If, as the war poet Rupert Brooke wrote, "there's some corner of
a foreign field that is for ever England" it must surely be the
Tyne Cot Cemetery just outside the historic village of
Begun in 1917, shortly after the 3rd Australian Division
captured this strategically-important area, a German defensive
point on the Passchendaele-Broodseinde road, Tyne Cot is believed
to take its name from a barn which stood beside a railway level
crossing in the area and which reminded soldiers of the British
Northumberland Fusiliers of a traditional Tyneside worker's
cottage: a 'Tyne Cot'.
Today, Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth war
memorial and cemetery in the world and an unmissable destination
for visitors on our First World War
battlefield tours in Flanders, north-west Belgium.
The site of the graves of 11,956 commonwealth servicemen who
lost their lives in the Battle of Passchendaele, the sheer scale of
this beautifully-maintained cemetery is overwhelming, and the
poignancy of the experience of visiting Tyne Cot Cemetery is
further emphasised by the fact that seventy percent of the soldiers
commemorated here are unknown, their headstones marked simply
"Known unto God".
Beyond the countless rows of white headstones and crosses that
fill this vast cemetery, the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing forms
the far wall and lists the names of almost 35,000 servicemen, in
order of rank, declared 'missing in action' and for whom there is
no known grave.
Tyne Cot, originally a German stronghold, was the site of
several concrete 'block houses'; military fortifications used as
gunning or observation posts. When King George V visited Tyne Cot
Cemetery in 1922, he ordered the construction of a memorial cross -
the Cross of Sacrifice - to be built upon one of these blockhouses.
This monument forms a focal point for the cemetery and is
immediately visible from the entrance. Two further German
Blockhouses remain within the cemetery's boundaries.
In 2007 a Visitors Centre was opened. As visitors approach the
centre a recorded voice speaks the name of each of the servicemen
listed as 'missing in action' and commemorated on the Memorial
wall. The Visitors Centre features displays and vintage photographs
which place the events of the First World War, the battles that
took place around Ypres and Passchendaele and the history of Tyne
Cot and the cemetery into context.