New headstones at CWGC’s Habbaniya War Cemetery in central Iraq.
New headstones at CWGC’s Habbaniya War Cemetery in central Iraq. Photo: CWGC

Not all victims of war can rest in peace, especially when they are buried on ground continually wrought by conflict and destruction.

But now, after decades of instability, nearly 200 World War II graves in Iraq have been restored to their former character.

Habbaniya War Cemetery is located 60 miles west of Baghdad and is the resting place of 173 Allied casualties of World War II. Located within an Iraqi airbase, it is also home to the graves of 117 men who died in the decades immediately following 1945.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has been unable regularly to attend to the site in the three decades since the First Gulf War began in 1990.

However, recent improvements in the country’s political stability has allowed for around 200 white headstones, carved by stonemasons in France, to be transported in and installed. The work began in March and has since been completed.

The CWGC maintains around 23,000 memorial and cemetery sites around the world, helping to commemorate more than 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead.

Iraq is one of the CWGC’s largest sites, where 51,000 casualties from World War I and 3,000 from World War II are interred and commemorated.

Although most war graves in countries such as France and Germany are typically well tended, graves in areas of the Middle East are less likely to be well maintained. As well as conflict, the high salt content in the ground and the extreme heat cause swift disintegration if not regularly maintained.

This article was published in the December 2019 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.



2 Comments

  1. Charles Cameron Carruthers
    November 18, 2019 @ 11:51 am

    what have the graves commission done with the graves at Silent Valley in Little Aden as I have a friend buried there ????

    Reply

  2. Charles Cameron CARRUTHERS
    November 28, 2019 @ 11:32 am

    Did the Black Watch who were in Basra during the confrontation in Iraq not help with damaged war graves ???

    Reply

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