Registered Charity

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

For all enquiries please contact our Chairman geoffrey@foblc.org.uk


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Animals In Service Exhibition Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September




The FOBLC is proud to host Animals In Service, an art exhibition celebrating the heroism of animals in the First World War.   It is part of National Cemeteries’ Week promoted by the National Federation of Cemetery Friends and the Commemoration of the Battle on the Somme, 

The exhibition will take place on Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September from 11am – 4pm
in the Chapel in the LADYWELL CEMETERY, entrance via Ladywell Road. There will also be guided walks to selected graves at 2pm on both days.  Meet at the Ladywell Chapel.

Animals in Service - public art exhibition commemorates the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme through the huge contribution that 16 million animals in the First World War made in transport, logistics, cavalry and communications, as well as in the morale of troops. This exhibition tells the story of these animals before the war, during the war, and the lasting legacies they left after the war. The horses and camels used for transportation, the dogs, pigeons and songbirds used as messengers, together with those chosen as mascots and used in the propaganda of war. Also parasites contribution to the spread of trench fever will be considered by Sara Scott as well as the huge advances made in medicines to control epidemics after the war.

Jill Rock explores the role horses played as cavalry on the front line at the start of the War, to being integral to the transportation of food and supplies during the war, and to their more recent role in ceremonial parades at state occasions. Dogs who were trained to deliver first- aid to soldiers stuck in the mud of no-man’s land to stabilize their wounds before medics could reach them is the focus of Monica Wheeler’s work. Whilst Nicky Scott-Francis looks at carrier pigeons, who were believed to be a faster and safer method of communication than the telephone in flying their way across tricky terrain to deliver messages to the front line. Elizabeta Chojak-Mysko concentrates on the unsung hero, the camel, who could carry a soldier and six weeks’ worth of supplies for days in the desert without water, and stay much calmer than horses under fire. Louse Kosinska draws our attention to how animals have been used to stereotype national characteristics in wars to instill fear and hatred. Lastly, Jolanta Jagiello tells the story of Winnie, the bear, who starts the war as a mascot of Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, who during the war lands up as star attraction at London Zoo, and after the war as inspiration for ‘Winnie the Pooh’. 

Jane Clouson Book Reading by Paul Thomas Murphy


Paul Thomas Murphy's new book about the extraordinary murder of 
Jane Clouson  conclusively identifies the killer’s true identity.

The FOBLC is proud to be hosting a reading of a new book about Jane Clouson, 'Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane' on Saturday 16th July from 2.30pm – 4pm at the Chapel in Ladywell Cemetery.

Author Paul Thomas Murphy, who also wrote the excellent Shooting Victoria,  has extensively researched the death of Jane Clouson and has conclusively identified the killer's true identity.  Her murder led to widespread unrest, exacerbated by the fact that the main suspect was acquitted.  When she was buried in the Deptford (now Brockley) Cemetery, thousands followed her cortege; public subscription paid for the striking monument.

Paul Murphy has published his findings in this new book, and will be reading extracts. Attendees will also be able to visit the grave.  Copies of the book will be available at the special price of £15 (cash only)  Plus local composer and musician Hugh Shrapnel will play a specially composed piece in memory of Jane Clouson


‘Gentlemen , when the barrage lifts’ –Rifleman Kenneth Middleton Davies QVR, killed first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Situated aside the inner pathway close to Brockley Grove lies a forlorn cross which contains the evocative lettering 'the barrage lifts' and tells the onlooker that Rifleman Kenneth Middleton Davies,  of the Queens Victoria Rifles or ‘Old Vics’ was killed in action aged 24 years in France on the first day of the Battle of the Somme 1st July 1916.  The famous quote above was attributed to a Company Commander in the 9th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who offered a toast before the Battle of the Somme, 'Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts'. In the week long pre-battle bombardment no less than 1,700,000 shells were fired at German positions!



British Troops going over the top on the 1st July 1916 –juxtaposed with bottom photograph of family grave in Brockley cemetery .


