By their very nature, national building programs legitimize and ennoble some groups and exclude and silence others. This is underscored in commemorative architecture, which visually amplifies messages of communal belonging or separation. In the First World War, the burial and sacrifices of soldiers in the Indian Expeditionary Forces and those employed in the Chinese Labor Corps were subsumed into a topography of a British remembrance practice.
As a focal point of British military operations during the First World War, Ypres attracted large numbers of British visitors. The sites of memory scattered across the battlefields of Ypres were created by the events of the war. However, their continuing profile, status and significance was very much shaped by the way visitors explored the district. A number of interlocking elements relating to individual, and group, interests and practical issues of access and movement influenced the evolution.
Overshadowed by the attention paid to geopolitical, military, socio-economic or cultural aspects, the impact the First World War had on the demographics of communities that lived in the front zone, has seldom been considered. The war uprooted millions of people, be they civilians or soldiers. A difficult return home awaited many after the war. Against this backdrop, Ypres was a special case. Thousands of refugees had flocked to the town in the early stages of the war, but, by October 1914, the city found itself on the frontline of the assault that so many had hoped to flee.