Glossary of Terms


Glossary of Commonwealth War Graves Commission and military terms

In general military terms are given the meanings which were current during the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 Wars. The present-day definitions may be very different.

The glossary listing is alphabetic; click on the corresponding highlighted letter to jump to the terms and definitions.



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The senior staff officer at Army Headquarters dealing with administrative business (e. g. personnel, medical, welfare and pay matters).

The British Department of State responsible for all aspects of the Navy's operations, suppIies. ordnance, pay, manning etc. (now incorporated in the tri-service Ministry of Defence).

Advance to Victory
The title sometimes given to the period starting on 8th August 1918 and finishing on Armistice Day, 11th November 1918.

Agency Service
A task undertaken by the Commission on repayment by the contracting authority which is extra to its official duties (e.R. the maintenance of certain battle-exploit memorials).

For Commission purposes, anyone of any rank who was serving in any capacity in the air forces.

Alternative Commemoration
The commemoration by name in a place other than where the known grave is of one who died in war. There are a variety of reasons for such a commemoration, the most common being that the grave is unmaintainable.

American Battle Monuments Commission
The United States 'War Graves Commission'; Head Office is at Washington DC.

(a) This is an acronym and stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps,which was formed in the 1914-1918 War. It can also refer to a member of the Anzac.
(b) The area of about two and a half square miles on the west coast of the Gallipoli Peninsula which was the landing place of the Anzacs on 25th April 1915 and whose full name was Anzac Area. The name was used in the Treaty of Lausanne (which assures the permanence of the war cemeteries on the Gallipoli Peninsula) because the cemeteries in the area are too closely clustered for individual reference. The cemeteries at Cape Helles, which are fewer in number but contain more dead, are mentioned individually.

In Commission parlance, one of its administrative units usually covering a geographical area (e.g. Western Mediterranean Area). The Area Office reports direct to the Commission's Head Office.

Armed Merchant Cruiser
A merchant ship which was armed with guns and used as a cruiser. Being unarmoured and large, they were very vulnerable. They were generally manned by merchant seamen serving under the 'T124' Agreement, by which they agreed to serve with the RN.

Two or more corps under the command of a general; generally between 120,000 and 200,000 all ranks.

Army Group
Two or more armies under the command of a field marshal; generally between 400,000 and one million all ranks. The largest land force formation.

(a) Rome-Berlin. A term denoting the political collaboration between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The metaphor was invented by Mussolini in a speech on 1st November 1936, in which he said, 'This Berlin-Rome line is not a diaphragm but rather an axis'. It was widened into an alliance in 1939 and led to Italy's entry into the war in 1940. Germany and Italy were usually referred to as the 'Axis' or the 'Axis Powers'. Later, it came to include Japan.
(b) The general and main line of movement of a body of troops.



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See Barrage Balloon

The second, and any further, award of the same decoration for gallantry (eg DSO and bar, or DSO-, means two DSOs; MM and two Bars, or MM-•, means three MMs). The 'Bar' itself is of metal and is fastened across the ribbon on which the decoration hangs. If only the ribbon is worn, the Bar is indicated by a metal rosette on the ribbon.

A concentration of artillery shells arranged to fall in 'lines' ahead of the infantry to destroy the enemy or make him keep his head down. The lines are 'lifted' to positions further on as the infantry advance.

Barrage Balloon
Sausage-shaped, hydrogen-filled, non-dirigible balloons, moored by a cable by which they could be raised or lowered. Their purpose was to force enemy aircraft to fly higher out of fear of entanglement in the cables, where they would be at greater risk from heavy anti-aircraft guns or fighters.

The basic fighting unit of infantry, commanded by a lieutenant colonel and comprising about 35 officers and about 750 soldiers; this varies widely from army to army and from period to period.

A body of between 150 and 180 soldiers of the Royal Horse Artillery or Royal Artillery, commanded by a major and armed with (c.) eight guns. Roughly the equivalent of an infantry company, but far more independent. Each of the three batteries in an RA regiment was normally allocated to one of the three battalions in the brigade.

