War cemeteries

The Commonwealth War Dead in Italy

Nearly 50,000 Commonwealth dead of the two world wars are buried or commemorated in Italy. Most of the Commonwealth dead of the First World War, numbering approximately 4,000, are buried in seventeen war cemeteries or plots in the north of Italy.

Of the Second World War casualties, some 38,000 are buried in forty Commonwealth war cemeteries; 1,500 whose remains were cremated are commemorated on memorials in three of the cemeteries; over 4,000 soldiers whose graves are unknown are commemorated on the Cassino Memorial.

During the Italian Campaign from July 1943 to May 1945 the Commonwealth forces had 45,469 casualties.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter of 21 may 1917, the provisions of which were amended and extended by a Supplemented Charter of June 1964. Its duties are to mark and maintain the graves of the members of forces of the Commonwealth who died in the two world wars, to build and maintain memorials to the dead whose graves are unknown, and to keep records and registers. The cost is shared by the partner governments - those of Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa – in proportions based on the numbers of their graves. The Commission has always believed in honouring all casualties equally, without distinction on account of rank, race or creed. For this reason, the design of buildings and memorials follows a fairly uniform style. The Commission’s work is guided by fundamental principles, which were established in 1920: - That each of the dead should be commemorated individually by name either on the headstone on the grave or by an inscription on a memorial;

  • That the headstones and memorials should be permanent;

  • That the headstones should be uniform;

  • That there should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed.

The headstones are 813 mm in height; at the top of each is engraved the national emblem or the service or regimental badge, followed by the rank, name, unit, date of death, age and, usually at the foot, in many cases, an inscription chosen by relatives.

Climate permitting, the headstones stand in narrow borders, where floribunda roses and small perennials grow in a setting of lawn, trees and shrubs. Two monuments are common to the cemeteries: the Cross of Sacrifice, set usually upon an octagonal base and bearing a bronze sword upon its shaft; and, in larger cemeteries, the Stone of Remembrance, designed specifically to commemorate those of all faiths and none, upon which are carved the words from the book of Ecclesiasticus: THEIR NAME LIVETH EVERMORE.

Among the Commonwealth War Cemeteries the following are those which are in our area or very close to it:

Villanova Canadian War Cemetery

Ravenna War Cemetery

Argenta Gap War Cemetery

Faenza War Cemetery

Bologna War Cemetery

Visits and Commemorations