Witley (Milford) Cemetery

A few years ago now, I spent a day digging at the site of the old Canadian Military Camp at Witley (you might remember it – there’ll be a link at the end of the post anyway).  Since then I have been meaning to visit this cemetery just to the north of the old camp where fifty four servicemen, all but four Great War casualties, and all of whom died from wounds, injury or illness, are buried. 

Many were with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and presumably would have known Witley Camp (above) pretty well.  And I suppose in some ways these too are forgotten men of the Great War – people don’t flock to Witley as they do to some of the cemeteries on the Western Front.  But they should, really, because these men surely deserve a few moments of our time, just as much as their colleagues buried overseas.

The cemetery had only been opened in 1905, and inside the entrance,…

…there’s a cemetery plan,…

…which, with a little added shading by yours truly, now shows us where the military burials are to be found (three of the four Second World War burials are marked in light green – the fourth is off the map to the right).  The other marked burials are all Great War casualties, the majority buried in two main blocks (we shall refer to them as ‘U’ Block, on the far left, and ‘D’ Block Right, centre top and slightly right), although the earliest burials are the four graves coloured in mauve (and guess what?  The eight graves, mauve & red, on the left of Block D shall henceforth be referred to as ‘D’ Block Left).  The arrows show the position from which the following shots were taken,…

…the blue arrow pointing towards the first group of military headstones, ‘U’ Block, along the south western boundary, and then, as we pan from left to right,…

…past the Cross of Sacrifice, with the CWGC headstones of ‘D’ Block Right just visible in front of it,…

…the pink arrow pointing towards a few scattered war graves that can be seen in the distance of this shot.  So, as the two main blocks of burials were made simultaneously during the war years, making it impossible to show you the headstones chronologically (well, I could, but it wouldn’t make much sense), we might as well head over there first and see what we can find.  Slightly right of centre there are actually three CWGC headstones visible, the one nearest the camera, and the only military burial in Plot A (see cemetery plan again),…

…being that of Private Gilbert Siddall, The King’s Liverpool Regiment, attached Labour Corps, who died on 30th October 1918 aged 30, one of the later, although by no means the latest, of the Great War burials here.

To the north west we can now see the headstones of ‘D’ Block Right and the Cross of Sacrifice, and we shall visit them shortly, but continuing north east (right),…

…the next two CWGC headstones, both visible in this shot,…

…are Second World War casualties,…

…the first marking the grave of Guardsman Richard Thomas Popple, Coldstream Guards, who died on 14th May 1944 aged 38, and the second,…

……that of Private William Verne Lake, Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, who died on 16th April 1945, aged 23.

As we make our way towards ‘D’ Block Right, we pass two private memorials, the first of which, easily missed,…

…remembers Private Walter Childs, Middlesex Regiment, killed on 26th March 1918 in France, his body lost, his name to be found today on the Arras Memorial.

The second memorial…

…remembers Private Alfred Luff, Northamptonshire Regiment,…

…who was killed in action during the Battle of Loos on 27th September 1915, aged 22.  His body was also never found and his name is one of the 20,642 on the Loos Memorial, in his case on one of the Addenda panels (Panel 139).

After which we arrive at ‘D’ Block Right,…

…which consists of two rows of headstones, mainly CWGC ones, but with a few crosses too.  We shall look at the back row first,…

…so leaving checklistmeister Duncan the elder (that’s my checklist – of course) to tick off the names, we begin with the CWGC headstone nearest the camera on the left,…

…that of Private H. Lambert, 119th Bn. Canadian Infantry, aged 31, who died on 2nd February 1918.  Of the fifty Great War burials here, forty are Canadian (as are two of the four Second World War burials), and of these forty, seventeen are artillerymen, and fifteen are infantryman.

Three crosses follow, the first marking the grave of Private W. G. S. Rudman, 27th Bn. Canadian Infantry,…

…who died of wounds on 17th January 1918, aged 28,…

…the second that of Private Leslie William McLeod, 104th Bn. Canadian Infantry,…

…who died on 30th December 1917,…

…and the third, the white cross,…

…marks the grave of Private N. J. MacKinnon, 24th Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 10th December 1917.