Battle-Exploit Memorial
Commission parlance for memorials set up by governments or regiments to commemorate feats of arms etc., and which are maintained by the Commission on an agency or repayment basis; ownership remains with the government or regiment. The function of these memorials is totally different from those of the Commission, which mainly exist to record the names of men with no known graves.

Battle cruiser
A warship, nearly as large as a battleship (or, in rare cases, larger), but faster and with smaller armament and thinner armour.

Generally speaking the largest warships used in the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 Wars, with the heaviest gun armaments and armour.

The landing site on enemy territory after having crossed a large expanse of water. One cemetery (Auntie Beach Head) includes the term in its title.

British Army slang for England and home. A 'Blighty one' was a wound of such severity as to ensure the casualty's return to the United Kingdom. From Anglo-lndian corruption of Hindi 'bilayati'--European or English.

Blitzkrieg (and Blitz)
German for 'lightning war'; the concept was to keep the enemy off balance by using shock-tactics. Most evident in Poland in September 1939, in France and Belgium in May and June 1940, and in the early months of the invasion of Russia which started in June 1941. The term 'Blitz' was coined by the British as a noun and verb for the air attacks on Britain; the 'Blitz' was on London in the last few months of 1940.

The smallest fighting formation, commanded by a brigadier, comprising three battalions with artillery, engineers, signals, etc. Some brigades had four battalions. A brigade had between 4,000 and 5,000 men. Also (1914-1918 only)the parent unit of several artillery batteries (called a 'regiment' in the 1939-1945 War).

Brigade Group
A brigade reinforced by certain administrative troops (and sometimes by combatant troops) to enable it to take part in operations independently, as opposed to within.a division.

British Expeditionary Force (BEF)
The name given to the original four infantry and one cavalry divisions of the Regular British Army which went to France in August 1914. Later the name was to cover all Commonwealth forces.

Burial Ground
See Site.

A mound behind a target on a range to bring the bullet to a safe stop. 'Butts' is normally used to denote the rifle range as well as the mound.



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In military terms, anyone who is killed, wounded or missing. It is even stretched in barracks to include sickness, courses, and other events, including--yes--marriage!

Cemetery Extension
The title the Commission gives to an extension to a (usually) civil cemetery for the burial of Commonwealth war dead. This in effect forms a new war cemetery, but one which is linked with the original.

Sepulchral monument (literally 'empty tomb') to person whose body is elsewhere. Perhaps the best known is the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, England,which commemorates the dead of the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 Wars. (This, and village and town cenotaphs, are not the Commission's responsibility).

Chairman of the Commission
Is ex officio the Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom (formerly Secretary of State for War).

Collective Grave
A war grave containing three or more Commonwealth war dead.

In the Army, a non-operational, geographical district (eg South-Eastern Command, England); in air forces, an operational branch which performs a specific function (eg Coastal Command, Bomber Command).

Assault troops employed in special roles. Originally a Boer term used in the Boer War.

Commemoration Book
In some cases those with no known grave are commemorated by the Commission by name in special books rather than by name on memorials; the Book is accepted as the memorial.

Commissioned Officer
See Officer

A member of the policy-making body of the Commission, not of its permanent, professional staff. Often referred to as a 'Member of the Commission'.

Common Grave
A grave not owned by the Commission, which contains more than one set of remains, at least one of which is of a war fatality. Common graves are not marked by the Commission, as they are often public property.

Communal Cemetery
A cemetery belonging to the commune. Many on the old Western Front contain Commonwealth war graves, either individually or in plots;many of the plots of war graves are in effect war cemeteries.

A body of about 100 soldiers, commanded by a major or captain. There are four companies to a battalion. Although basically a unit of infantry, certain other branches do use the term.

In Commission parlance, the gathering in of war dead from outlying battlefield graves and their reburial within a war cemetery.

