In June 1917, Commonwealth forces relieved French forces on 6 kilometres of front line from the sea to a point south of Nieuport (now Nieuwpoort), and held this sector for six months. Coxyde (now Koksijde) was about 10 kilometres behind the front line. The village was used for rest billets and was occasionally shelled, but the cemetery, which had been started by French troops, was found to be reasonably safe. It became the most important of the Commonwealth cemeteries on the Belgian coast and was used at night for the burial of the dead brought back from the front line. The French returned to the sector in December 1917 and continued to use the cemetery, and during 1918, Commonwealth naval casualties from bases in Dunkirk (now Dunkerque) were buried there. After the Armistice, graves were brought into the cemetery from isolated sites and from other cemeteries in the area. The cemetery was used again during the Second World War, chiefly for the burial of casualties sustained during the defence of the Dunkirk-Nieuport perimeter in May 1940.
The cemetery now contains 1,507 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, the French graves from this period having since been removed. Of the 154 Second World War burials, 22 are unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Burials (Commonwealth War Graves Commission):
- United Kingdom: 1453 (+133 WW II)
- Canada: 14 (+ 18 WW II)
- Australia: 18 (+ 2 WW II)
- New Zealand: 19 (+ 1 WW II)
- South Africa: 2
- Other Commonwealth: 1
- Total Commonwealth: 1507 (+ 154 WW II)
- Other Nationalities: 10