The day after Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris, a young man in England was ambushed in Brookwood Cemetery by confused journalists.
“The journalists were everywhere in the cemetery. They asked me where Dodi Al Fayed was buried. ”
My husband was a young man then. He was returning home to Brookwood from London that evening. As he was walking through Britain’s largest cemetery, he bumped into many frustrated journalists, who failed to locate Dodi Al Fayed’s grave in the Muslim section of the cemetery.
Apart from 5,000 Commonwealth war graves, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission also maintains 800 war graves of other nationalities in Brookwood Military cemetery, including those of French, Polish, Czech, Belgian, Dutch, Italian, German and Turkish casualties.
A small Second World War German plot is also contained in this section.
In the centre of the plot is an impressive Stone of Remembrance. The inscribed words are: “Their name liveth for evermore.”
At the Air Forces section, it contains graves of members of the RAF who died during the Second World War, including Americans who served with Eagle Squadron of the Royal Air Force and some Dutch casualties.
Nearby is the RAF Shelter Building, which was designed by Edward Maufe.
At the time of my visit, a memorial service was being held at the RAF Shelter Building. Military music were being played against the backdrop of endless rows of graves. A few military men in full uniform stood firm like a bamboo under the scorching sun.
On top of the RAF Shelter building was these words: Per Ardua Ad Astra. It’s the motto of the RAF, meaning “through adversity to the stars.”
In the French plot, I saw these inscribed words:
A la memoire
de ceux des
qui se sont sacrifies
pour la liberation
de la France
I was moved by many inscriptions on many stones. For Second Lieutenant A.J. Freakes, (royal field artillery, 3rd September 1918, aged 22), his stone reads: For God and the right.
For Lieutenant D. Anderson MM. (royal army service corps, 4th May 1918, aged 38), the stone reads: Faithful unto death.
For Private J. Knowles, (the East Surrey Regiment, 30th September 1940, aged 32), the stone reads: On that happy eastern morning we shall meet again.
For Private W. A. Orchard (Aust. Machine Gun Corps, 11th April 1918, aged 45), the stone reads: A good son and a good brother.
For Private Walter Stanhope Dawson (26th BN. Canadian Inf. 26th March 1919), the stone reads: Brave and patient to the end.
July is a month with memories of war. On the 6th of July 1942, 13-year- old Anne Frank and her family were forced into hiding.
On the 16th of July 1945, the United States successfully tested the first atom bomb at the Trinity bomb site in New Mexico.
In the East, the 7th of July in 1937 also triggered the Sino – Japanese war during the Second World War. I’ve recently mentioned the significance of the July 7 incident in my comment to one of Lorelle’s posts.
Brookwood Military Cemetery is vast, clean, bright, peaceful and beautiful. It’s a place where you’d unload the hustle and bustle of life and confront death very directly. Every single name carved on the walls and every neat row of headstones speaks volumes about human suffering and dignity of the past century.
(Note: Brookwood Cemetery prohibits the posting of photographs on the Internet. If you wish to see any official photographs, please visit the Brookwood Cemetery website, and support its Cemetery Restoration project.)
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