Exploring Hyde Park’s Hidden Pet Cemetery

by Caroline

If you peek through the railings near one of Hyde Park’s entrance lodges, you’ll see something quite unexpected – a little cemetery in the lodge’s back garden.  The space is filled with rows of tiny gravestones.  This is one of Hyde Park’s little-known secrets – a pet cemetery dating from the late Victorian period.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHidden behind railings, the gatekeeper’s lodge and thick walls of trees and bushes, not many people have heard of the pet cemetery, and it is rarely open to the public.  However, I was lucky enough to visit this strange little place as part of a guided walk organised for the London Month of the Dead.



The garden of the gatekeeper’s lodge by the park’s Victoria Gate became a pet cemetery quite by accident.  In 1881, a pet dog – Cherry – belonging to the Lewis Barned family died of old age.  The Lewis Barneds, who had two young children, were friendly with Mr Winbridge, the gatekeeper who lived at the Victoria Gate lodge, and they asked him if their dog could be buried in the lodge’s garden.  The gatekeeper agreed, a grave was dug, and a little headstone was erected to “Poor Cherry”.

This might have ended up being a one-off burial, but a year later another dog, named Prince, was hit by a carriage close to the gatekeeper’s lodge and died of its injuries after being taken into the gatekeeper’s home.  This dog belonged to Louisa, wife of the Duke of Cambridge.  Perhaps this royal connection helped: word got around, and within a few years the little garden was full of small headstones commemorating London’s departed pets.  By 1903, over 300 animals had been laid to rest there, many of them – like Prince – unfortunate victims of accidents involving carriages and carts.



Many of the people living in the local area would not have had their own garden – Bayswater, the district immediately to the north of Hyde Park, is populated with townhouses and mansion blocks.  The gatekeeper, Mr Winbridge, arranged for the graves to be laid out in neat rows, and even conducted burials of animals himself if the owners were too distraught to do it themselves.  Most of the headstones are of an identical size and shape; perhaps an arrangement was made with a local stonemason to produce them.


Although burial grounds specifically used for animals have a long history, going back thousands of years, it was in the last years of the 19th Century that recognisably modern pet cemeteries opened for the first time.  The pet cemetery at Hartsdale, New York, had a beginning similar to the cemetery at Hyde Park.  In 1896, a local vet allowed the burial of a dog in his orchard as a favour to its grieving owner – the site went on to grow and grow as a pet cemetery and it is still operating today.  On the other hand, the Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques to the north of Paris was set up in 1899 as an exclusive burial ground for the deceased pets of society’s elite – it has a beautiful Art Nouveau entrance and one of its most famous interments is the Hollywood canine star Rin Tin Tin.

The headstones at the Hyde Park cemetery tell us the names of some of the beloved pets of Victorian and Edwardian Londoners, ranging from pet names that are still popular today, all the way to the downright odd.  Sometimes we also learn the names of the grieving owners.







Officially, the burial ground closed in about 1903.  Perhaps Mr Winbridge retired or moved away.  However, as the dates on some of the graves demonstrate, intermittent burials took place in the cemetery until about the Second World War.  The cat Ginger Blyth, whose grave is pictured below, was buried in 1946 after he died aged 24 – quite an impressive innings for a cat!


One grave is especially tragic – the headstones states that Balu was “poisoned by a cruel Swiss” in Berne in 1899.  The grave of this unfortunate murder victim attracted a lot of attention from the visitors to the graveyard when I was there; we were all wondering what on earth happened to poor Balu and why he was poisoned.


A pet cemetery is the sort of place that will inevitably divide opinion – some will find it touching, while others will find it mawkish and over the top.  But it’s clear from the sentiments on many of the gravestones that the owners of the animals buried at Hyde Park saw their pets as companions and even family members.


The pet cemetery is not usually open to the public. However, the guided walks that took place as part of the London Month of the Dead in 2015 proved to be very popular, so hopefully there will be other opportunities to visit this unique little burial ground in the future.




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The House Where Sambo Lived

by Sheldon


From the outside, it looks like any other Victorian house you’d find in Kensington. Yellow London brick with windows framed in white-painted stone. Triumphant, smart and respectable. Yet look closer and a few things begin to highlight the uniqueness of the property. What’s that on the ground floor window, some kind of Fish tank? No, it’s a fernery. Is that William Morris wallpaper I can see in the front room…?

18 Stafford Terrace is remarkable. If you haven’t heard of it, cancel all plans you have planned for your next day off and go here instead.

