Registered Charity

The FOBLC is recognised by HMRC as a charity, ref. XT38745, and is a member of the National Federation of Cemetery Friends

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Lance Bombardier Sydney James Hedger- ' Died for his Country'- Dunkirk 1st June 1940 aged 21 years

British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation.
Located amidst a cluster of graves in Brockley cemetery lies the gothic shaped family headstone of the Hedger family. The stark details of Sydney James Hedger's sacrifice, lettered on the headstone, having been wounded at Dunkirk tell the viewer that ' he died for his country and us' on the 1st June 1940  aged 21 years as part of  91 Field Regiment and now lies buried in the familiar soil of South East London.  Sydney who was the son of Harry and Lily of Catford, is also remembered on the Brockley screen wall.

Hedger gravestone courtesy of Billion Graves

The recent release of the film 'Dunkirk' ( 2017) has once again brought to wider attention with its dramatic recreation of the evacuation,  an evacuation codenamed Operation Dynamo, which saw the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other allied soldiers from the French seaport of Dunkirk. By 4 June 1940, nearly 350,000 troops had been saved.

The evacuation associated with the troops trapped on Dunkirk, was called a  “miracle” by Winston Churchill. As the Wehrmacht swept through western Europe in the  spring of 1940, using Blitzkrieg, both the French and British armies could do little to halt the onslaught. For the people in Western Europe, World War Two was about to start for real. The “Phoney War” was now over.  The advancing German Army trapped the British and French armies on the beaches around Dunkirk. 330,000 men were stuck here and they were a sitting target for the Germans. Admiral Ramsey, based in Dover, formulated Operation Dynamo to get off of the beaches as many men as was possible. The British troops, led by Lord John Gort,  were professional soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force, trained men that we could ill afford to lose.

From May 26th 1940, small ships transferred soldiers to larger ones which then brought them back to ports in southern Britain. The beach at Dunkirk was on a shallow slope so no large boat could get near to the actual beaches where the men were. Therefore, smaller boats were needed to take on board men who would then be transferred to a larger boat based further off shore. 800 of these legendary “little ships” were used. It is thought that the smallest boat to make the journey across the Channel was the Tamzine – an 18 feet open topped fishing boat which is now on display at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Despite attacks from German fighter and bomber planes, the Wehrmacht never launched a full-scale attack on the beaches of Dunkirk. Panzer tank crews awaited the order from Hitler but it never came. In his memoirs, Field Marshall Rundstadt, the German commander-in-chief in France during the 1940 campaign, called Hitler’s failure to order a full-scale attack on the troops on Dunkirk his first fatal mistake of the war. That 338,000 soldiers were evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk would seem to uphold this view.

One of the reasons put forward for Hitler not ordering an attack was that he believed that Britain had suffered from the might of the Wehrmacht once and that this experience would be sufficient for Britain to come to peace terms with Hitler. For a powerfully paced narrative account of the Dunkirk Campaign the special 75th Anniversary edition of the book by Simon Sebag-Montefiore comes highly recommended.

A Tribute to Second Lieutenant Hugh Gordon Langton- killed at Passchendale October 25th 1917

One of many iconic images of the Passchendaele battlefield in 1917
Passendaele (Passendal) is a small village five miles north-east of Ypres in Belgium and is the name by which the final stages of the Third Battle of Ypres are better known. Along with the Somme, it has come to symbolise the Great War for many. The Third battle of Ypres was preceded by the attack on Messines ridge in June 1917. The main battle commenced on the 31st of July 1917, and stretched on until November the 10th, 1917. The final phase, the advance on Passchendaele, took place in October and November, the aim being to take the strategically important high ground of the Passchendaele ridge. The first battle of Passchendaele, on the 12th October, failed to take the village, and the second battle of Passchendaele lasted from the 26th of October until the 10th of November. After over three months, with 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties the result was little more than to expand the ground covered by the Ypres salient and the controversy over the conduct of the Battle remains to this day.

Second Lieutenant Hugh Gordon Langton, (4th Battalion-London Regiment) Royal Fusiliers

On Sunday, November 5th, 2017 at Poelcapelle CWGC Cemetery near Ypres (Ieper), Belgium (see below), there was a ‘special centennial memorial’ for Second Lieutenant Hugh Gordon Langton, (4th Battalion-London Regiment) Royal Fusiliers, who was killed in action on October 26th, 1917, during the ‘Battle of Passchendale’.  Eight members of the Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries group attended as part of a British delegation at the kind invitation of Gil Bossuyt (First World War guide- Also in attendance playing the moving music for the tribute were 45 musicians from the local Flemish Deerlijk Brass Band.  The event was recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (see link below) and in a welcome break in the weather during a sunlit interlude a poppy wreath was laid at the headstone.