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM)
The naval and air equivalent of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).

See Old Contemptible.

A group of merchant ships sailing together under the protection of naval forces; sometimes slow-moving, as its speed is that of the slowest vessel. The word is also used for columns of motor vehicles.

(a) Two or more divisions (it is flexible) under the command of a lieutenant general; generally between 30,000 and 60,000 all ranks.
(b) See Departmental Corps.

The hole in the ground caused by a shell, bomb, mine, etc. Can be any size from one or two feet across to hundreds of feet in diameter. Some craters were used for burials, and became Commission war graves or cemeteries. As individual marking in the latter was impossible, the names were engraved on a specially erected screen-wall.

Cremation memorial
A memorial which lists by name those whose remains were cremated in that area and whose ashes were scattered (as opposed to buried) there or elsewhere.

Cross of Sacrifice
A stone cross, which usually comes in one of four sizes, erected in Commission sites containing 40 or more war dead. However, there are cases where a Cross has been erected over the graves of a smaller number. The Cross bears a sword.

A fast, medium-sized warship with medium armament and armour. Often used as the mainstay of the defence of a convoy or of a patrol to safeguard shipping lanes from enemy surface ships.



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D stands for 'Day' in military parlance and is the day on which any operation is due to start. Hence D + I is one day after the operation has started, and D -10 is 10 days before. By using this system, the date of an operation remains more secure and can easily be altered (as the best known D-Day, in Normandy, was altered from 5th to 6th June) without having to amend all documents. There were any number of D-Days, but to the layman the term means Normandy, 1944. The French use Jour J.

Dedicatory Inscription
The fine words or thoughts on a memorial: literally inscribed on stone, but raised on bronze (on the latter therefore it is, to be strict, not an 'inscription').

Departmental Corps
One of the supporting corps of the Army (eg Royal Army~Medical Corps, Royal Army Ordnance Corps).

(a) The base of the regiment or departmental corps, where servicemen are trained and kitted out before joining units (eg battalions, batteries) or held, for example, after being in hospital.
(b) A place for stores, ammunition or fuel.

A warship armed mainly with torpedoes and anti-submarine devices.The small, fast, manoeuverable maid-of-all-work of the navies; originally a 'torpedo-boat destroyer'.

Director-General, Secretary to the Commission
The Commission's senior permanent member of staff.

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
For bravery in the field; awarded to non-officer army ranks. The DCM is equivalent to the DSO.

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
The air equivalent of the Military Cross (MC).

Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM)
The equivalent for non-officer air force ranks of the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
The naval equivalent of the Military Cross(MC).

Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)
The equivalent for non-officer naval ranks of the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
For bravery or as a recognition of good service in the field; normally awarded to majors (and other service equivalents) and above. In especially deserving cases it may be awarded to junior officers (ie captain and below). Equivalent to the DCM and, as an immediate decoration, often second only to the VC.

The formation by which the strength of an army is usually calculated; it is commanded by a major general. It comprises three brigades, and is self-sufficient in that it has its own artillery, engineers, workshops, medical services etc. The infantry division is usually about 15,000 strong; the cavalry or armoured division has two or three thousand fewer men.

Duce (Il)
The leader of Fascist Italy, Benito Mussolini; Il Duce translates as the Chief. Shot by Italian Communist partisans in 1945.

Dud (shell)
A shell which fails to explode after having been fired from a gun; it is usually referred to merely as a 'dud'. It remains dangerous until expertly defused and emptied of high explosive.



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Fascism (Fascismo)
Principles and organization of the right-wing movement in Italy, which culminated in the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini; the Italians were imitated by Fascist organizations in other countries. The name was taken from the organization's symbol, a fascine (a bundle of sticks) with an axe. The Italians' leader was known as the Duce.

Field Marshal
The highest rank in the British Army. The other services' equivalent ranks are Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Royal Air Force. Officially they are never retired.