All the remaining burials in the row are casualties from 1917.  On the left, Private A. Warner, 161st Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 15th October 1917 aged 27, and on the right, Private J. H. Lawson, also 161st Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 5th October 1917, aged 20.

Lieutenant Frederick Russell Chute, Canadian Machine Gun Corps, who died on 14th August 1917, aged 47.

On the left, Serjeant A. V. Johnstone, Canadian Army Medical Corps, who died on 16th June 1917 aged 38, and on the right, Lance Corporal James Stanley Thompson, 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion, who died of wounds on 12th June 1917, aged 22.  The headstone in the background…

…belongs to Sapper C. H. Brand, Canadian Engineers, who died on 13th May 1919 aged 30, one of three 1919 casualties among the military burials here, and the penultimate Great War burial in the cemetery.  Presumably, some of these later casualties were flu victims, although I have no evidence in support of this.

Which brings us to the Cross of Sacrifice,…

…inscribed to the memory of those sailors and soldiers who are buried here.

What about the single R.A.F. man?  Because there is one, as we shall see later.

Before we visit the men buried in the front row of ‘D’ Block Right, a couple of shots of the non-military graves to the north west of the Cross of Sacrifice,…

…which are notable for a number of East European names and places of birth such as Belarus,…

…Ukraine & Hungary.  Refugees who found a home in this country, and long may that be the case.

Next, we need to head over to the eastern side of the cemetery,…

…past the Cross of Sacrifice and the two rows of graves comprising ‘D’ Block Right,…

…not forgetting that we have only seen the graves in the back row so far,…

…to where a single CWGC headstone, marked (by me) on the cemetery plan, reveals the last resting place of the third of the Second World War casualties buried here,…

…Driver Alfred Lindsay George Holloway, R.A.S.C., who died on 8th February 1944 aged 31.

Close by, the grave of Captain Richard Taunton, M.C., V.D., who died on 23rd November 1943 aged 81.

At which point we shall head back up the slope,…

…and return to ‘D’ Block Right.

All the burials in the front row were made between November 1916 & May 1917, beginning with…

…Private William John Lown, 123rd Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died of pneumonia on 11th November 1916, aged 23,…

…and on his right, our left in this shot, Gunner D. H. McCaul, Canadian Field Artillery, who died on 4th December 1916.

One of two crosses in the row, this is the grave of Driver James Percival Goode, Canadian Army Service Corps, who died, aged 32, on 10th December 1916 at Bramshott Military Hospital (later 12th Canadian General Hospital), some ten miles away to the south west of here.

Driver Henry Gerard Mitchell, Canadian Field Artillery, who died of pneumonia on 6th January 1917, aged 29.

Gunner W. R. Wells, Canadian Field Artillery, who died on 14th December 1916 aged 38,…

…and on his right, again our left, Private George Clinton Waddell, 242nd Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 17th January 1917, aged 48.

The second cross in the row marks the grave of Driver Frederick James Newton Gisborne, Canadian Field Artillery, who died of pneumonia on 11th February 1917, aged 18.

Gunner Adolphus Milford Zenas Zinck, Canadian Field Artillery, who also died of pneumonia, on 9th April 1917, aged 19,…

…and the final headstone in the row, on the left, is that of Private Albert Herbert Joseph Lanham, Canadian Army Medical Corps, who died on 12th May 1917, aged 35.

GRRF covering most of the graves in ‘D’ Block Right (and including Private Siddall, the first burial we visited at the start of the post),…

…continued on this GRRF from Sapper Brand onwards, these names the burials nearest the Cross of Sacrifice.  The first seven names on this form are the burials in ‘D’ Block Left,…

…which is where we are going next.  This shot looks south west, the headstones of ‘U’ Block in the centre distance just beyond the large grey cross,…

…and we shall stop at the cross later, but if you look closely beyond the hedge on the left, you will just spot some of the CWGC headstones of ‘D’ Block Left,…

…where we will find the earliest of the Great War burials in the cemetery, as well as some of the last.  In fact the headstone in the background in this shot,…

…that of Private T. Ireland, Durham Light Infantry, who died on 1st September 1915 aged 37, is the earliest military burial in the cemetery, and the only one from 1915.

