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An Empire of Memory: Overseas British War Cemeteries, 1917-1983

Edwards, SR (2018) An Empire of Memory: Overseas British War Cemeteries, 1917-1983. International Journal of Military History and Historiography, 38 (2). pp. 255-286. ISSN 2468-3302

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This article examines how a post-1918 Edwardian commemorative aesthetic focused on the “English Garden” was deployed in the later twentieth century as a means to establish an “informal” Empire of memory. The result is an architectural irony and a landscape at odds with the moment that made it: the post-1945 cemeteries of the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) expanded the now defunct Empire’s commemorative possessions just as the actual deeds to land were surrendered. The one exception to this story of contemporaneous political withdrawal and commemorative appropriation nonetheless proves the broader point. For after the bloody imperial war fought in the South Atlantic in 1982 the Commission, at the behest of the British government, built its first and last post-1945 overseas war cemetery. And just as had been the case sixty years earlier, the form and style of this cemetery ensured it became the last outpost of an Edwardian Empire of memory.

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