Brookwood Military Cemetery – A Tour of the Commonwealth Section

Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey was initially established in 1917 to provide a cemetery for servicemen and women who died in hospitals in London and the surrounding area.  Many had been evacuated, sick or wounded, from Flanders and France, whilst others died as a result of accidents in training both at home and abroad.  More burials were added during and after World War II, an American section contains the dead of both World Wars, and there are memorials to the fallen of several other European nations; indeed the cemetery, as we will see, is still used on occasions to this day.

These photographs are just a few of the hundreds I have taken over the years (including a large number, although not all, of the individual headstones in the Commonwealth Plot, so you never know, I may have the one you are after) at Brookwood, and there are still areas, such as the Canadian World War II section, that I have yet to visit.  All in good time.

The main entrance to Brookwood Military Cemetery, with the Canadian Records & Reception Building just inside the gates; the headstones just visible in the background to the far right are situated in the huge Canadian Second World War and post-war section of the cemetery, beyond which you can just make out the American Records & Reception Building.

         

Opposite the Canadian Section, the Brookwood Memorial to the Missing commemorates 3,438 men and women of the Commonwealth who died on active service during World War II outside the main theatres of war, or at sea, or on raids on mainland Europe, and have no known grave.

Above & below: Memorial to those who died in the Russian theatre during two World Wars and have no known grave.

This view from the Royal Air Force Shelter (see photo below) looks north towards the Cross of Sacrifice in the Commonwealth Plot.  You might be interested to know that Brookwood, because of its size, is the only CWGC cemetery in the world that has two Crosses of Sacrifice and two Stones of Remembrance.  The headstones in this picture constitute the Air Forces Section of the cemetery.

Looking south down the ranks of Air Forces graves towards the Royal Air Force Shelter at the southern edge of the cemetery.

Row upon row of headstones stretch as far as the eye can see; Brookwood is a vast place, 37 acres containing 1,601 British and Empire burials of the First World War and 3,476 from the Second World War, alongside 786 men of other European nations, a small plot of Muslim graves, 468 American military dead, and the Royal Hospital Burial Ground (Chelsea Pensioners to you and me).  This is the Main Commonwealth Section.

You might well find the Brookwood Military Cemetery Plan, by kind permission of the CWGC, useful to pinpoint our location throughout this tour.

At the eastern boundary of the cemetery stands the relatively new (2004) Brookwood (United Kingdom 1914-1918) Memorial.

Above & below:  Nearly all the graves in Plot VII (first four rows) and Plot I (beyond), in front of the 1914-1918 Memorial, are South African.

Above and following photos: South African graves in Plot I.  The small group of headstones in the background to the left of the seat consists of Muslim graves, mainly from the First World War, and we shall visit them shortly.

A lone British burial among the South African graves in Plot I.

The Muslim Plot.  For a brief resume of how these men came to be buried here, have a look at this: Woking Muslim Cemetery

Adjoining the Military Cemetery both to the north and east is Brookwood Cemetery, far far larger and containing 188 British and Empire burials, including a Nurses Plot, dotted throughout its sprawling vastness.  The cemetery is private property, but just the other side of the boundary gate at the northern edge of the Military Cemetery, a small Indian Plot contains the graves of 28 First World War casualties, all but two of whom died between November 1914 and June 1915.  By the end of the War 47,000 Indians, out of more than a million who volunteered to fight with the British, had been killed and a further 65,000 wounded.

Scattered nearby are a number of Second World War Indian graves:

Back in the Military cemetery, this view looks south from in front of the Muslim Plot across the New Zealand headstones of Plot II towards the Stone of Remembrance.

Above & below:  View looking west down the length of the cemetery from Plot II.  In the background you can make out the American Chapel beyond the trees, and American crosses in the distance to the left.

Plot II, this time looking east, with Plot I beyond the tree.

Above & below:  The Brookwood (United Kingdom 1914-1918) Memorial is inscribed with the names of 217 British First World War casualties who died in the U.K. but whose graves are unknown or have been lost.

         

         

South African graves in Plot VII, the easternmost Plot in the cemetery; you can see some of the Air Forces headstones in the background.

Looking west down the complete length of the Commonwealth Plot from Plot VII.

Plot VII looking west, with the Stone of Remembrance in the left background and the Cross of Sacrifice almost obscured by the trees to the right.

