Headstones and Plaques

It can be an affecting sight, the seemingly endless straight rows of uniform headstones at major Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) war cemeteries, each marking the grave of a life lost through war.

In line with the principles of equality and uniformity that govern official commemoration, headstones and plaques commemorating our war dead are uniform in design and in the information they contain.

CWGC headstones are rectangular in shape. They are generally set in straight rows.

The solid shape and enduring substance of the headstones are in keeping with the demand that official commemorations be permanent. The stone used is usually marble or granite. Perth War Cemetery has headstones made from a locally mined grey granite.

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See also: Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

In the early days and years after the wars, wooden crosses were used to mark grave sites and identify the dead. 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 where the climate and conditions at a cemetery are such that headstones may shift or subside over time. Cemeteries where pedestal-style gravestones are used include those at Gallipoli, Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand and Lae War Cemetery in Papua New Guinea.

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The headstones follow a standard pattern. At the top of each headstone the national emblem or the service or regimental badge is engraved. Below this is the person's rank, name, unit, date of death and age at death. Beneath this may come a religious emblem appropriate for the person. At the foot of the headstone a personal inscription chosen by the relative may be engraved.

Grave plaques contain similar information to headstones though the layout is slightly different; the religious emblem is placed to the left of the text.

See also:

 Graves of three RAAF airmen Hanover War Cemetery, Germany  Perth War Cemetery  Brown's Dip Plot, Lone Pine, Gallipoli, Turkey
Graves of three RAAF airmen Hanover War Cemetery, Germany Perth War Cemetery Brown's Dip Plot, Lone Pine, Gallipoli, Turkey