Interestingly, his GRRF originally had his date of death as a year earlier, in 1914.  The two burials in front of Private Ireland are also among the earliest,…

…Serjeant Stewart William Bennett, Royal Sussex Regiment, who died on 25th February 1916, aged 24,…

…and Private C. West, Middlesex Regiment, who died on 13th August 1916.

Continuing along the row, this is the grave of Private 2nd Class Alfred Hunt, who died on 20th July 1918 aged 30.  The only Royal Air Force man buried in this cemetery, he is the reason airmen should surely be included on the Cross of Sacrifice, as I mentioned earlier.

These two graves, and the two following, are among the final half dozen military burials to be made here.  On the right,…

…Driver G. J. Bridger, Royal Engineers, who died on 25th November 1918, aged 22, and on the left,…

…Private S. J. Voller, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), who died on 2nd December 1918.

Gunner Francis John Scott, Royal Garrison Artillery (attached Tank Corps), gassed on the battlefield and evacuated to hospital in Blighty, only to die of his injuries on 6th December 1918, aged 20.

The little crown that Duncan spotted helped to identify this as a war grave,…

…which was a good job because, as you can see, the inscription is near-indecipherable.

Private Frederick John Richard Hockley, Labour Corps, who died on 5th January 1919, aged 31, the final burial in ‘D’ Block Left.

Nearly time to visit the graves in ‘U’ Block, although, if you remember, I mentioned earlier that we would visit the large grey cross beyond the plot, and we shall do so first, I think.  Note also that there’s a single CWGC headstone between the grey cross and the rest of the plot.

The cross proved to be of great interest.

Lieutenant John Peter Bevan Harold, Royal Field Artillery attached Royal Flying Corps, is remembered on this side of the cross.  He died in France from wounds received in aerial combat on 16th February 1918 aged 23, and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

And on the front face, and thank heavens we didn’t miss this one – you will appreciate that a checklist is all very well when it comes to men buried in a cemetery, but memorials to men buried elsewhere are a different matter and rely simply on patience and a good eye.

On 22nd September 1914, three obsolete British cruisers, H.M.S. Aboukir, Hogue & Cressy, patrolling the North Sea’s extreme southern reaches some twenty five miles north of the Hague, were attacked and sunk by the German submarine U-9, all in the space of an hour.  Over 1,450 men, mostly part-time sailors of the Royal Naval Reserve, the vast majority from the Chatham Port Division, were drowned, creating a huge furore back in Blighty.  The Hogue got off lightly, you might say, in that only 48 of the men who died were from her compliment, but one of those was Midshipman Geoffrey Charles Harold, remembered here, and certainly, at just fifteen years of age, one of the youngest casualties of the action.  In the last couple of years, incidentally, all three wrecks have received government protection under the 1986 Protection of Military Remains Act.  The inset above, an extract from a well-known German postcard of the time, shows the Aboukir on her way down on the left, with the Hogue on the right about to join her.

The single headstone between the Harold memorial and ‘U’ Block is one of the earliest burials here; Private J. Haslam, Lancashire Fusiliers, who died on 21st April 1916.

And so, finally, on to ‘U’ Block itself, the front row first, the headstone nearest the camera…

…that of Corporal William Palmer, 171st Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 7th December 1916, aged 38.

Next, the first of two crosses in the row,…

…this is the grave of Driver Matthew Tyson, Canadian Field Artillery, who died on 26th December 1916 aged 22,…

…and next to him, Private J. Arsenault, 105th Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 25th January 1917, aged 19.

On the right, Driver L. J. Rooney, Canadian Field Artillery, who died on 13th February 1917, aged 24, and on the left, Private N. W. Munroe, 156th Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 26th February 1917, aged 19.

