I always say that, next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained The Duke of Wellington (1769-1852).
There are over 23,000 cemeteries worldwide which contain one or more Commonwealth war graves; of these 2,500 were constructed by the Commission. Only a selected number of those with Canadians buried in them will be examined here, chosen according to historical or other interest, size and location. The choice hopes to reflect the diversity of the Commission's plots. At the entrance to most cemeteries is a register that introduces the place and explains the background to the making of the cemetery. Examining these in detail can be very useful, informative and thought-provoking. For example in the Somme battle area there are two cemeteries only a short distance apart. Devonshire Cemetery contains 163 burials of the Devonshire Regiment, of whom 160 were killed as they left their trenches on 1st July 1916. They are buried virtually where they fell and one has to look at the high ground slightly to the east to see the advantage held by the enemy. A few yards down the road are 99 burials of the Gordon Highlanders who also died that day and are buried on the site of their last action.
The introduction to the cemetery register at the entrance to the Devonshire Cemetery runs as follows:
DEVONSHIRE CEMETERY, MAMETZ GORDON CEMETERY, MAMETZ
Mametz is a village in the Department of the Somme, four miles east of Albert, with a station on the light railway from Albert to Peronne. It was within the German lines until the Ist July 1916, when it was captured by the 7th Division; and Mametz Wood, north-east of the village was taken on 7th July and the following days. The 7th Division erected a memorial in the village, and the 14th and 16th Royal Welch Fusiliers erected memorials in the wood to commemorate these engagements. (The 38th (Welsh) Division captured the wood again in August 1918.)
DEVONSHIRE CEMETERY The 8th and 9th Battalions of the Devonshire Regiment, forming part of the 7th Division, attacked on the 1st July 1916 from a point on the south-west side of the Albert-Maricourt road, due south of Mametz village, by a plantation called Mansel Copse; and there, on the 4th July, they buried their dead in a portion of their old front line. In this place, subsequently called DEVONSHIRE CEMETERY, lie one officer of the 8th Devons who fell on the 28th June; three officers and 29 other ranks of the 8th and seven officers and 121 other ranks of the 9th Battalion, killed on the 1st July; and a serjeant and a driver of B/92nd Brigade RFA, killed later in the Somme battles. Ten men of the 9th Devons are unidentified. Devonshire Cemetery stands on the top of a high, steep bank, containing dug-outs, and it looks North and East to Mametz and Carnoy. It covers an area of 664 square yards. It is bounded by a brick wall and a thorn hedge, and on the north-east side by Mansel Copse; and it is planted with Irish yews.*
The Register records particulars of 163 War Graves.GORDON CEMETERY On the opposite side of the road a little nearer Maricourt, is another battle cemetery of the 1st July 1916. The 2nd Gordon Highlanders, also of the 7th Division, buried here in the British support trench six officers and 93 other ranks of their battalion; and three artillerymen, who fell on the 9th July, were buried beside them. Four of the Gordons and one artilleryman are unidentified.
Gordon Cemetery stands on the level of the road, and is separated from it by a light railway. It covers an area of 418 square yards. It is bounded by a low brick wall and a thorn hedge, and planted with thorn trees and standard roses. The headstones of the 93 non-commissioned officers and men are arranged in two semi-circles around the Cross.
The Register records particulars of 102 War Graves.Many of the cemeteries contain the graves of holders of the Victoria Cross or George Cross. These graves are generally not mentioned in this chapter, as they are included in the section devoted to that subject. Unlike the Commission's memorials to the missing, the war cemeteries and plots were not inaugurated as it was felt that words of committal would have been said at the time of burial whereas that was clearly not the case with memorials. In general, battlefield cemeteries -- those in which burials were being made during the actual fighting-- are often other than symmetric as there was no time for careful layouts and straight lines. Use was made of existing trenches, shell craters and the like and there was often danger to the burial party, which had to complete the task as quickly as decorum allowed. The resulting layout has been preserved to this day. The concentration cemeteries--new cemeteries built after the wars--are far more orderly. Burials were brought in from isolated, insecure or unmaintainable graves on the former battlefields and buried in a more regimented way. Some cemeteries illustrate both battlefield and concentration burials. At Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, for example, battle burials are to the rear of the Cross of Sacrifice and scattered in no particular order; concentration burials are to the front of the Cross and in strict blocks and rows.
The cemeteries will be described below under the name of the country in which they are situated, the countries following in alphabetical order, using the modern late 1980s name--e.g. Sri Lanka, as opposed to Ceylon.
*On Ist July 1986, the seventieth anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme, the Duke of Kent, President of the Commission, unveiled a memorial just outside the cemetery which reads "The Devonshires held this trench: the Devonshires hold it still."