His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), unveiled new interactive panels at the most visited war grave site in Flanders today (6 November).
The panels, at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, the largest CWGC cemetery in the world, use smartphone technology to reveal personal stories of those who are commemorated there. It gives the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the cemetery an insight into the historic events that unfolded there during World War I a century ago.
In the past year, Tyne Cot has been visited by more than 450,000 people – an increase of 64% over the previous 12 months. It makes it the most visited World War I commemorative site on the former Western Front.
His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent said as he unveiled the interactive panels: “The Centenary of the First World War has seen a huge growth in visitor numbers to the war cemeteries and memorials built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This is heartening to see, as these places have enormous power to connect us to those historic events and to the millions of young men and women who took part in them – many of whom we commemorate."
“The panels we unveil today help mark the sacrifice of the almost 47,000 servicemen commemorated here, but they are also part of a wider initiative to help visitors understand the historical significance of these places and the human stories behind the stone inscriptions.”
With almost 12,000 burials, Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world. The names of almost 35,000 missing are commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, which forms the eastern boundary of the cemetery, and is close to the farthest point in Belgium reached by Commonwealth forces in the First World War until the final advance to victory.
‘Tyne Cot' (or 'Tyne Cottage') was the name given by men of the Northumberland Fusiliers to a barn that stood near the level crossing on the Passchendaele-Broodseinde road. The barn, along with five or six German blockhouses (or pill-boxes, as they were known) was captured by the 3rd Australian Division on 4 October 1917 in the advance on Passchendaele.
One of the pill-boxes was unusually large and was used as an Advanced Dressing Station after its capture. Nearly 350 men were laid to rest around it between October 1917 and March 1918. After the Armistice, the cemetery was enlarged when battlefield burials and graves from smaller cemeteries were brought there.
At the suggestion of King George V, who visited the cemetery in 1922, the Cross of Sacrifice was placed on the original large pill-box – one of three that remain in the cemetery to this day.
The cemetery and its memorial were designed by Sir Herbert Baker with sculpture carved by F V Blundstone.