Wooden Crosses


During the War, combatants were often buried where they fell, frequently with no grave marker.

Mary Booth at Wimereux

Mary Booth tending graves at Wimereux

At the beginning of the First World War, Fabian Ware, too old to serve in the army, arrived in France in September 1914 to lead a mobile unit of the British Red Cross. He very soon noticed that there was no one in charge of marking and recording the graves of those killed. How distressing this was both for relatives at home and for those still fighting, to think that lives had been sacrificed and then the bodies just left to rot in some anonymous field. Fabian Ware decided to make sure this wasn’t allowed to happen. (CWGC).

Wooden crosses were used until the, then, Imperial War Graves Commission decided to use 'headstones rather than crosses to mark the graves so that people of every religion (and those with none) would be respected. Any chosen religious symbol could be carved into the stone instead. Headstones would be simpler to produce, stand up better against the weather and have more room for inscriptions. This upset many people. Lady Florence Cecil, wife of the Bishop of Exeter, who lost three sons, pleaded ‘in the name of thousands of heartbroken parents, wives, brothers and sisters. It is only through the hope of the cross that most of us are able to carry on the life from which all the sunshine seems to have gone.’ (CWGC)

F A Symons

Col. F A Symons, Army Medical Service.

The cross is now in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral.
His headstone is at St. Nicholas British Cemetery, Arras.

Guy Caudry

Cpt. Guy Dodgson, Herts. Rgt.

The cross is now in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral.
His headstone is at Caudry British Cemetery, France Nord.

Many of the original crosses were saved, repatriated, and can now be seen in many village halls, churches and museums across the world.


The cross on the left was found in the Churchyard at Eastwick, Herts.

The words "Died" and "Fell' are faintly visible. No record can be found.

In the Town Church of St. Peter Port, Guernsey is the orginal wooden cross that marked the grave of
Eric D'Auvergne Collings, 2nd Lt. 1st Bn. THe Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Rgt.

He was killed during the Battle of the Somme in August 1916.

A photograph of this cross in place in the Quarry Cemetery, Montauban, Somme, is mounted alongside.

Eric  Collings
"Beneath the Wooden Crosses" has details of many more. Unfortunately this site doesn't appear to have been updated since 1997.