It has been Australia's longstanding practice, through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG), to see our war dead officially commemorated and to maintain these commemorations in perpetuity. The debt of honour owed to those who gave their lives in the service of their country can never be repaid but we demonstrate our gratitude and honour the sacrifice in our cemeteries in Australia and overseas.
Australian war dead can be found in burial grounds around the world, from single plots in civil cemeteries to major war cemeteries. This section lists all overseas cemeteries with substantial numbers of our war dead.
Over 12,000 Australian casualties from WW1 and WW2 died in Australia. This section lists the war graves within Australia spread throughout 72 war cemeteries and plots and over 1900 civil cemeteries.
These are the features that make Commonwealth War Graves Commission war cemeteries unique and unmistakable and a lasting and memorable tribute to our war dead.
Stone of Remembrance
Stones of Remembrance denote a war cemetery with over 1,000 burials, (the exception being Sydney Cemetery) and certain sites such as the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The Stone of Remembrance, a 3.5 m long and 1.5 m high slab set at the top of three steps, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens based on complex geometry from the Parthenon. Non-denominational and universal in its design, it is a monument to represent those of all faiths and of none.
'Their name liveth forevermore'
These words are carved into the Stones of Remembrance to capture one of the key purposes of commemoration – to forever remember our war dead. The author, Rudyard Kipling, who lost his eldest son in the First World War and later became involved with the CWGC, chose this fitting phrase. He took it from the Book of Ecclesiastics in the Bible.
Cross of Sacrifice
The Cross of Sacrifice (the Cross), designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, instantly identifies all CWGC war cemeteries with 50 or more burials. The Cross is a tall (from 4.5 to 9 metres) sand or limestone Latin cross usually standing on an octagonal base with a downward pointing bronze sword attached to its face. Together, the sword and cross embody the military and spiritual nature of the cemetery.
Headstones and plaques
Headstones and plaques commemorating our war dead are uniform in design and in the information they contain. Each headstone or plaque includes the national emblem or the service or regimental badge and the deceased person's rank, name, unit, date of death and age at death. A religious emblem and personal inscription chosen by the relative may be engraved.
In the years directly after the wars, wooden crosses marked grave sites but these have now been completely replaced by stone headstones or bronze plaques. The demand for permanence has also resulted in low pedestals with bronze plaques being used instead of headstones.
Visiting a war cemetery
Information about visiting war cemeteries of the First and Second World War and Memorials to the Missing can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
Memorials to the Missing
The name of every Australian from the First World War and the Second World War without a known grave is inscribed on a Memorial to the Missing, either in Australia or near to where the person was lost. This section includes a table of Memorials to the Missing commemorating Australian war dead.
Search the AIF Project provides details on the 330,000 men and women who served overseas in the (First) Australian Imperial Force 1914-1918.
Search the Second World War Nominal Roll provides details of over one million individuals who served in Australia's defence forces and the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.