We’re forever harking on about Cemeteries and memorials to lives once lived on this blog, but what about the homes these people passed away in? Homes we live in today which have been redecorated, extended, demolished or rebuilt. 18 Stafford Terrace offers something entirely unique in that it is largely as it was when its owner passed away in 1910.


Edward Linley Sambourne was a remarkable fellow. Born in Lloyd Square, Pentonville, his father was a Furrier Merchant in the City of London. He was schooled all over the country and eventually took up an apprenticeship to John Penn and Son, a Marine Engineers in Greenwich. Producing technical drawings as his bread and butter, it was the caricatures he did in his free time that were his real passion and a chance meeting with the son of Theatre Impresario Thomas German Reed gained him his first commission as an illustrator with Punch Magazine.

Many of his images you will recognise –  that image of Cecil Rhodes straddling Africa – that’s by him. W.H.Russell on a diminutive horse in the middle of a war-zone – that’s by him too. He was often given the moniker of ‘First Cartoonist’, and it’s obvious to see why. After the retirement of John Tenniel (of Alice in Wonderland fame) in 1901, he was the King of illustrating Punch.


He’s also known for his vast photographic library: seeking to increase his turnaround in producing images, he invested in a Camera where he (and others) often modelled for the weekly doodles which he would develop in his upstairs bathroom and trace over. Some of these images are of a…racy nature: many topless women doing poses for illustrated characters who ended up being very much clothed. His wife, who, like him, kept a diary, was aware of this interest and referred to them as ‘Lil’s Secrets’.

Sambourne bought the property in 1875 as his new marital home and quickly went about customising it with a fashionable furniture. He also added bay windows to the ground and first floors to provide clearer light for his drawing as he would often illustrate late into the night; kept warm by an in-built stove. Periodically, and as he grew older, he would move up a floor, eventually spending the last decade in an attic room where leather wallpaper (a metaphor for his interest in erotic photography, perhaps?) matches the colour of hundreds of bound copies of his photographic exploits.


The house eventually passed to his son Roy, who had an interest in many of the female actors of the day, dying in what was formerly his Grandmother’s room when she came to stay with the Sambourne’s in 1946. It then passed to his niece Anne Messel, later Anne Parsons, Countess of Rosse, who became infatuated with the house.

It was here, on Guy Fawkes Night in 1957, spurned on by the interest this quaint little time capsule held to her friends, that the Victorian Society was formed. Supported by the likes of John Betjeman and Nikolas Pevsner, the society aimed to preserve and celebrate Victorian (and Edwardian) architecture at a time when many such buildings were being demolished or renovated beyond all recognition.


Sadly my pictures do not do justice to the intricacy and detail this house has, as I visited on a grey, rainy Wednesday afternoon. Unlike many a home you see on Grand Designs today, it is cluttered with trinkets and pictures. This is not a recreation of a house for a period drama; the level of human use here is far too exacting – Sambourne redecorating the parts of the wall that people could see for example, meaning whenever framed pictures are moved the old wallpaper is revealed, for example – and little things like that.

The house is open all week but only open on certain days depending on which event is taking place – check before visiting. Entry is £7; remarkably cheap for such a rich and rewarding way to turn back the clock and see how some of the people we write about on the blog may have lived.

It’s also worth mentioning that many of the great and the good of Victorian society called here – Oscar Wilde was a frequent visitor. And also, in a diary entry of his from 1909, Sambourne recalls the time he bumped into a certain Reverend friend of ours in the Athenaeum club in Pall Mall.





Posted in Family, Furniture, Heritage, London, People, Uncategorized, Visits | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Horse Guard’s Parade

by Sheldon

The weather was ‘dull, but fine’ on the morning of Saturday 26th October, 1926. It was quite a sight to see. We’re familiar with Horse Guards Parade being the centre of military parades, even hosting the Beach Volleyball tournaments of the Olympic Games just under 4 years ago, but on that day, amid 15,000 men standing silently, the atmosphere was not of jubilation and joy, but one of sombre reflection.

Copyright, Nick Richards 2014

A large memorial, hidden under an oversized Union Flag, sat quietly. Flanked on both sides by Chelsea Pensioners, its unveiling was of commemoration for the disgusting amount of men who had lost their lives in the Great War and also the marvellous rebirth of the Household Guards of whom it commemorated.

‘Since the unveiling of the Cenotaph…there has been no more impressive ceremony in connection with the Great War than the unveiling of the memorial to the Guards Division’.  

