Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian Local Histories and Special Collections  by Michelle LaBrosse-Purcell, B.Sc., MLIS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible for the commemoration in perpetuity of 1.7 million men and women who died during the two world wars while serving with the forces of the Commonwealth. Today, the Commission maintains war graves and memorials at some 23,000 locations and in some 150 countries and keeps detailed public records on the place of burial and commemoration for each of these casualties. By searching the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, anyone can have access to information regarding the place of burial or commemoration for any Commonwealth serviceman or woman who died during the two world wars. Here is an example of the type of material found on this website:

Debt of Honour Register In Memory of

Petty Officer
C/J 105800
H.M.S. Curacoa,
Royal Navy
who died on Friday 2 October 1942. Age 36.

Additional Information Son of Andrew Mc Credie Forrest and Martha Forrest; husband of Martha Henrietta Forrest, of Gillingham, Kent.
Cemetery CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL Kent, United Kingdom
Grave or Reference Panel Number 51,3
Location The Memorial overlooks the town of Chatham and is approached by a steep path from the Town Hall Gardens
Visiting Information As a result of constant vandalism at the Memorial, the Commonwealth war graves Commission has had to arrange for it to be regularly patrolled and public access limited to the period from 8.30 to 17.00. Should for any reason the Memorial be closed during the stated hours, please telephone the Guard Room at Brompton Barracks on 01634-822442 who will arrange for the gates to be opened. Any inconvenience to visitors is greatly regretted. A copy of the Memorial Register is kept in the Naval Chapel of Brompton Garrison church and may be consulted there.
Historical Information After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea where no permanent memorial could be provided. An Admiralty committee recommended that the three manning ports in Great Britain - Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth, should each have an identical memorial of unmistakable naval form, an obelisk, which would serve as a leading mark for shipping. The memorials were designed by sir Robert Lorimer, who had already carried out a considerable amount of work for the Commission, with sculpture by Henry Poole. After the Second World war it was decided that the naval memorials should be extended to provide space for commemorating the naval dead without graves of that war, but since the three sites were dissimilar, a different architectural treatment was required for each. The architect for the Second World War extension at Chatham was Sir Edward Maufe (who also designed the Air Forces memorial at Runnymede) and the additional sculpture was by Charles Wheeler and William McMillan. Chatham Naval Memorial commemorates more than 8,500 sailors of the First World War and over 10,000 from the Second World War.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Canadian Local Histories and Special Collections offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

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