Final Verification Form
The form sent by the Commission to the next of kin, giving the war dead's known personal details (eg given names and religion). Next of kin were asked to check and amend if necessary and, for those dead with known graves, to add a personal text for inscription on the marker, if desired. Many forms were either not sent or not received because next of kin's addresses were frequently not known, wrongly given, or had changed by the time the form arrived after the war; some were simply not returned to the Commission.

The French word for 'flower'. A repair to a piece of stone done by removing an irregularly shaped ('flower-like') piece and replacing it with stone or stone substitute. The irregular shape is less noticeable than a repair with straight edges.

Foreign Headstone
The marker peculiar to a particular country and used by the Commission to mark graves of dead of that country which are in the Commission's sites. They were designed in agreement with the countries concerned.

Foreign War Grave
The grave of any foreigner (ex-Allied or ex enemy) which is in a Commission site and maintained with the site's Commonwealth war graves. Foreigners who served in the Commonwealth forces are considered 'Commonwealth' by the Commission and their graves are marked by standard Commission markers.

The army term for a body of troops larger than a battalion (eg brigade,division).

Free French
Those forces of France which rallied under General de Brigade Charles de Gaulle from 18th June 1940 to continue the fight against Nazi Germany.

Front Line(s)
See Line(s).

Führer (Der)
Adolph Hitler (1889-1945), an Austrian by birth, was Führer (Leader) of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when he committed suicide in Berlin.



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Often, inaccurately, used by people when they mean the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. There was much fighting on the Peninsula, none at or near the town of Gallipoli (Gelibolu in Turkish), which was nearly 20 miles from the battlefield.

Poison gas delivered to the enemy by release from a container or by shell; used by both sides, but only in the 1914-1918 War. With the prevailing westerly wind over the Western Front, it was of greater use to the Allies. Normally mustard, phosgenes or chlorine.

Gentleman Cadet
A cadet at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, (now Royal Military Academy Sandhurst) or at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, London. (now no longer in existence) was so known before the 1939-1945 War.

George Cross (GC)
Awarded for acts of gallantry not necessarily in the face of the enemy, the George Cross is equal in merit to the Victoria Cross, though the latter is the senior decoration in the order of precedence. It may be awarded during peacetime to the military or civilians. Holders of the Empire Gallantry Medal at the time of the George Cross's inception (24th September 1940) had the medal exchanged for the GC. Living holders of the Albert Medal have also had their medals exchanged for the GC. The obverse is inscribed simply, 'For Gallantry'.

George Medal (GM)
For deeds of the type for which the George Cross is awarded, but not involving the same extreme element of danger and/or courage.

Gift of Land Tablet
A tablet in stone frequently seen at the entrances to war cemeteries with a text in English and the local language(s) explaining how the site came to be held as a war cemetery--usually as a 'Gift of Land' from the host country.

The excavation which has received the remains (ie body or buried, as opposed to scattered, ashes) of one who is entitled to war graves treatment. A grave may contain almost any number of sets of remains, but most often contains only one.

Great War
The title by which the 1914-1918 War was generally known before the 1939-1945 War. It will be noticed that the inscription on the headstone of an unknown burial of the 1914-1918 War refers to the 'Great War'. The term 'World War' was not used.

An RAF formation, roughly equivalent to an Army division, in Bomber Command (eg No. 6 (Canadian) Group).



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The definitive upright grave marker. It can be one of several types of stone, but Portland is by far the most common in temperate latitudes; granite is, for example, used in Canada, South Africa and Scandinavia. Replacements for Portland headstones are now usually made of Italian Botticino limestone.

Performs a similar function to D-Day: it is the time the operation starts on D-Day. Time is expressed in the same way as days, hence H-2 mins is two minutes before the time of the start of the operation and H+7 mins, is seven minutes after.(In the 1914-1918 War and earlier part of the 1939-1945 War the term 'Zero Hour' was used).

