'SILENT CITIES'

'Silent Cities'' was the sentimental and romantic name given to the principal outcome of war - graveyards.

The Commonwealth Graves Commission looks after some 2,500 British military cemeteries in 150 countries as well as military cemeteries of other warring nations. Tending to the dead has become a major industry and visiting the dead has been a boon for the tourist industry. Here we look a few major commemorative sites and their associated cemeteries.

Much of the commemorative framework – whether it’s monuments, imagery, even the mantra-like recitations - ‘They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old’, repeated every year on Remembrance Day, - was written and sketched out in the early days of the war. The ‘memory’ of the war was constructed well in advance of events. And then 'stuff happens'.

In October 1939 two Graves Registration Units were back in France to plan for the burial of the coming war's dead. In November 1939 some argued that the headstones for the coming war should be of a different design to distinguish them from those of WW1. Others thought differently; Lutyens, a major architect of WW1 monuments and cemeteries, argued to ‘keep the same headstones, the same monuments…In a hundred years time 1914 and 1939 will be part of one war. It is certainly the same sacrifice for the same cause’.

Today, military cemeteries, particularly those in Belgium and Northern France, are popular destinations for British schools. In fact since 1985, following a huge country-wide celebration of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, a whole tourist industry has grown up to meet the ever-increasing demand for 'battlefield tours'.