Visit the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium

Visit the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium

by Sharon Odegaard
Stripes Europe

This year marks the centennial of the end of World War I. The Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium is one place you can visit to honor those who gave their lives in the war.  Near the town of Passchendaele, the site of three major battles, this cemetery is a memorial to fallen soldiers from the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia, as well as  German soldiers.

Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world. About 12,000 soldiers are buried here. It’s telling that out of the 12,000 graves, about 8,000 names are unknown. These battles were so brutal that many of the young men could not be identified.

Photo by Sharon Odegaard 

Battles took place on this land, also known as Flanders Fields, for four years, from October 1914 to September 1918. The war ended soon after, on November 11, 1918. This area is known as the Ypres Salient. The town of Ypres, with its tall spires, can be seen from the gentle slopes of Tyne Cot.

The number of soldiers lost in those four years in this farmland is staggering. About 90,000 British and Commonwealth, and likely as many German casualties, have never been found. They were reported as missing in action in the Ypres Salient. They’re either still laying in the fields around Ypres or are buried in one of the hundreds of graves marked as “Known unto God.”

After the war, thousands of bodies were brought to Tyne Cot from the surrounding land. A memorial to the missing was inaugurated in 1927. The curving rock wall at the edge of the cemetery is dedicated to 35,000 missing soldiers who died after August 1917. Those who went missing before that date are commemorated by an inscription on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Photo by Sharon Odegaard 

Rows of headstones are made of white Portland stone from Britain. This same stone was used to build the imposing Cross of Sacrifice. This monument sits on top of the location of a German pillbox that was used as a medical aid station after the battle.

Photo by Sharon Odegaard 

The Visitor Centre was built and commissioned in 2007 by Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and Queen Paola of Belgium. Interactive displays and videos will give you information about the battles that took place in this area. You’ll get a better picture of the war, which was known for too short a time as the War to End All Wars. Then you can wander among the headstones with reverence for all those who lost their lives in the mud of Flanders Fields.

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