Memorials to the Missing of the First and Second World Wars 

Such was the nature of the world wars that vast numbers of casualties were never found or never positively identified.

Over 35,000 Australians from these wars have no known grave. However, as every Australian who dies during war is officially commemorated, each of those with no known grave is commemorated on a Memorial to the Missing, in Australia and across the world [1].

Many Memorials to the Missing are within war cemeteries, and the unidentified graves at those cemeteries would doubtless include some of those who are listed on the memorials. Yet, even today, our war dead are occasionally found or identified [2], and the numbers on Memorials to the Missing and of identified graves change to reflect this.

As with all official commemorations, Memorials to the Missing are maintained in perpetuity and with all possible care and respect [3]

The name of a single Australian is inscribed beside his Commonwealth allies on a memorial in the UK; Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli bears the names of over 4,000 ANZACs and the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux commemorates over 10,000 missing Australians. Sadly, there are still more on memorials across the world where Australians have fought and died.

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In all too many cases, alas, those who fall upon the field of battle, fall in some part of the field where no friend can reach them alive. The burial parties, which work wherever it is possible, often in danger, cannot reach them under the machine guns of the enemy. Months afterwards, sometimes years, the battle rolls beyond that place, and these poor forms are dealt with as tenderly as the time and place allow ... too often there is left no trace or clue as to the soldier's name. Private or officer, he lies there, 'An Unknown Soldier'.
Where the Australians Rest, Department of Defence, Melbourne, 1920

 

 Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France  Panel from Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium Saluting the grave of one unknown Australian soldier at Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore, Remembrance Day, 1948 
 Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France  Panel from Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium  Saluting the grave of one unknown Australian soldier at Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore, Remembrance Day, 1948

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Footnotes

  1. Memorials to the Missing may include those whose remains were cremated but who were unidentified. Cremation memorials, such as those at Australian capital city war cemeteries, commemorate those known dead who were cremated rather than buried. The principle remains that a person will be commemorated on either a Memorial to the Missing or, if identified, a cremation memorial or a war grave.  
  2. Mainly airmen whose wrecked aircraft are subsequently found; also those whose graves are able to be identified through careful private research.
  3. The responsibility of maintaining Memorials to the Missing is divided between Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG), as its agent, according to location. Australia, as a member government, contributes to CWGC in proportion to the number of its war dead, 6.05%.