North Holland and South Holland are provinces of The Netherlands.

Home Guard
A body of volunteer British civilian men recruited under a scheme announced by Anthony Eden (then British Secretary of State for War) after the disaster of Dunkirk in June 1940; they were armed scantily, but as well as possible.Organized on local defence infantry lines, they existed until 1944, by which time they were a useful adjunct to the Army in Britain; they helped to man anti-aircraft batteries, for example. At the time they were stood down, they were around a million strong. Their title on formation (for a few weeks) was the awkward-sounding Local Defence Volunteers (LDV).

Hundred Days (The Battle of the)
The Commonwealth and Allied offensive which lasted the 96 days from the morning of 8th August to 1100 hours on 11th November 1918. It was quick and efficient work and the title harks back to the 'Campaign of the Hundred Days', which ended at Waterloo just over a hundred years earlier.



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Isolated Grave
A war grave which is not in a cemetery or plot and for which the Commission may or may not be responsible. Often the remains were not moved in compliance with the next of kin's request.



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The Commonwealth's most commonly used nickname for a German. Various derivatives have been offered; it possibly comes from 'German'.

Joint Grave
A Commonwealth war grave containing two war dead.



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Kaiser (Der)
Wilhelm (William) II (1859-1941) was the third German Kaiser (emperor), and ninth King of Prussia. He reigned from 1888-1918 and was head of state of Germany during the 1914-1918 War. He was exiled at the war's end and died in exile at Doorn in the Netherlands.



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League of Nations
The first attempt to create a worldwide organization of states,an idea inspired by pacifist and liberal ideas and by the experiences of the 1914-1918 War. The League was set up in 1920, created by the victors in the war; but the US stayed out. Neutrals were soon admitted, followed by the vanquished--Germany in 1925 and the Soviet Union in 1934--and at its peak the League had 56 members; but the absence of the USA rather emasculated it. In 1932 Japan left the League, when her attack on Manchuria was condemned. It was further weakened when Hitler took Germany out, and when it was unable to do anything positive to stop Italy's invasion of Abyssinia. The League was based in Geneva, Switzerland.

In the 1914-1918 War, usually literally a zig-zag line of trenches, facing the enemy's line. In the 1939-1945 War, more often a broad band of defended localities, the defence of which was made possible by the mobility of the tank and self-propelled artillery etc.



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Maginot Line
A line of concrete forts, anti-tank obstacles, guns, machine guns etc., which ran along the French border with Germany from the junction with Belgium to Switzerland. It did not run along the border with Belgium. The Maginot line was static and produced static thought; the Germans' invasion of Belgium outflanked it. Named after Andre Maginot (1877-1932), who, as Minister for War,was its prime mover.

The headstone (upright) or plaque (recumbent or semi-recumbent).Normally over a grave, but not infrequently indicating that the actual grave is elsewhere.

Master (or Master Mariner)
The officer in command of a ship of the Mercantile Marine or Merchant Navy. The prefix 'Captain' is an honorary title.

A structure which provides wall space on which are inscribed the names of those with no known grave, no grave but the sea, or who have been cremated.

Mention in Despatches
Not a decoration as such, but a recognition of greater than normal duty--when the name is 'mentioned in despatches'. Such a 'mention' could, of course, be made posthumously whereas only the VC and GC among decorations could at one time be so awarded. (All other decorations for gallantry, except the DSO, may now be awarded posthumously.) The badge of the 'Mention' is an oak leaf warn on the war medal, the stalk of the leaf towards the centre of the chest.

Michelin Maps
In Commission parlance, the specially overprinted maps (Nos. 52,53 and 54; scale 1:200,000) of Flanders and northern France, showing the location of the bigger memorials, cemeteries and plots. They are published by the Commission in conjunction with Michelin. No other similar maps of other areas are in existence, as nowhere else is the concentration of memorials and cemeteries anything like as dense.

