Tyne Cot Cemetery

The largest final resting place for British & Commonwealth soldiers in the world

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In a corner of Belgium, west of Ghent, lies the largest British and commonwealth war grave in the world. Within Tyne Cot cemetery, the remains of almost 12,000 servicemen are buried. The majority are unidentified, but each one symbolises the brutality of the First World War, and each one was a son, a father, a husband who never made it home.

The name was given to a farm house which stood near the crossroads of the village of Passchendaele and Broodseinde. It changed hands throughout the war, with Australian soldiers capturing the building and surrounding pillboxes during the advance towards Passchendaele.

The origins of the name have been debated, but one possible backstory comes from soldiers of the Northumberland Fusiliers. The soldiers, who would have originated from the north east of England, remarked that the buildings as having the appearance of cottages on the banks of the River Tyne.

By March 1918, a cemetery of over 340 graves had formed around the area. The name Tyne Cot was given to this cemetery. After the war, surrounding graves further across the Ypres Salient were incorporated into Tyne Cot.

The salient near which Tyne Cot is situated saw some of the most brutal fighting of the war. The Third Battle of Ypres, otherwise known as the Battle of Passchendaele, saw soldiers fighting in torrential rain and thick mud. Thousands of those buried at Tyne Cot fell during this battle.

Close by the cemetery, which is also a museum now, is a memorial and visitors centre to the Battle of Passchendaele. This was a battle where commonwealth soldiers, particularly those from Canada, bore the brunt of heavy German defences. An estimated 4,000 Canadian soldiers died during the battle, many of whose remains lie at Tyne Cot.

Visiting the cemetery is a poignant experience. The extent of the slaughter of the First World War is put into context when looking upon the rows and rows of white gravestones. Graves of soldiers from both sides lie in and near to Tyne Cot, showing that the cost of the war was felt on both sides of the western front.

There are many cemeteries in which British and commonwealth soldiers lie across France, Belgium and further afield, with Tyne Cot being the largest. The remembrance of the sacrifice made during the First World War is key. One can look around at the thousands of graves from the war to end all wars, then you are hit with the realisation that just over 20 years later, the world was at it again.

The slaughter of the Great War was futile. It gave the world the first glimpse of mechanised warfare; and tactics of sending millions of soldiers into certain death. Battles such as on the Somme in July 1916, where thousands of British and commonwealth troops were killed in the fields of northern France in the opening minutes of the battle. They are what we think of when we hear about the First World War; lions led by donkeys. Cemeteries such as Tyne Cot are a reminder of the human cost of war.

The area around Tyne Cot cemetery is peaceful now, and visitors from all around the world make the journey to pay their respect, or to simply try and comprehend the butchery and chaos of the war.

The tranquillity of Tyne Cot makes for a fitting final resting place for the thousands who were carelessly thrown into the horrors of a conflict which humanity can never forget.

Written by

I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. Passionate writing about politics, culture, sport, society and more

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