves in its grounds.
Poelcappelle British Cemetery, Belgium.
Poelcappelle was a town in Belgium that was taken by the Germans in 1914, then evacuated by Commonwealth forces in 1918 and eventually retaken by Belgians on September 28th, 1918. The cemetery itself was constructed after the Armistice as graves from the surrounding areas were brought to Poelcappelle and soldiers were laid to rest there.
The majority of the men here died in 1917, specifically October 1917, but there are some graves from 1914 and 1914, the number buried at this cemetery is 7,480. Private John Condon of the Royal Irish Regiment is interred here, who at the age of 14 is considered to be the youngest war casualty commemorated by the CWGC.
Serre Road Cemetery No 2, France.
Located 11km north of Albert, France, Serre was a location that was fought over several times during the war. Finally, when the Germans retreated to the Hindenburg Line in 1917, it was taken over by UK troops only for the Germans to recapture the village in March 1918 until the retreated later in the year.
Serre Road Cemetery was another cemetery that was created during the war, but more graves were moved there once the Armistice was done bringing the total buried here up to 7,128.
Hooge Crater Cemetery, Belgium.
Named after a crater formed by a mine exploded in July 1915, the cemetery sits on the site of a former chateau. Hooge Chateau was an area that saw intense battles during the entire First World War and went from being a chateau with stables to being a crater in the ground.
The cemetery was first built in 1917 and had 76 graves, but once the war was over, more graves were built here and moved over from other smaller cemeteries nearby. 5,918 men are interred here, many of whom are unidentified, although the cemetery has several memorials to missing soldiers killed in the area who are believed to be among the dead.
Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.
The cemetery was used as one of three base ports by the Allied troops during the First World War, although it was closed between August 27th, 1914 and October 1914 when the German troops held the territory. From October to 1918 the Allied troops controlled the area, and it formed one of the main hospital areas of the war.
Initially, the dead soldiers were buried at one of the town’s cemeteries and no specific cemetery was built, however in 1918 that cemetery was short of space, even though they had extended it several times, and so a new cemetery was built.
There are 5,577 Commonwealth burials at the cemetery from World War One, and 224 from World War Two when the area was used as a field hospital again.