In 1915, one year into World War I, Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware founded the Imperial War Graves Commission, the official body responsible for locating, identifying and burying the dead British and Commonwealth soldiers. By the end of the war, the British had lost about one million troops, and for the next 20 years, the Commission would work diligently to create 970 cemeteries, 600,000 graves and 18 larger memorials to commemorate the British losses on the Western Front. However, the significance of the British WWI memorialization process is about more than the Empire's architectural achievements, but rather, the story the architecture tells about a great imperial power struggling to maintain its image in the aftermath of a devastating war and on the brink of a new age of imperial decline. This essay investigates how the British WWI memorials reflect postwar political attitudes, changes and motivations and argues that the Imperial War Graves Commission and its supporters within the British government used the memorialization process as a means to project a strengthened, unified and internationally superior image of postwar imperial Britain. The argument draws on analyses of postwar British politics, the influence of the historical relationship between the Empire and Christianity, the symbolism of the memorials and cemeteries, the process of creating the memorials and cemeteries, and the ensuing public debate over the Commission's decision to standardize and control the burying and commemorating of soldiers' bodies. Ultimately, the essay begs the question, to whom does the body of the dead soldier belong?
Level of Honors
magna cum laude
Jeruc, Hannah M., "To Whom Does the Body of the Dead Soldier Belong?: An Examination of British Imperial Strategy and the Making and Meaning of World War I Memorials" (2016). Lawrence University Honors Projects. Paper 87.