“Their name liveth for evermore” – Brookwood Military Cemetery

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.

The road leading to Brookwood Cemetery, England

The road leading to Brookwood Cemetery, England

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
forces aeriennes
Francaises libres
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.)

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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24 thoughts on ““Their name liveth for evermore” – Brookwood Military Cemetery

  1. Lorelle VanFossen

    I’m not sure where to start responding to this beautiful post, but I have to say that I was totally shocked that you could not post photographs taken in the cemetery on the web. That is outrageous. It is a public space, right? There are no laws prohibiting a public space from restricting use of personal images to be used on the web. If my family were buried there or I took a photo walk with a group through the cemetery, which many do, there is nothing they could do to stop me…sorry, that is a sore point with me and serous stomp on our creative rights.

    You’ve again beautifully stirred up memories and thoughts coming from different angles. You are so good at that, Janet. I think of the generations of my family contributing members to wars and military actions. I think of how much joy I’ve had wandering around beautiful cemeteries all over the place as I dig out the branches of my family tree.

    And I’m touched by the lovely sentiment you’ve created, reminding of us of loss mixed with paparazzi…thank you! You’ve given me plenty to think about today!

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      I visited Brookwood last weekend, when ‘the whole world’ was supposed to be watching Andy Murray playing at Wimbledon.

      The cemetery is a beautifully laid-out garden. It’s like a botanical garden. To my surprise, this cemetery is now privately owned.

      I didn’t realise that photography wasn’t allowed. I only came across their photography restriction rules yesterday when I was about to post the images. I didn’t see any non-photography notice in the cemetery. I only found out the restrictions on their very confusing website afterwards. If you post images on Flickr, Brookwood Cemetery would ask you to remove them too. Here’s a string of discussion about Brookwood photography on this Flickr page.

      However, how practical is it to impose such a rule? Brookwood and its memory and heritage should belong to everyone.

      Brookwood asked that you obtain advance permission and pay (suggested donation £10) to be allowed to take photographs.

      “All visitors are reminded that Brookwood Cemetery is a privately owned and managed burial ground, and it is a courtesy to seek permission to explore the grounds. ”

      “The cemetery has had restrictions on photography since its opening in 1854.” I was shocked to read this. Since 1854? Whose rules then?

      Actually I don’t think it’s impossible to seek permission to explore the grounds. For many local villagers, cutting through the cemetery is the only route they could get to the train station.

      I later came across this post with an interesting discussion Cemetery photos: permission required? by Legal Genealogist.

      I think I’ll leave this photography legality issue with experts and professional photographers like you.

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  10. Lorelle VanFossen

    Cemeteries and the rules of private property have been a plague for photographers, mostly personal photographers, since photography began. Remember, it takes one complaint to make a change. People often forget that.

    If everyone is having a great time and no one complains, it is business as usual. Two complaints, and some thinks that things have to change, which maybe completely the opposite as 10,000 have no issue and only 2 do, that’s a ridiculous number to base a decision upon. Unfortunately, we may never know the real story, though that cemetery seems to list their justifications quite clearly, which mostly focuses on “why should you benefit when we don’t so pay us.” As for that, I think we all need to contribute more to cemeteries to maintain them if we visit and use them, especially if we have family. It’s a costly business.

    Penalizing a family genealogist who finally found their great-ought grandmother or someone who thinks the cemetery is lovely with the sun setting behind the tree and tombstones should not have to pay or get a permit if their usage is personal and private, Internet or not. But there is just no telling some people.

    Thanks for making this great point.

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