Fighting in the war

Many of our cemeteries were designed by a team of Junior Architects working underneath the Principals, all of whom were veterans of the war.

Bald man in evening dress with military medals, holding a wine glass, to his right is the shoulder and hair of a woman, black and white photograph

Philip Henry Cart de Lafontaine. Courtesy of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers.

One of the most poignant cases was that of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cart de Lafontaine, an architect and the Commission’s Chief Inspector of Works. Before the war he was a pupil of Reginald Blomfield, later one of the Commission’s Principal Architects. In 1914 he joined the 4th Royal Fusilier Battalion of the London Regiment as a Captain. He was mentioned in Despatches for his bravery in battle.

On 27 June 1915, during fighting at Neuve-Chapelle in France, his headquarters suffered a direct hit by an enemy shell. His second-in-command was killed, while he himself experienced acute shellshock. A year later his younger brother Alfred died at the Battle of the Somme.


Memorial tablet sketch design signed by Cart de Lafontaine, 1926. © CWGC

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In 1919 Cart de Lafontaine was appointed to the Commission, primarily tasked with ensuring the standardisation of war grave plots in municipal cemeteries. He also designed striking memorial tablets for over thirty cathedrals in France and Belgium.

After resigning in 1920, Cart de Lafontaine requested special permission to design Carnoy Military Cemetery in France, where his brother was buried. A true labour of love, he asked not to be paid for the work. The cemetery commemorates more than 850 casualties.

Plan of Carnoy

Carnoy, watercolour

Photograph of Carnoy