Kenneth Middleton Davies was born in Lambeth in mid-1891, being the eldest son of William Middleton Davies, a man of various occupations, and his wife who was born Hannah Eliza Shotter.

At the time of the 1911 census, Kenneth was living with his parents at 70 Revelon Road, Brockley, South East London, and was working as a solicitor's clerk. His army service record has not survived but it is known that he enlisted in London and his medal card states that he first saw active service in France on 9th May 1915, and was killed in action on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme on which some 20,000 British soldiers lost their lives and another 40,000 were wounded. Kenneth's body was either not recovered or not identified and he is commemorated on the Thiepval the 9th Battalion of the London Regiment. Serving as a 'rifleman',  his medal card states that he was awarded the 1914-15 Star but omits any reference to the British War Medal and Victory Medal to which he also would have been entitled.
Empty shell casings and ammunition boxes representing a small sample of the ammunition used by the British Army in the bombardment of Fricourt, France, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. [Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, AWM H08331]-


The 1st July 1916  was a near disastrous day for the British Army in France. Eleven divisions of Fourth Army attacked along a 15 mile front from Maricourt  to Serre. Two further divisions of Third Army launched a diversionary attack just to the north of Serre at Gommecourt. For a week beforehand the British artillery pounded the German trenches but the Germans had been there for a long time and they had constructed deep, concrete reinforced shelters beneath their trenches and many survived the bombardment. The troops went over the top at 7.30 am but even before they had left their overcrowded trenches, many had been killed or maimed by German artillery. The Germans knew that they were coming. Once in No-Man’s-Land the artillery continued to take its toll and then the machine guns opened up on the advancing British infantry. They fell in their thousands and the attack came to a standstill almost everywhere. Survivors sought cover wherever they could find it and at night they crawled back to their own lines, often dragging a wounded soldier with them. Only in the south were any advances made with the attack on Fricourt and Mametz. Over 19,000 British soldiers were killed on this day, including 2,500 from London.



The 56th (London) Division and the 46th (North Midland) Division carried out the diversionary attack on Gommecourt. It was intended to draw German reserves away from the main battle further south and to pinch out the Gommecourt salient. It failed on both counts. The German defences at Gommecourt were among the strongest any British attack faced on 1st July. Nevertheless 56th Division’s attack on the southern edge of the salient began promisingly. The first two German lines were taken but they could get no further. 46th Division’s attack came to grief on the uncut wire and by the end of a very bloody day, all but the dead and injured were back in their own trenches. On 1st July, 169 Brigade, 56th Division attacked with 5th London and 9th London (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) with 16th London detailed to pass through them once they had taken their objectives and captured a German stronghold called the Quadrilateral. But events did not work out as planned. The wire had not been cut properly and there were only a few gaps in it through which the attacking troops of 9th  London could pass and whilst they waited they were hit by concentrated machine gun fire. Despite this some did make it through and into the German trenches. At this stage the German artillery opened up with full force, plastering no-man’s land and preventing supplies and reinforcements getting across. By now the German defenders had emerged from their deep dug outs and were pouring fire on the Londoners from their strongly held reserve trenches. Even so, some of the attacking force managed to push on to Nameless Farm road, a sunken road, but this is as far as they got. To show one’s head above the 4 ½ foot bank of the sunken road meant instant death. By midday the Londoners were running short of grenades and they were under strong bombing attacks from Gommecourt Park which  forced them back.  There was little help from British artillery and the wounded began crawling back across no-man’s land.  By 2pm they were still holding parts of the German 1st & 2nd line and the southern part of Gommecourt Park.  But their position was doomed.  There was no further attack from 46th Division and to the south news came of the failure of 31st Division.  Nevertheless they continued to resist but by 4pm the Germans had retaken their 2nd trench and had footings in the 1st. Before dark the Londoner’s numbers had been reduced to 70 holding a small part of Ferret Trench 200 yards from Gommecourt Park and at 9.30pm the last party made it back suffering badly en route. The planned renewed attack did not take place. 


