During the First World War, Basra was occupied by the 6th (Poona) Division in November 1914, from which date the town became the base of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. The cemetery now contains 2,551 burials of the First World War, 74 of them unidentified. The headstones marking these graves were removed in 1935 when it was discovered that salts in the soil were causing them to deteriorate. The names of those buried in the graves affected are now recorded on a screen wall. The cemetery also contains the Basra (Tanooma Chinese) Memorial, commemorating 227 unidentified casualties of the Chinese Labour Corps who were attached to the Inland Water Transport during the First World War. A panel in their memory was added to the screen wall when it became evident that their graves in Tanooma Chinese Cemetery could no longer be maintained. Directly opposite Basra War Cemetery is the Basra Indian Forces Cemetery containing burials of both wars, and the Basra Cremation Memorial commemorating Indian casualties of the Second World War whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith.
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