Its full name is the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing – or “Tyne Cot” for short. And though it’s British, it’s actually in Belgium… which gives a first clue about why it’s there.
WWI began on July 28, 1914, between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Serbia, sparked by something a Yugoslav did a month before in Bosnia. Complicated, yes, but it gets worse.
Since Germany was allied with Austro-Hungary, it invaded Belgium and Luxembourg to attack France in a misguided attempt to keep the French out of the war. But since Britain was France’s ally, it had to get involved.
On October 19, 1914, a force of British, French, Canadian, and Belgian forces clashed with the Germans in the Belgian city of Ypres, driving the latter out by November 22. Attempting to outflank the Allies and move deeper into France, the Germans dug trenches, forcing the Allies to respond by doing the same.
Thus began the Race to the Sea as both sides kept digging more trenches till Belgium’s North Sea put a stop to it. Ypres would see four more battles, turning it into a symbol of what the British and their allies felt they were fighting for.
Belgium never forgot their sacrifice, either, which was why King Albert of Belgium bequeathed the cemetery to the Commonwealth’s fallen in perpetuity. It stands just outside Passchendaele, a village which saw some of the heaviest fighting during WWI.
The area it occupies was captured by Australians and New Zealanders on October 4, 1917 and used as a cemetery for the Allies till it was recaptured by the Germans on April 13, 1918. Several months later on September 28, the Belgians retook it.
The cemetery’s name comes from the German pillboxes that used to guard the area, since they looked like cottages in Tyneside, England – hence “Tyne Cots.” It was atop one of these pillboxes that the Cross of Sacrifice now rests, surrounded by 11,961 gravestones.
The wall surrounding the cemetery is the Memorial to the Missing. Inscribed on it are the names of 33,783 British soldiers and another 1,176 from New Zealand.
This is a powerful video of a peaceful place.