Military Cross (MC)
Awarded for bravery in the field to majors, junior of officers and warrant officers. It is ranks below the DSO.

Military Medal (MM)
The army non-officer ranks' equivalent of the Military Cross.

(a) An explosive device designed to destroy ships. Some float just below the surface, anchored by a cable to the sea bed; these explode on contact. Others lie on the sea bed and are activated by the ship's acoustics, magnetism, etc.
(b) An explosive device buried at a shallow depth which detonates on being trodden on or driven over.
(c) A gallery dug underground, usual by army engineers, to a position under the enemy, where explosives are placed and detonated.

Mobile Group
In Commission parlance, a group of gardeners (generally six or less)who are responsible for the horticultural maintenance of a group of war cemeteries and plots. They and their equipment travel in a van.

The codename given to the floating harbours and landing piers which were towed from England to Normandy in June 1944 to form an artificial port at Arromanches (the other was wrecked).



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Name Panel
A panel (usually of bronze or stone) on which names are embossed or inscribed on Commission memorials of all types. In registers they are referred to either as panels or faces, with, sometimes, a reference to the pier on which the panel is fixed. One panel may consist of more than one section (eg Panel No. 16 may comprise four inscribed stones).

A member of the German National Socialist Party. During the 1939-1945 War it was used loosely to mean a German. Nazi derives from National Socialist.

No Man's Land
The term used by the soldiers to describe the land Iying between the friendly and enemy lines. It could vary from yards to miles in width, but with a rough average of perhaps 100 to 500 yards.

Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO)
A Commonwealth serviceman holding an army rank from corporal to staff sergeant inclusive (to flight sergeant in the air forces). Lance Corporal is an appointment, not a rank.



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Short for Commissioned Officer. A Commonwealth serviceman who has received the King's (now Queen's) or Viceroy's Commission.

Old Contemptible
The sobriquet adopted by the original British Expeditionary Force of 1914 (the Regular British Army) because the Kaiser supposedly referred to it as a 'contemptible little army'. Perhaps a better translation would have been a 'contemptibly little army' which by European standards, at five divisions, it arguably was! The name became so firmly established that Old Contemptibles' Associations are only now, in the 1980s, literally dying out.

Other Ranks (OR)
Soldiers other than those of commissioned rank, though sometimes refers only to those below sergeant. 'Soldiers' was a happier term.



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Personal Inscription
A text of 60 letters or less chosen by the next of kin for inscription on a grave marker.

The stone or bronze marker, recumbent or semi-recumbent, used where headstones were deemed inappropriate for climatic or other reasons.

A body of about 30 men, commanded by a subaltern officer. There are three or four platoons to a company.

(a) A section of a war cemetery with a number of rows of graves, usually separated from the other sections by paths or grass.
(b) See War Graves Plot.

'Pocket' Battleship
The term used to describe the three vessels built by the Germans to circumvent treaties limiting the size of their warships. By clever design, comparatively small (c. 10,000 tons) ships were given near-battleship guns (11 inch)and armour. The Admiral Graf Spee is the most famous of the three, because of its scuttling following the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939.

(a) A place, point, fort, etc. for which a soldier is responsible or at which he is stationed.
(b) To move soldiers from one place or unit to another. Units may also be posted from place to place.



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An army officer who has usually served long and well in the ranks and has been granted a quartermaster commission. His job is the issue of, and accounting for, stores, rations, ammunition, and fuels, and the administration of all quarters, barracks, etc. in the regiment or battalion with which he is serving.

Quisling, Vidkun
Norwegian diplomat and Fascist leader who became the puppet prime minister of Norway after the German invasion of 1940. After this traitors came to be known as 'Quislings'. He was executed by the Norwegians in 1945.



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A fortification: a fieldwork usually square or polygonal and with outflanking defences.

The books published by the Commission for all cemetery and memorial sites, giving, in alphabetical order of surname (of first names in the case of Indians and certain other nationals) details of those buried or commemorated.