The Duke of Connaught, The third son of Queen Victoria, arrived punctucally on the scene at 11:30am, to the glorious booms of the National Anthem. Making his way to a consortium of figures in front of the many Guardsman and Spectators, (one of them being the Prince of Wales, himself a Colonel of the Welsh Guards) and a small, elderly man who despite numerous attempts to keep him seated, insists on standing for the ceremony. This tenacious character is General Sir George Higginson who had celebrated his 100th birthday three months beforehand. The oldest living Guardsman, he wouldn’t be anywhere else. The Duke steps forward, inhales deeply and addresses the crowd:

‘Whether in attack or in defence, no other troops were more distinguished in bravery, in endurance and in disclipline. All who know and all who have followed their great services will bear testimony to the value of the men who were always to be depended on under the most trying and sometimes the most desperate conditions.’

© Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Alongside Higginson, the Duke grab two ropes and pull the flag to the ground. The most impressive memorial second to the Cenotaph is then revealed.

Copyright, Michael Day 2014 

The memorial is fronted by five bronze soldiers representing the Coldstream, Grenadiers, Scots, Welsh and Irish regiments. They were based on actual men – although one of them is based on two. The story goes that the Irishman got so impatient with the process that he walked away, leaving someone else to have their legs cast for his statue.

The five soldiers stand as a bitter reminder of the reality of what was termed ‘pal battalions’ at the time – before conscription was commonplace British forces found themselves vastly outnumbered against the 700,000 German troops which had just invaded Belgium. Drawing on the enthusiasm that men offered in fighting a war that was supposedly a done deal by Christmas, Lord Kitchener devised a way that friends, family and neighbours could fight alongside each other. It was successful: of the 1,000 battalions formed in the first two years of the war, 70% were Pal Battalions.

However, seeing your friends, family and neighbours massacred by your side on the battlefield highlighted the true horror that the War brought to the nation – entire families were often extinguished and male population of villages decimated. A hard, concrete face was given to the conflict and the scheme was quietly dropped, to be replaced with conscription.  

And that was was the backdrop to this memorial, and many others like it. Let us not forget the sacrifices of the past for the hope of a better future.

My thanks to Emmanuel Lebaut in the research for this post. 

Sources: Western Morning News, Monday 18th October 1926,  The Nottingham Evening Post, Saturday 16th October 1926, The Aberdeen Journal, Monday 18th October 1926, all via The British Newspaper Archive

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Putting the Rave in Graveyard: Death Salon in Philadelphia

A Stateside jaunt for our offering today as Cemetery Club member and London tour Guide Tina Hodgkinson writes of her visit to the the Death Salon Conference in Philadelphia earlier this month!

02 Megan Rosenbloom Death Salon Mutter Museum

Megan Rosenbloom welcoming delegates to the Death Salon

I recently attended the Death Salon Conference at the Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, USA (4 – 6 October 2015). Although death is an inevitable part of life, in many cultures it is still a taboo topic, and is something that many of us feel uncomfortable discussing. Death Salon is inspirational as it engages in the topic in a respectful and meaningful way by providing a platform for academics, death professionals and the general public to meet and discuss death matters.

The conference included a diverse range of death and mourning related events including themed talks, a death ball, musical performances, special late night opening and behind the scenes tour of the Mutter Museum, quiz night and the Dark Artisans’ Bazaar, selling a range of death related gifts. It was an amazing couple of days covering a diverse range of themes, it was truly inspiring, thought provoking and at times quite emotional.

04 Laurel Hill Cemetery

Putting the Rave in Graveyard, was a special cemetery themed talk, by Alexis Jeffcoat and Emma Stern’s about Laurel Hill Cemetery. The cemetery, which is located in Philadelphia’s suburbs, was founded in 1836 as an alternative to the city’s overcrowded burial grounds. It 78 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens has thousands of funeral monuments, tombs and mausoleums.

05 Laurel Hill Cemetery

From its very earliest days the public were encouraged to visit and this picturesque site became so popular venue for strolls, sightseeing, picnics and carriage rides that tickets were issued – see above.

06 Henrietta Garrett Laurel Hill Cemetery

Among the notable people buried there is Henrietta Garrett, a multimillionaire heiress who died in 1930 without leaving a will. Over 25,000 people came forward to try to claim her fortune and rumors spread that Henrietta’s will had been buried with her in her casket. Armed guards were employed to watch her grave for fear of body snatchers. Eventually in 1937 her body was exhumed but no documents were found. Most of the fortune ended up being spent on legal fees but eventually three distant cousins were identified as legitimate heirs.