Plot II, with New Zealand graves in Plot VIII in the foreground.

More New Zealand graves in Plot VIII (first three rows), looking north towards Plot II, with Canadian graves in Plot III in the left background and the Muslim Plot in the centre distance.

Plot III looking towards the Cross of Sacrifice (below) behind the first tree in the background.

Looking south across Plot III towards the Stone of Remembrance.

Men of the Newfoundland Regiment in Plot X.  This view looks east with some of the Air Force graves in the right background.

Just one of the unusual headstones to be found in the Air Forces Plot.  B.O.A.C. personnel who died due to a war related cause were entitled to a CWGC headstone, along with certain other civilian organisations which most obviously included the Mercantile Marine in the First World War and the Merchant Navy in the Second.

Stone of Remembrance looking north.  Plot III beyond.

Stone of Remembrance looking south with the Australian graves of Plot XI beyond.

Plot XI (foreground), Plot IV (background).

Australian graves in Plot IV.

Plot V (left), Plot XIV (background left) and Plot IV (right).

Western view with Plot IV in the foreground; the American Chapel can be seen in the right background.

Plot V (nearest camera), with Plot XIV in the background.

Plot XI looking west…

…and looking east from the far end of Plot XI, past the Stone of Remembrance, towards the Brookwood (United Kingdom 1914-1918) Memorial in the distance.

Above & below:  Australian graves, Plot XI.

Late 1918 German graves in Plot XII, with the huge French Memorial visible through the trees behind.

Looking east down the complete length of the Commonwealth Section from Plot XIII.

Serb and Briton, one headstone.

Above & photos below:  Plot XIII.

View from Plot VI down the complete length of the Commonwealth Section.

The Commonwealth Section from the American Cemetery.

American First World War burials and the American Chapel, the inside walls of which are inscribed with the names of U.S. personnel who died at sea and who have no known grave.

Above & below:  British graves in Plot VI.

         

Plot VI, with the American Chapel in the background on the left, and the Shed (see Cemetery Plan) on the right.  The headstones of Plot XV are visible in the far background of the right hand picture.

One of just 24 Royal Navy burials in the cemetery.

Above and below:  German Word War II graves in Plot XV.

Beyond Plot XV, more British graves in Plot XIV.

The last qualifying date for a CWGC headstone following the First World War was 31st August 1921, but there are exceptions written in to the rules, one of which covers personnel who died at a later date but whose death could be proven to be attributed to injury or illness caused by their war service.  Their names, however, do not appear on the CWGC Casualty Details List, as is the case with these two men, who quite probably fall into this category.

The Royal Hospital Burial Ground.

Every headstone records the date on which each man entered the Royal Hospital.

Some men were there barely a month…

…and some for many, many years.

Recent burials in the Royal Hospital Burial Ground.

As darkness falls we find ourselves back at the Canadian Plot near the cemetery entrance (the first few rows here are British and Polish), with, you will notice, the second Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance in the background.

Oops.  Too late.  Gates locked.  Looks like I’m here for the night…

ADDENDUM

The graves of Private M. Howlett in Plot VI (above) and Private A. H. Bowden in Plot VIII, both of the Yorkshire Regiment.  As requested by Edward & Richard.

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20 Responses to Brookwood Military Cemetery – A Tour of the Commonwealth Section

  1. Magicfingers says:

    Edward, you will now find Howlett & Barden above. Fyi, there are two Yorkshire Regiment men whose names appear on the Brookwood (United Kingdom 1914-1918) Memorial, Privates T. C. Hunter & W. J. Smith. You will find them on Panel 3 or, if you prefer, photo 2, of the close-ups of the Memorial panels in the post above.

  2. Edward says:

    Many thanks for the above. I have now set up a page for the Brookwood Military Cemetery and have included your photos (with acknowledgement).
    I shall leave the Brookwood memorial page as it is.
    I am most grateful for all of the information you have provided for the Yorkshire Regiment Remembrance website.

  3. Magicfingers says:

    No problem Edward. Any time.

  4. This is an incredibly impressive photographic essay of the most important CWGC cemetery in Britain. You have really brought home to the viewer the extraordinary variety and nature of the war graves here. Congratulations.

  5. Magicfingers says:

    Thank you for your kind comments, Julie. I am glad you approve. You might not believe this, but when I first saw your comment on getting home this evening, a certain book entitled ‘British and Commonwealth War Cemeteries’ was, quite literally, within arms reach at that very moment. Honestly. Anyway, thank you again for your kindness. It is much appreciated.

