Often the initial response to death is shock, which can manifest itself as a refusal or inability to confront the reality of loss. The general public in Britain and across the Commonwealth struggled to comprehend the nature and scale of death during the First World War. A vast number of bodies needed to be buried, yet there were many thousands more who lay undiscovered or who no longer had intact bodies that could ever be found.
Even the authorities were not prepared for the practicalities of dealing with the dead: there was no formal process of ordering or recording burials, resulting in many isolated graves and small makeshift cemeteries with temporary markers. Furthermore, at the outset of the war no official organisation oversaw burials or the search for missing men and women.