07 Sarah J Hale

Author, Sarah J Hale is also buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. She wrote the well-known nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb. She’s also the person credited for helping to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States; originally it was only celebrated in New England but she advocated and campaigned to several Presidents until it became a national holiday in 1836.

69 Robert Cornelius

Robert Cornelius, a pioneering photographer and the creator of the first “selfie”, was also buried in Laurel Hill. In 1839 he took a photo of himself at his family’s shop and this is considered to be the world oldest self-portrait.

Moving on from cemeteries to music, on Monday evening Lavinia Jones Wright (The 78 Project) gave us a talk about Murder Ballads. These are traditional ballads with lyrics that describes the events of a murder, often from the point of view of the victim or the murderer. While these songs about death are fascinating and macabre they also impart a warning message to other as they usually end with the murderer going to jail or being executed.

The youtube link is https://youtu.be/HQR-kKjAxsE

We were treated to a musical performance of historical murder ballads by Rosie Guerin (Vandaveer), J. Tom Hnatow (Vandaveer, The Mynabirds) and Justin Craig (Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway) – video clip above.


42 Norma Bowe

If you’d like to hear another Murder Ballad, I would suggest listening to Pretty Polly by Vandaveer (above) it is probably one of the most gruesome, as it tells the tale of premediated murder, as Willy has dug Polly’s grave the night before he takes her for a walk in the woods to kill her.

On the second day Dr. Norma Bowe talked about her “Death in Perspective” class at Kean University. Since teaching the class she has re-written the syllabus to provide a very practical and hands on approach with visits to hospices, undertakers and cemetery scavenger hunt – see photo above. Norma’s warmth and compassion really came across as she shared some very personal stories about how a course about death has been so life affirming for so many of her students.

All the speakers were extremely knowledgeable and engaging and below I’ve made a list of the ones I have not mentioned already.

Hot Lights, Sharp Steel, Cold Flesh by Dr. Marianne Hamel, medical examiner, co-founder of Death Under Glass and consultant for the popular podcast Serial

Historical Skeletal Preparations by Ryan Matthew Cohn, osteologist

Death Spaces Panel with Colin Dickey, author, on American Civil War battlefields and Bess Lovejoy, author, on Hart Island, NYC which is a mass public burial ground with approximately 1 million bodies

The curious story of One-eyed Joe and the 1867 Anatomy Act by Evi Numen, artist, photographer and Mutter Museum exhibitions manager

Mummie Dearest by Dr. Paul Koudounaris, author and photographer

Breathing New Life into Old Mummies: Conservation of Egyptian. Mummies at the Penn Museum by Molly Gleeson, Penn Museum Project Conservator

Skin Deeper: Identifying & Analyzing the World’s Books Bound in Human Skin Panel with Anna Dhody, Mutter Museum Curator, Dr. Daniel Kirby, analytical chemist, Dr. Richard Hark, Juniata College Chemistry Chair and Megan Rosenbloom, Death Salon Director

Los Angelitos: The Rituals and Art of Child Death in Mexico by Sarah Troop, Curator for the Lindsay Museum

Preserved in Perpetuity: The Art and Science of Incorrupt Saints by Elizabeth Harper

Perfect Vessels by David Orr, artist

Death from the Doctor/Daughter Perspective by Death from the Doctor/Daughter Perspective, at University of Pennsylvania

Exquisite Corpses: Our Dialog with the Dead in Museums by Robert Hicks, Mütter Museum Director

Dying Trans: Preserving Identity In Death by Christine Colby, Penthouse Magazine Managing Editor

Ask a Mortician LIVE with Caitlin Doughty, Death Salon co-founder and author and Sheri Booker, author

The next Death Salon is going to be a Film Festival in Houston, USA in September 2016.

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Outside London: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe


by Christina

In Berlin, we went to see the Holocaust Memorial. It was raining as we arrived. The memorial is rows and rows of concrete blocks – they go back and back and back. They start off at knee height and as you walk further and further in they rise above your head and the ground undulates underneath your feet until you are so low down, or maybe the towering slabs are so high, that the city sounds muted and far away, and you feel like you are sealed in.


You can’t see the city any more. You can’t see anything any more, except grey. And far, far above you, glimpses of sky. But only glimpses, because the sky is mostly blocked out by the concrete rising above your head for several feet, threatening to overpower everything.  Everything is grey.