  6. John says:

    A friend of mine I met at a McDonalds tonight told me he and his wife are traveling overseas to Britain this fall (that is overseas to we Canadians, for your other guests) to see Brookwood Cemetery. He was quite surprised I was familiar with it, and I wrote down the title of your site for him to find out why. He and his family did a tour of battlefields in Belgium, France, and Holland last summer. They generously went out of their way to visit both my great uncles gravesites at Railway Dugouts at Ypres, which you have profiled. And Cerisy-Gailly Military Cemetery on the Somme.

    Let me know if you wish the next time you travel into Belgium as I have a suggestion for a CWG Cemetery there you might be interested in visiting someday. It has a different kind of personal family connection than the above.

  7. John says:

    I gather from Baldrick’s last message on the Moorseele that he is a citizen of Belgium which makes my comment “the next time you travel into Belgium” a bit embarrassing. No intention to make anyone stateless, I just don’t think it’s polite to enquire into someone’s domicile online unless offered. My apologies.

  8. Magicfingers says:

    He is indeed a citizen of that fair country, but as I am not (and therefore where would I be without him), your comment seems perfectly acceptable to me. So you’d better let me know which cemetery you are referring to; it may be already planned for one of my future trips anyway, we shall see. And thanks for passing on to your friend details of this little site; I do rely on you guys out there to spread the word.

    Btw, I shall soon begin posting the tour I have been promising for quite some time now. It’ll be a long one, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

  9. John says:

    It is Coxyde Military Cemetery on the coast just east of Koksijde, Belgium. In 1944 my now late father, then just newly commissioned in the Canadian Essex Scottish Regiment was appended to the South Saskatchewan Regiment. As oft happened to replace officer losses, this time at a just previous battle at Foret du Londe. He arrived to meet the S.S.R. at Dieppe, where the S.S.R. were sent to see captured Pourville from the “other side” of the beach they had landed on with enormous losses in 1942. A short time later they were in a battle at Bray Dune Plage, my dad’s first combat action, where they lost 10 men. All ten are buried side by side in Row A at nearby Coxyde, just in front of the Cross of Remembrance. It is mostly a First War Cemetery, but I will leave the rest of the story in your good hands should you have an opportunity to visit.

  10. Magicfingers says:

    Interesting stuff, particularly as I note that the majority of the WWII burials are from 1940. I would very much like to pay a visit one of these days, and assuming I can persuade Baldrick that it’s really not that far from Ieper……

    • John says:

      Ah, the European concept of distance! It’s all relative. Chief Engineer “Scotty” thought a three thousand light years was a long trip, The actor who played him, Jimmy Doohan thought a three thousand miles was a long trip. (He told me on a visit here to my city from L.A., … he grew up here and was in my late dad’s first artillery unit ), and in Europe …thirty kilometers is a long way to travel :)

      • Magicfingers says:

        You’re absolutely right! Lol! Fancy meeting Scotty too. Did your Dad know him then?

        • John says:

          Yes, he and my dad knew each other well. I have a wonderful unit picture of the local militia unit the 26th Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery with my dad and Jimmy Doohan included all of them in the old Pith Helmets.

          Somewhere in a book in my library I have stashed copies of pictures of my dad and 4 others including Jim Doohan on a swim outing in their army boxer shorts at Lake Petawawa in Northern Ontario in Summer 1939. They all especially “Scotty” looked like kids, with no idea where they would be spending the next years. Jim Doohan landed on D-Day and was hit by a machine gun burst. Lost one finger, and one bullet hit and was stopped by a cigarette case in his breast pocket. Angels on his shoulder.

          I got to talk to Mr. Doohan at our High School’s 75th anniversary that he returned for. He was born in Vancouver B.C. but grew up from infancy here in my small city in South West Ontario. He was a fine gentleman.

    • Baldrick says:

      We actually drove up to Coxyde (Koksijde) for a day at the beach last summer. It’s about an hour’s drive from where we’re at — with lots of sightseeing along the way WWI-wise, I might add…

  11. Magicfingers says:

    Probably along the way BACK, as otherwise we’d never get there!!

  12. Magicfingers says:

    Lol! Brilliant, Balders. That’s a definite ‘no’ then. Heh heh.

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