The second cross in the row marks the grave of Gunner Howard Earl Parliament, Canadian Field Artillery, who died on 27th February 1917 aged 22.

Acting Bombardier G. W. Finnie, Canadian Field Artillery, who died of pneumonia on 10th March 1917 aged 31.

Private John Farrell Mitchell, 85th Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 18th March 1917 aged 20.

The two men in the foreground are both Canadian Field Artillerymen (as are the two headstones behind, and others in the back row), that on the right…

…Gunner John Joseph McEachern, accidentally killed on 24th March 1917, aged 22,…

…and on the left, the final headstone in the front row, Gunner J. H. Frame, who died on 29th April 1917, aged 31.

And so on to the back row, where the first five CWGC headstones are all Canadian artillerymen, the first grave being that of Serjeant Bernard Beresford Ball, who died on 25th October 1918 aged 33.

On the left, Driver Henry William Convery, who died on 6th September 1918, aged 18, and on the right, Gunner Guy Carlton Lister, who was accidentally killed on 31st July 1918, aged 28.

And two more artillerymen, on the left Driver E. Crepault, who died on 2nd April 1918 aged 25, and on the right, Gunner G. W. Baker, who died on 13th March 1918, aged 25.

The next grave is that of Private A. Healey (left), aged 25, 123rd Bn. Canadian Infantry, who died on 28th March 1918, according to his headstone.  Or on 28th February 1918, if you believe the cemetery index (inset).  Private V. Reynolds, on the right, 119th Bn, Canadian Infantry, died on 21st October 1917, aged 20.

Sapper John Angus McPherson, Canadian Engineers, who died on 16th August 1917, aged 42.  We shan’t forget the burial in the background,…

…but the next headstone in the row is that of Gunner Lewis Stanley McKeen, Canadian Field Artillery, who died on 26th July 1917 aged 26, on the left here, and on the right, ending the row, Private D. L. Delaney, Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, who died on 21st July 1917 aged 36.  The small Celtic cross behind Gunner McKeen’s headstone…

…is interesting stylistically,…

…and here’s the lone CWGC headstone in the background of some of the previous photos.  This is the grave of Private Edward O’Neill, 21st (Reserve) Bn. Canadian Infantry, aged 20, who drowned on 9th August 1919, making him the final Great War burial here.  And as I was taking this photograph, I noticed that the grave immediately behind…

…although not strictly World War related, was nonetheless military, although I can tell you nowt about Major Stanislaw E. Rink, including which country he served.

GRRFs for ‘U’ Block (above & below).

Now, the checklistmeister had done a more than decent job, but we still had one more man to find, the last of the fifty four military men buried here, and find him we did, eventually, somewhere over there.

It was hardly surprising it took us a while to discover him (I was going to say uncover him, but that wouldn’t be strictly true); Corporal John Henderson, Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, who died on 15th September 1946 aged 51, was the final burial from either World War made in this cemetery.  He is also the only military burial that I have not marked on the cemetery plan at the beginning of this post (his grave is sited off the plan to the right ).

Perhaps we were lucky to find him at all.

The cemetery index tells us that five German airmen, all Second World War casualties, were once buried here, but I would presume they were moved to Cannock Chase back in the 1960s.  I also mentioned my exploration of Witley Camp (or at least the Witley Camp rubbish tip) at the start of this post; all is revealed here, if such things are of interest to you.

A final thought, although the same could be said for most of the posts published on this website over the past nine years and was one of the main reasons I began this monstrosity in the first place; every name you have just read, for that brief second that you were reading it, is a man remembered.  For which I thank you.

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2 Responses to Witley (Milford) Cemetery

  1. Margaret Draycott says:

    And for which I also thank you to bring these to our attention, your right of course they deserve as much a visit and our recognition as those buried in the cemeteries abroad. The story of the sinking of the ships and the lives lost is one you don’t often think about its good to see them commemorated in this cemetery.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Well said you! And I am really pleased that someone – your good self – has read and appreciated this one. Thanks M.

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