Every so often, you see someone passing by a few columns over, out of the corner of your eye. But by the time you turn your head to look, they’ve gone. It is very bleak and isolating, almost like flashes of fear displayed in sight and in sound, surrounded by grey blocks.


This was my experience inside the memorial. And I say inside because I WAS inside. Such is the power of this particular memorial. Standing and looking is not enough. You get to experience what this FEELS like.

The rain ran down the sides of the blocks in rolling droplets, like tears. When I came out the other side and back into the city, I was crying.


This memorial, so clinically titled ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’ in classic German style, was designed by Peter Eisenmann, an Architect. There’s a long explanation in German (translatable via Google, or if your German is good) on the official web site of the Memorial about what this memorial represents, and that, too, is cold and clinical. The stand-out sentence being ‘It shows that a supposedly rational and ordered system loses touch with human reason’. Which explains the sensation of being inside this maze of concrete pillars very well.

The Memorial occupies 4.7 acres of land next to a busy street that runs between the ultra-modern Potsdamer Platz and the historic and regal Brandernburg Gate in central Berlin. It was built in 2004 and opened to the public in 2005. Maybe it took Germany this long to feel ready for it. I think they did a good job of creating something that would stand as tribute to the millions of lost lives, whilst acknowledging the senselessness with which it was carried out. The memorial consists of 2,711 concrete slabs, otherwise known as ‘stelae’. It is…vast.

Although completely grey in itself, there was some colour to be found on the day that I visited. It being autumn in central Europe, the trees all around the outside of the memorial were glowing a brilliant yellow. Once lost in the faceless stone corridors that make up the middle of the memorial, the only thing you can see, right off in the distance, is this colour. Stray leaves have fallen in between the slabs.

And the rain had one last effect to contribute. Emerging once again into the daylight, I was in a position to see the tops of the blocks that were shallow enough to see over. The water reflected the yellow haze of the trees perfectly.



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A Pressure Point on Southwark Street

by Sheldon

We often lament and celebrate Cemeteries on this blog but its easy to forget that some of the places our forebears worked during their lives remarkably still exist. Down the soulless corridor of Southwark Street, eyeing the imposing Blue Fin Building, is a peculiarity. Part of a terrace of late Victorian design, this happy little yellow bricked building beams its mantra ‘facts not opinions‘ to passers-by on the street.

© John Lord 2011

© John Lord 2011

Strange, coming from a building that should proudly proclaim ‘A.D 1874’ (which is when it was built). No, instead its motto causes people to draw in with curiosity, with the rather large ‘Kirkaldy’s Testing and Experimenting Works’ further heightening the intrigue.

Last Sunday myself and Steve were walking down the street and saw that the Works had its doors wide open. Finally, a chance to peer inside after years of walking past it. With an hour or two to kill, we stepped over the threshold and were immediately transported to a time where the slick curves and simplicity of Apple products were instead represented in an age of pistons, grease and steam.


The works were opened by David Kirkaldy, a Scot who cut his teeth in a Foundry Works on the River Clyde in the late 1830’s. In an age where the possibilities of Steel were offering far more scope than the likes of wrought and cast iron, he began to experiment with the tensile strength of this new metal between 1858 and 1861.He published his ‘Results of an Experimental Inquiry into the Comparative Tensile Strength and other properties of various kinds of Wrought-Iron and Steel’ in 1862, which led him to design his own testing equipment which was shipped, incomplete from Leeds, to premises in London.

He moved to an area filled with industry and soon all sorts of people (perhaps even our old friend Sir John Fowler) utilised the equipment he devised to test the strength of their materials. Its scope was not limited to London; projects from America also used its expertise. The Skylon, a key structure of the Festival of Britain, dismantled by order of Winston Churchill after he deemed the whole project ‘too Socialist’ from the previous Labour government, had its components tested here too.

Its most famous work is perhaps its role in examining why the Tay Bridge Disaster happened. Built by Sir Thomas Bouch, the bridge was endorsed by Queen Victoria who bestowed a Knighthood on him in 1879. Widely heralded, after a terrible storm in 1880 the bridge crumpled with a train full of passengers on board, becoming the worst Railway disaster in British history. Largely down to poor design and poor quality control, parts of the structure were taken here and examined to identify why the bridge failed.