Headstone of Second Lieutenant Hugh Gordon Langton -Poelcapelle British cemetery
Hugh Gordon Langton was a very promising violinist, who was taught by the most prominent music teachers from that time from across Europe. The grave of Hugh Gordon Langton is the only one of all Commonwealth graves and memorials (there are more than a million worldwide) which has musical notes inscribed as an epitaph. However a recent tonal revision of the musical notation - the piece was originally thought to have been from ' After the Ball is over' a popular Tin Pan Alley song from 1891, has led to some doubts by music scholars as the notes would suggest a different composition.

As part of the planned visit the Friends group were able to benefit from an excellent guided walk from Gil over parts of the former Battlefield, to be present at the playing of the last post at the Menin gate, Ypres and to enjoy the warm hospitality offered after the Sunday tribute by sharing in a memorable meal with Gil and members of the band in nearby Zonnebeke before returning home.

Members of the Friends group with local tour guide Gil Bossuyt in Poelcappelle cemetery
At @CWGC Poelcapelle British Cemetery in Belgium on Sunday, 45 musicians from the Deerlijk Brass Band performed a special #HoldHighTheTorch tribute during a ceremony commemorating Second Lieutenant Hugh Gordon Langton. Download the free app here

Family grave of Hugh Gordon Langton’s parents and his younger deceased brother in Brockley cemetery.

REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY 12th November 10.55am – 12.15pm

Join us for our annual commemoration of the fallen of the First World War on SUNDAY 12th November 10.55am – 12.15pm

Meet at the Ladywell Cross of Sacrifice for the two minute silence and wreath-laying. This will be followed by a walk via threerelevant graves to the memorial in the Brockley Cemetery for a further wreath-laying.

New Hither Green and Sydenham memorial to those who died through enemy air raids in WW1 unveiled

Commemoration of Civilian Deaths in Hither Green and Sydenham in WW1

The memorial in the Ladywell Cemetery commemorates civilian victims of enemy air raids in the First World War.

On 19th October 1917 a Zeppelin dropped a bomb on what was then Glenview Road near Hither Green station.  (The road is now part of the extended Nightingale Grove).  Three houses were destroyed and others damaged.  Two families in particular suffered badly:  the Kingston family lost seven children killed; the Milgate family lost four members – the father and three children.  They and others (a total of fifteen people) were buried in Heroes Corner.

On 19th May 1918 a Gotha bomber dropped a bomb on Sydenham Road, at its junction with Fairlawn Park.  Several shops were demolished or damaged.  Five members of the Delahoy family, father mother and three daughters, were killed as were four people in the adjoining shop.  A total of thirteen people were buried together in a public grave.

The original memorial to the victims of these two incidents was erected by public subscription at the position of the first grave.  The names of the victims of both events were recorded on the memorial slab.  Over a period of time, the slab became weathered and the names indecipherable.

The Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries, with the agreement of Lewisham Bereavement Services, instigated a project to restore this memorial, and to refurbish the Deptford civilian memorial in the Brockley Cemetery.  The Friends group was successful in its bid for funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Ladywell Ward Assembly.

The unveiling of the new Hither Green and Sydenham memorial, and the commemoration of the victims, on Saturday 21st October at 2.30pm marks the completion of the first stage of the project.

Women In Front - A Public Art Exhibition of Women's Work in WW1 Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th September 2017, 11am-4pm

Women In Front - public art exhibition commemorates the contribution of women to the war effort at home and at the front in the First World War. As the war progressed with mounting casualties and the introduction of conscription, over 1 million women were employed for the first time in occupations previously reserved for men. Over 1.6 million women worked in domestic service were now given the opportunity to move into better-paid employment.

In March 1917, the Women’s War Work Subcommittee was formed to collect materials covering the contribution of women to the war effort for a National War Museum. The subcommittee commissioned photographers Horace Nicholls, George Parnham Lewis, and Olive Edlis (covering France) to record the work undertaken by women, this culminated in an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1918, attracting 82,000 visitors.

100 years later, Women In Front through the artworks on display, tells the stories of women’s lives before the war, their war work, and what happened to them afterwards. Nicky Scott-Francis explores the working lives of munitionettes, whilst Jill Rock concentrates on their achievements in the Women’s Football League, with Jolanta Jagiello covering the employment of female police constables to control their rowdy out-of-work behaviour. Sara Scott focuses on postal workers and Monica Wheeler on bus conductors, one of the few professions still open to women after the war, improving the working conditions of women.
Elizabeta Chojak-Mysko and Louse Kosinska tell the stories of women who had to disguise themselves as men to achieve their ambitions, whether as doctors to run a hospital for wounded soldiers or to take their pastime of flying to turn themselves into combat pilots.

The exhibition funded by Southwark Council Neighbourhood Fund is in the Chapel, Ladywell Cemetery (Ladywell Road, SE13 7HY) on Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th September 2017, 11am-4pm, as part of National Cemeteries Week under the auspices of the National Federation of Cemetery Friends.

Guided walk on Sunday 10th September 2pm-3.30pm linking with the theme of the exhibition.  Meet at the Ladywell Chapel