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Commonwealth War Cemeteries

Located across Sri Lanka are the six Commonwealth War Cemeteries, where those who laid down their lives for the country, now lie. Marked as honorary tributes, the gardens of remembrances commemorate the valiance and the bravery of the soldiers and military forces of the Commonwealth countries, who’ve fallen casualty to two of the most significant wars in global history, World War I and II. The resting grounds can be visited and are testament to the historically significant contributions made by the soldiers to national freedom and beyond.

Best Known For

  • The Commonwealth War Cemeteries are permanent sites of reverence and respect for a total of 1,999 soldiers and military figures that faced the arm of war for their own homeland. During World War I, most of the military deaths took place at the Colombo Military Hospital, which was the medical point for injured soldiers based on the island or those evacuated from passing ships (the island is strategically positioned along the sea route shared by itself, Australia, India and the Middle East).
  • A place of nostalgia and respect. Though the war heroes were laid to rest at the cemeteries hundreds of years ago, their honorary contributions for their own countries have not been forgotten. Representatives of the countries conduct services for the fallen in Colombo and groups of war veterans, having banded together comrades and peers in other countries as well, visit the island, rekindling old memories and honouring the departed in services of remembrance.

Interesting Facts

  • There are four cemeteries in Colombo; the Liveramentu Cemetery, Jawatte Muslim Cemetery, Kuppiyawatte Muslim Cemetery and the Colombo (Kanatte) General Cemetery, one in the hill capital - the Kandy War Cemetery and one on the North East Coast, the Trincomalee War Cemetery.
  • The Kandy War Cemetery is marked as one of the most beautifully maintained cemeteries in the world. On its grounds stands a memorial erected in 1973, displaying the names of 29 Italian prisoners of war who died between 1939 and 1945 in Sri Lanka and were laid to rest in the Kandy and Trincomalee War Cemeteries.
  • The Kandy War Cemetery was originally known as the Pitakande War Cemetery. War graves from alternatives cemeteries were transferred here and the site commemorates a total of 197 Commonwealth heroes of differing nationalities: records claim that there are 107 Britons, 35 East Africans, 26 Sri Lankans, 23 Indians, 6 Canadians, 3 Italians and 1 Frenchman.
  • A special Type C memorial, found in the Kandy War Cemetery, signifies that a naval man has been buried in the cemetery but the grave cannot be located: its superscription reads “buried near this spot”.
  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Plot at the Liveramentu or Jawatte Cemetery lies on its left rear corner. Memorial tablets commemorate the bravery of over 300 servicemen whose graves could either not be found or even if found, could not be maintained or shifted to cemeteries that guarantee permanent maintenance. The Liveramentu Creamation Memorial commemorates over 150 Hindu servicemen, who were honoured according to the traditional last rite of their religion: cremation.
  • Wreaths are regularly laid at the graves by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, as per the requests of friends and family living abroad, sometimes in a bid to commemorate a special occasion such as a birthday, an anniversary or a festival.
  • A ‘Remembrance Commemoration’ is hosted every year by the British High Commission in Sri Lanka and the Commonwealth War Memorial Committee.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • Some of the resting places have caretakers however note that this is not guaranteed that they may not be at the sites all the time.
  • Caretakers are generally known to be there at the Kandy and Trincomalee War Cemeteries, guiding one through the grounds and speaking on the notable stories of certain war heroes and the occurrences of the war-torn past.

Should you wish to honour the memories of the fallen heroes, a visit to the Commonwealth War Cemeteries is one of the things to do in Kandy. These gardens of remembrances are marked as sites of reverence and respect and bear testament to the valiant efforts and the sacrifices made by hundreds of soldiers young and old for the betterment of their homeland.

Title image by: KNOWSL The information displayed is provided by Commonwealth War Cemeteries
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