The works however played the host to a nice little exhibition called Chain Reaction. Fully embracing the industrial equipment thats been here for the most part of 140 years, it seeks to examine the fluid nature of time with a number of interactive and ingenious installations. As you descend into the basement of the building, you encounter a scene that could easily be lifted from a Dickens novel: a subterranean corridor that is encrusted with the filth of a long gone London – with a collection of exhibits which do a superb job in giving you a sense of what this building must have been like when men, their faces and clothes stained with oil and sweat, navigated this warren of counterweights and metal work.  

P.S. The works continued through the family right up until David’s grandson retired in 1965. It is grade II* listed, a classification which makes up 5.5% of all listed buildings in the UK, and is a designated as part of a group of ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’.

Where Mr Kirkaldy was buried after his death in 1897, I wasn’t able to find.

Chain Reaction runs from the 15th – 18th October,between 1-7pm at the Kirkaldy Testing Museum. Details how to get there can be found here.

All photos other than the first image © Sheldon K Goodman 2015. 

Posted in Engineering, Heritage, History, London, Restored | Leave a comment

Normandy in Colour – A Photo Post

by Christina
Cemeteries can be quite bleak, somber places. Understandable, given what they are and what they symbolise.

When I think about war cemeteries, this is the sort of thing I imagine – somewhere quiet and bleak and sombre.

Recently I went to Normandy with Dan and we visited Bayeux War Cemetery and the Marigny German Military Cemetery. I had been to both before but this time, in late summer/early autumn we were greeted with something I hadn’t experienced on my previous visits – a blaze of colour. 


 The German cemetery is located about 2km from the village of Marigny, on the D341 – Rue du Cimitière Allemand in the part of Normandy called La Manche. It’s in among fields and is very green – spread out under a blanket of trees, in front of a stone chapel. It’s definitely quiet, and sombre in a way, but mainly peaceful and respectful and beautiful. Stone crosses grouped together in trios with terracotta slates spaced out in the grass, bearing the names of the 11,169 German soldiers who are buried here (and many which say simply ‘ a German soldier’ in German) are ordered in simplistic fashion that stays true to the German spirit. The trees make it seem almost like one of the Woodland cemeteries popular in Germany. On this day it was raining, but under the trees we seemed protected from the misery of cold water falling on us and the rainbow of wild flowers gave a celebratory atmosphere – a celebration of heroes and an optimistic way to remember thousands of men who died far too young. 



The cemetery at Marigny was originally a temporary American war cemetery, used to give a decent burial to the soldiers who fell during Operation Cobra. German soldiers were buried here too, and after the war the U.S. soldiers were removed to a war cemetery just outside Omaha Beach on the Normandy coast, with bodies of German soldiers who had fallen throughout northern France and been buried in temporary graveyards or unmarked graves disinterred and moved here by the German Government, so that they might have a decent burial. Today the cemetery is maintained by the German War Graves Commision. Volunteers look after the site – they are mostly young people, the idea being to teach young people in Germany about what happened here, and the realities of war, as well as to develop a shared understanding with other nations.


The day after we visited Marigny, we drove to the city of Bayeux, famous for the tapestry that isn’t actually a tapestry, and that probably wasn’t made in Bayeux. Just outside the centre of town is Liberation Alleè, the street on which Bayeux War Cemetery is located. It’s the largest World War 2 cemetery of commonwealth graves in the whole of France. Over 4000 men and women are remembered here. Rows and rows of bright white gravestones, bearing the names of those from the UK & other countries in the Commonwealth who died between 1939 and 1945 stand here. And heartbreakingly, some bearing the words ‘a soldier of the 1939-1945 war – known unto God’. Walking around, reading the dates on the stones, I noticed that most who are buried here died in the weeks and months following D-Day (June 6th 1944). And here, again, on the day that we visited (sunshine and showers – big showers that sent us running for cover) were rows and rows of wild flowers, all different colours and growing to different heights – as if refusing to be contained. A haze of colour to celebrate so many lives.



A poppy from last year’s sweeping sea of 800,000 ceramic red flowers at The Tower of London had found its way to Normandy and was touchingly displayed in front of the memorial stone in the centre of the cemetery.
Some of the graves stood shoulder to shoulder in among the evenly spaced stones. Friends? Members of the same company?

Colour was all around. Not what you might expect from a war cemetery but a very beautiful display that acted as a fitting tribute, and a sign of peace and hope and love. 

All photographs Copyright Christina Owen August 2015

Posted in France, Military, Photography, travel, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments