Foreign Language Inscriptions

Inscriptions come in many different languages: Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Danish, Africaans, Maori and Zulu to name the ones I’ve come across. The language usually reflects the casualty’s country of origin, even if he was no longer living there when he died. The War Graves Commission stipulated that “Inscriptions requiring the use of special alphabets such […]

Laurence Binyon

Robert Laurence Binyon 1869-1943 was a poet and art historian who spent his working life at the British Museum, mainly in the Department of Prints and Drawings. On 21 September 1914 The Times published his lyrical elegy ‘For the Fallen’. The words of the fourth verse are still repeated at remembrance services, and are the […]

Circumstances of Death

The circumstances of a casualty’s death make for an interesting category of inscription; many manage to convey not only information but dignity and pathos too, despite their restricted letter count. Some inscriptions quote “Killed in action” or “Died of wounds”, the words of the official communique. An officer’s next-of-kin received a telegram with the words: […]

His Loving Parents Curse the Hun

Having originally announced that all inscriptions were to be subject to their “absolute power of rejection or acceptance”, the Commission then had to backtrack and reassure the public that it only intended to censor ones that were “plainly unsuitable”. What did they consider “plainly unsuitable?

About The Site

If you think Twitter’s 140-character rule restrictive, the families of those killed in the First World War had a mere 66 to compose an inscription, an epitaph, for their relation’s headstone. Throughout the centenary, @wwinscriptions will publish some of these thousands of inscriptions, revealing a voice that has not been heard before, the voice of […]

The Cause

In the first weeks of the war commentators begged the Government to make their war aims clear to the public – what was the country fighting for? Surely this was a vital step if the Government was to succeed in getting men to volunteer. When the war was over, headstone inscriptions revealed the myriad causes […]

The Amiens Dispatch

Kitchener’s poster declared, “Your King and Country need you”, but it was only once the Amiens Dispatch was published on 30 August that the British public realised just how much their King and country needed them. Early on the morning of Monday 24 August, the day after the British defeat at Mons, Lord Kitchener brought […]

A Call To Arms

Unlike the rest of the country, Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, did not believe that it would all be over by Christmas. In fact he believed that it would be all be over for Britain in a way it hadn’t bargained for if something wasn’t done fast to expand the size of […]

A Contemptible Little Army

‘Contemptible’ was the proud adjective that survivors of the original Expeditionary Force used to describe themselves after the Kaiser had supposedly dismissed them as “General French’s contemptible little army” on 19 August 1914. It is my Royal and Imperial Command that you concentrate your energies, for the immediate present upon one single purpose, and that […]

Roman Catholic Prayers for the Dead

Headstone inscriptions were not part of the Imperial War Graves Commission’s original plans but came about through an awareness of the comfort they would give the Roman Catholic community. There is some difference of opinion as to whether leave should be given to relatives to add anything further … (but) it would give satisfaction in […]