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War cemeteries and memorials at Gallipoli

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Location of the main Anzac grave sites.
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Introduction – the cemeteries and memorials of Anzac

During the Gallipoli campaign at Anzac many battlefield cemeteries were constructed. With war’s end in 1918 and the defeat of Turkey, British units were despatched to the Gallipoli peninsula where they began the task of locating cemeteries, marking graves and burying the unburied dead. This work was carried out initially by British Graves Registration personnel and in the Anzac sector it was overseen by an Australian Gallipoli veteran, Lieutenant Cyril Hughes, a Tasmanian.

In November 1919 Hughes was appointed Director of Works in control of the Imperial War Graves Commission’s (now Commonwealth War Graves Commission) cemetery and memorial construction program on Gallipoli. Under him was a mixed labour force of Turks, Greeks and White Russians, none of whom spoke English. Hughes, in his own words, communicated with them in ‘a mixture of Arabic, Turkish, and Greek’. He found that ‘the fact that I’m an Australian is better still’. Hughes was also impressed by their capacity for work and remarked ‘Thank goodness all my fellows can do about fifteen things’.

For the building work Hughes developed a Turkish quarry on Gallipoli at Ulgardere. According to one authority, the stone there was of ‘that same class as that of which the Homeric walls of Troy were built’. Some of this stone was brought in by lorry but the rest was transported by sea to North Beach where an aerial ropeway was constructed to take it up on to the ridge and down to Lone Pine. As construction work proceeded, the peninsula received its first visitors, although the intention was to keep them firmly away until all work was finished. In April 1920 Hughes wrote of someone who may have been the first Anzac pilgrim:

Google satellite map of the Gallipoli Peninsula. View Larger Map.

One old chap managed to get here from Australia looking for his son’s grave; we looked after him and he’s pushed off to Italy now.

Gradually, throughout the early 1920s, the cemeteries and memorials were built to the specifications of the Scottish architect, Sir John Burnet (1857-1938). Burnet’s designs for Gallipoli differed from those used on the Western Front in France and Belgium. The three distinguishing features of the peninsula’s cemeteries are:

  • a walled cross instead of the free standing Cross of Sacrifice;
  • stone-faced pedestal grave markers instead of headstones; and
  • a rubble-walled ha-ha (sunken fence) to channel away fast-flowing flood waters.

On the Gallipoli Peninsula today are 31 war cemeteries, 21 of which are in the Anzac area. There are a number of memorials to the missing, the largest of which are the Helles Memorial and the Lone Pine Memorial. On Chunuk Bair there is also the New Zealand National Memorial. This is a battle memorial to the New Zealand soldiers who served on Gallipoli.

The Gallipoli cemeteries contain 22,000 graves. However, only 9,000 of these are of identified burials with grave markers. Where it is known that a soldier is buried in a particular cemetery but his grave could not be definitely established, he is commemorated in that cemetery by what is termed a ‘special memorial’. The British and Dominion ‘missing’ - approximately 27,000 men – are commemorated by name on five memorials — Helles (British, Australian, Indian), Lone Pine (Australian and New Zealand), Twelve Tree Copse, Hill 60 and Chunuk Bair (New Zealand).

The Anzac Graves

Further afield…

Chanak Consular Cemetery

Chanak Consular Cemetery contains graves dating from the 1860's when a British consulate was established in the town of Canakkale. Most of the 39 Commonwealth War Graves in the cemetery date from the period after the armistice with Turkey in 1918 when three medical units of the British Army moved into Canakkale as part of the occupying force. The cemetery is 2km east of the ferry terminal, near to the town stadium. The cemetery is kept locked and visitors should ask at the Commission's office in Canakkale for the key.

For more information, go to the Commonwealth War Graves website:

Chanak Consular Cemetery

About the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of those members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars, for build ing and maintaining memorials to the dead whose graves are unknown and for providing records and registers of these burials and commemorations, totalling 1.7 million and found in most countries throughout the world. The Commonwealth cemeteries and memorials on the Gallipoli Peninsula are maintained by Commission staff. Enquiries on location of individual burials or commemoration on the Gallipoli Peninsula may be directed to the addresses below:

CWGC logo Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website and "Debt of Honour" Register