The German confederation (Reich is German for 'kingdom'). The First Reich was the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806); the Second Reich was from 1871-1918; the Third Reich was the Nazi regime (1933-1945).

(eg in 49th (West Riding) Division, 63rd (West Riding) Medium Regiment RA). The county of Yorkshire was divided into three Ridings--East, West and North. They officially ceased to exist in the early 1970s, when county boundaries were greatly altered.

Roll of Honour
The Commission's volumes kept by the great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London, near the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, which list the 65,000 Commonwealth civilians who died in the 1939-1945 War. The great majority were Britons killed by bombing and Vl and V2 attacks. The Roll does not give places of burial, as these are not known to the Commission; nor is the maintenance of their graves the Commission's responsibility.

Royal Naval Division
A 1914-1918 War division of land troops, effectively part of the British Army, but manned by sailors of the Royal Navy. They fought as soldiers on the Western Front and the Gallipoli Peninsula. Those who lost their lives and have no known grave are commemorated on the Army's memorials, not the Navy's.



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For Commission purposes, anyone of any rank who was serving in any capacity in the armed naval forces.

For the purposes of this book a pronounced geographical bulge into the territory of the opposing side. When not prefixed by a name, 'Salient' was often understood to be the Ypres Salient, which existed from late 1914 to 1918 and was probably the best known.

For commission purposes, anyone of any rank or grade who was serving in any capacity in the Mercantile Marine or the merchant navies.

Small metal balls exploded from a shell in flight and used against the enemy in the open; not pieces of the shell itself, which are called shell fragments. It is named after Colonel Henry Shrapnel RA, who invented this shell around 1793.

To the Commission, a 'site' is a place where there is one war grave or more (eg a single war grave in a churchyard in Ontario is a site; so is the largest cemetery,Tyne Cot, Passchendaele). To the Commission the terms 'site' and 'burial ground' are interchangeable.

For Commission purposes, anyone of any rank who was serving in any capacity in the land forces (but not the sailors in the Royal Naval Division).

Special Memorial Headstones
Markers erected to commemorate war dead whose remains are elsewhere (eg in an unmaintainable grave).

Special Operations Executive (SOE)
British secret organization during the 1939-1945 War, instructed by Churchill to 'set Europe ablaze'. Many Commonwealth men and women served in it, helping to train, arm, and organize nationals of Axis-occupied countries for armed resistance.

Abbreviation of the German Schutzstaffel- Protection Patrol. A Nazi political policing force of evil reputation gained particularly for their brutal role in extermination camps, such as Belsen and Auschwitz. The Waffen (Armed) SS were part of the German armed forces and distinct from the concentration camp guards.

Stone of Remembrance
Usually a monolith acceptable to those of any faith (or none) as a focal point for ceremonies and wreath-laying. Normally erected in cemeteries in which there are 400 or more war dead or in, or near to, certain large memorials to the missing. Where transport of a single stone was impossible, the stone is made up of several smaller ones, but this is uncommon.

A commissioned army officer below the rank of captain (ie a second lieutenant or lieutenant).

A Crusader-type sword fixed, hilt uppermost, to a Cross of Sacrifice.Originally made of bronze, replacements now are of fibreglass to deter vandals and thieves. The cross made by the hilt and the blade coincides with the arms and shaft of the Cross itself. Where appropriate for aesthetic reasons, there is a sword on both sides of the Cross; elsewhere on one side only.



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An armoured and armed fighting vehicle, driven and steered by its tracks. The word was originally a codeword in the 1914-1918 War, used to mislead the enemy over what was being supplied, under covers, to the front.

Arms. An expression of army origin, referring to those arms which are in direct contact with the enemy (ie infantry, artillery, armour, and combat engineers and signals) as opposed to the administrative 'Tail' (eg ordnance, supply, repair, pay, etc. ).

A rectangular shelter found in some cemeteries; it sometimes forms part of a memorial, as is the case in the Athens Memorial.

