Monday, 23 March 2009

Lest we forget.....

Row upon row of war dead

A few weeks ago i needed a good long walk to get my thoughts together and decided i'd take a walk around Brookwood cemetery which although only a couple of miles away i had never previously visited. Wow, what had i been missing!

A short history. In 1850 Parliament ordered the closure of the more crowded churchyards in London and a search was commissioned for a new site of sufficient size and splendour to serve the burial needs of London for at least 500 years. To meet these demands Brookwood cemetery was created in 1854 covering over 2000 acres and situated only 25 miles from the centre of London. Every effort was made to ensure that the cemetery was beautiful and restful so there was a wealth of exotic shrubs planted by some of the leading gardeners from Kew Gardens. When it first opened Brookwood was the largest cemetery in Europe.

A distinguishing feature of Brookwood cemetery was the cemetery railway with coffins and mourners conveyed from a private station adjacent to Waterloo station in London, down into the cemetery. The funeral trains stopped running after the private London terminus was bombed in April 1941.

Brookwood cemetery incorporates an impressive Military Section which is run under the supervision of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Each section has its own special area which can be identified by the impressive national monuments in memory of those who died for their country. Perhaps the most impressive monument of all is the Brookwood Memorial, unveiled by the Queen in 1958 in memory of the allied war dead who fell with no known war grave and whose names are carved on panels of green slate inset upon the faces of the supporting piers.The Czechoslovak cemetery

The Polish war dead memorial

There is even a Latvian section

Walking around Brookwood cemetary is not depressing, in fact i found it to be uplifting. Ambling amongst the war graves reading some of the inscriptions was humbling and focused the mind on the very young men who died in the name of freedom, most far away from their own homeland.
Grave of a Victoria Cross holder

Away from the war cemetery there are restful Glades of Remembrance for those who preferred cremation and various burial sites for different faiths, denominations and countries. I walked for over three hours and could have stayed all day. I kept discovering different sites and unusual graves. There is even a Greek Orthodox church within the grounds. If you ever get a chance to visit, do so. It's a fantastic place full of history.

Part of the Muslim section

The Glades of Remembrance

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