Sanctuary Wood is one of the larger woods in the commune of Zillebeke. It was named in November, 1914, when it was used to screen troops behind the front line (It was not shelled until the night of the 13th-14th November, 1914). It was the scene of fighting in September, 1915; and it was the centre of the Battle of Mount Sorrel (2nd to 13th June, 1916), when the 3rd Canadian Division was very heavily attacked and driven back, but the greater part of the ground lost was recovered by the 1st Canadian Division.
There were three British cemeteries at Sanctuary Wood before June, 1916. All had been made in May-August, 1915. The first two were on the Western end of the wood; the third was in a clearing further East. All were practically obliterated in the Battle of Mount Sorrel; but traces of the second were found, and it became the nucleus of the present Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. It contained, at the date of the Armistice, 137 graves, including 41 Canadian and one German; 88 of these have not been exactly located, and are now represented by special memorials. Plots II-V were added, and the cemetery extended as far as "Maple Avenue", in the years 1927 to 1932 inclusive, when graves were brought in from the battlefields of Belgium. They came mainly from the communes immediately surrounding Ypres, but a few were taken from Nieuport (on the coast) and a few from other cemeteries. They are largely due to the Battles of Ypres, 1914 and the British offensive of the autumn of 1917.
There are now nearly 2,000, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, over two-thirds are unidentified and 88 are buried in graves in Plot I which cannot now be exactly located. Many graves, in all five plots, are identified in groups but not individually, and the headstones in such cases are superscribed: "Buried near this spot." In Plot I is buried Lieutenant G. W. L. Talbot, in whose memory Talbot House at Poperinghe was established in December, 1915; and the first list of the graves was made by his brother the Reverend N. S. Talbot, M.C., later Bishop of Pretoria. The cemetery covers an area of 7,000 square metres and is enclosed by a stone rubble wall.
British graves from the following cemeteries were concentrated to Sanctuary Wood:
- BEYTHEM COMMUNAL CEMETERY, RUMBEKE (one United Kingdom burial of October, 1918).
- DEERLYCK GERMAN CEMETERY (two United Kingdom burials of October, 1918; two others were taken to Dadizeele New British Cemetery).
- DONEGAL FARM GERMAN CEMETERY, DRANOUTRE, on the more Southerly road from Dranoutre to Lindenhoek (one unidentified British officer).
- EISKELLAR GERMAN CEMETERY, GHELUVELT, the cemetery of the 106th Infantry Regiment, between Veldhoek and Herenthage Chateau (one unidentified; one other burial was taken to Harlebeke New British Cemetery).
- FLANDERS FIELD AMERICAN CEMETERY, WAEREGHEM, one of the permanent American Military Cemeteries (one R.A.F. Officer).
- HOLLEBEKE CEMETERY NO. 60 (or THREE HOUSES GERMAN CEMETERY) (one unidentified; others were taken to Oosttaverne Wood Cemetery, Wytschaete).
- INGELMUNSTER GERMAN CEMETERY (two R.F.C. three other British were taken to Harlebeke New British Cemetery).
- KASTELHOEK GERMAN CEMETERY (NO. 61), HOLLEBEKE, on the road from Houthem to Zillebeke (five United Kingdom soldiers who died January-February, 1917; others were taken to Harlebeke New British Cemetery).
- KLEIN-ZILLEBEKE GERMAN CEMETERY, ZILLEBEKE, between Klein-Zillebeke and Zwarteleen (three unidentified).
- KORTEKEER GERMAN CEMETERY NO. 12A, LANGEMARCK, on the road running North from Kortekeer, which is between Langemarck and Bixschoote (three United Kingdom graves of 1914).
- KRUISEECKE GERMAN CEMETERY, COMINES, on the road from Becelaere to Wervicq (two unidentified; other British were taken to Zantvoorde British Cemetery).
- L'ALOUETTE GERMAN CEMETERY, NEUVE-EGLISE, nearly 2 kilometres due East of Neuve-Eglise village (three unidentified). LANGEMARCK GERMAN CEMETERY NO. 9, on the Pilckem road (five United Kingdom soldiers).
- LANGEMARCK NORTH GERMAN CEMETERY (permanent), on the road to Koekuit and Clercken (one unidentified).
- MENIN COMMUNAL CEMETERY (one United Kingdom grave of 1914).
- MESSINES GERMAN CEMETERY NO. 2, at the North-East corner of the village (seven United Kingdom graves of 1915). MESSINES GERMAN CEMETERY NO. 3, a little East of the Church (one United Kingdom grave and one Canadian).
- MOTOR CAR CORNER CEMETERY GERMAN EXTENSION, PLOEGSTEERT (seven unidentified who fell in 1918).
- PETIT-PONT GERMAN CEMETERY, PLOEGSTEERT, between Petit-Pont and Hill 63 (two unidentified M.G.C. Officers).
- RABSCHLOSS GERMAN CEMETERY NO. 64, MESSINES, 1,372 metres West of Hollebeke village (one unidentified).
- REUTEL GERMAN CEMETERY, BECELAERE (ten unidentified; other British were taken to Perth Cemetery (China Wall), Zillebeke).
- SLYPSKAPPELLE CHURCHYARD, MOORSLEDE (two United Kingdom soldiers and one Newfoundland; one other is still buried there).
- TERDEGHEM CHURCHYARD (Nord, France) (four R.G.A. and one Canadian).
- THOUROUT GERMAN CEMETERY NO. 2, due East of Hooghe, on the road running North from Thourout (two R.A.F., September, 1918).
Burials (Commonwealth War Graves Commission):
- United Kingdom: 1734
- Canada: 145
- Australia: 88
- New Zealand: 18
- South Africa: 3
- Total Commonwealth: 1988
- Other Nationalities: 1