The British public's, and later the Commonwealth's and the Germans' nickname for British soldiers. The original 'Tommy' was the mythical Private Thomas Atkins, the soldier used as an example in various official military publications.



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U Boat
From U-Boot, the German abbreviation for Unterseeboot, a submarine.

The army term for a body of troops up to battalion in size.

Unknown (Sailor, Soldier, Airman)
The remains of one whose name is not known. Everything else (rank, nationality, regiment, date of death) may be known, but positive identification is impossible as two men with the same particulars may have died on the same day and only one of them been found.

Unknown Warrior
The unknown Commonwealth serviceman buried in Westminster Abbey, London, and representing all those who died in wars.



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VE Day
The official end of the war in Europe (Victory in Europe) on 8th May 1945.

VJ Day
The official end of the war with Japan (Victory over Japan) on 15th August 1945.

Vergeltungswaffen--V1 and V2
Translates as 'weapons of revenge'. Vl was the code name given by the Germans to their jet-propelled, pilotless aircraft with a one-ton warhead. Much used against London from June 1944, it was inaccurate but successful over such a large target area. Also much used against Antwerp, Belgium. Vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns and fighters. V2 was the codename given by the Germans to their large rocket, also with a one ton warhead. Its speed meant that there was no warning of its arrival and no defence against it.

The peace treaty signed at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris in France on 28th June 1919 between the Allies and Germany is often simply known as 'Versailles'. Its harsh conditions are often held to have contributed to the eventual outbreak of the 1939-1945 War.

Ruler exercising royal authority in colony, province, etc. (eg Viceroy of India).

The name of the town in France where the French Nazi-approved government was set up following the French defeat of 1940; it was the capital of non-occupied France.

Victoria Cross (VC)
The highest decoration for valour in the Commonwealth forces. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations, etc., and is equal in merit, but senior, to the George Cross. The act of valour must now be performed in face of the enemy and the VC can be awarded to a person of any rank. The obverse is inscribed simply 'FOR VALOUR'.



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Waffen SS
See SS.

War Cemetery
Any burial site so-named, or more commonly in the 1914-1918 War, any burial site which had its own entrance, was walled or fenced and contained several war graves. An extension to a civil cemetery, or a plot within it, is considered a war cemetery if it meets the latter set of criteria, though it may also be referred to as, for example, a war graves plot.

War Diary
A form (in the British Army, Form C211) which was headed 'War Diary or Intelligence Summary', in which any events of significance were recorded by place, date, hour and references (if any). These, and despatches, are largely the source of official and other histories.

War Grave
The grave of a serviceman or woman, or of a member of certain other organizations, who died in the two world war periods, no matter what the cause.

War Office
The British Department of State responsible for all aspects of the Army's operations, supplies, ordnance, pay, manning, etc. (now incorporated in the tri-service Ministry of Defence).

War Periods
For Commission purposes, 4th August 1914 to 31st August 1921 and 3rd September 1939 to 31st December 1947, all dates inclusive.

Warrant Officer
Often abbreviated to WO. A Commonwealth serviceman who holds the Royal Warrant and is graded above staff sergeant (flight sergeant in the air forces) and below commissioned officers. Examples are the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM, whose rank is WOI--Warrant Officer, Class 1) and Battery Sergeant Major (BSM, whose rank is WOII--Warrant Officer, Class II). The WOs were, and are, known as the 'backbone of the Army'. No doubt, they are equally respected and valued in the navies and air forces.

World Wars
This term means different things to different countries (eg to the USA it signifies the wars of 1917-1918 and 1941-1945; to Belgium 1914-1918 and 1940 1945). For this good reason, the Commission sticks to 1914-1918 War and 1939-1945 War, though the expression 'Great War' was usually used in registers after that conflict and almost always on the headstones of unknown war dead.



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Ypres Salient
See Salient.

Zero Hour
See H-Hour.

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