Kenneth’s name is one of 72,196  British and South African servicemen on The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave.

FOBLC 9th Anniversary Open Day

On SUNDAY 10th JULY from 11am to 4.30pm the FOBLC we would like to invite you to our 9th Anniversary Open Day. 

This free event will include: a photographic exhibition of monuments and wildlife in the Ladywell Chapel, guided walks of the Cemeteries visiting the graves of sportsmen, poets, war veterans and local figures as well as flora and bird life.

Schedule as follows:

       11.30am     General tour with Jeff

       12.45pm     Battle of the Somme tour with Peter

        2.00 pm     Flora and invertebrate walk with Tom and Pete

        3.15pm      General walk with Mike



Walks and tours are due to last no more than an hour.  Refreshments and a plant stall will be available

Chief Electrical Artificer Charles Thomas Stringer remembered 100 years on from sinking of HMS Hampshire

Stringer family grave in Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries.   Photo courtesy of Billion Graves

Amidst the untidy contours of meadow grass close to the Brockley Road boundary lies the modest headstone of the Stringer family. It was a serendipitous discovery that led to the realisation that Charles Thomas Stringer with the rank of Chief Electrical Artificer, Second Class was aboard HMS Hampshire on its fateful voyage to Russia when it sank in fifteen minutes after hitting a German mine off Orkney on 5th June 1916.

Postcards of HMS Hampshire
 The 141 year old Royal Navy rank of Artificer, dating from 1868 and endorsed in 1903 by First Sea Lord Sir John Jackie Fisher, worried at the time at Germanys advances in naval technology, a rank nicknamed tiffs or tiffieswas only recently replaced in 2010 by the term Engineering Technicians!

 
Last photograph taken of Lord Kitchener on board HMS Iron Duke before transferring to HMS Hamsphire- 5th June 1916.

The name of arguably one of Britain's greatest war heroes, Field Marshall Earl Kitchener, Minister of War, will forever be inextricably linked with Orkney.  For it was here off the bleak 200 foot high cliffs of Marwick Head on the west coast that the 10,850 ton armoured battle cruiser Hampshire, carrying Lord Kitchener on a voyage on a top secret diplomatic mission to Archangel, North Russia, struck a mine and sank with the loss of 736 officers and men including Lord Kitchener who names are all listed here.  



HMS Hampshire (which had been present at the Battle of Jutland but not engaged directly in the action) had set out from Scapa Flow, earlier that fateful day with two destroyer escorts.  Because of severe north easterly gales the route for the voyage was switched at the last minute away from an easterly passage up the Orkney's to a westerly and more sheltered route up the west side along a route not regularly swept for mines.  It was thought that no German mine layer would dare to operate this close to the mighty naval base of Scapa Flow.

The storm centre however passed overhead and the wind backed to the northwest. Far from a sheltered passage Hampshire and her escorts now found themselves battling high winds and heavy seas.  The two destroyers struggled to keep up with the heavier Hampshire and soon were falling far behind.  They were ordered to return to base and Hampshire went on a lone pitching and rolling in the Force 9 winds, but maintaining a speed of 13.5 knots.

When she was about one and a half miles offshore between Marwick Head and the Brough of Birsay a rumbling explosion shook the whole ship tearing a huge hole in her keel between her bridge and her bow after she hit a mine believed to have been from the mine laying German submarine U-75.  The helm jammed and the lights gradually went out as the power failed.  She immediately began to settle into the water and clouds of brown suffocating smoke poured out from below decks. The crew streamed aft away from the explosion.  A call went out "Make way for Lord Kitchener" and he passed by, clad in a greatcoat and went up the after hatch.  He was never seen again and it is assumed that he went down with the ship.

The wreck of HMS Hampshire now lies in 70 metres, upside down and largely intact bar the bow section which has been devastated by the mine explosion and the more recent attention of salvage hunters.  For more information on the ship and her last fateful voyage go to http://hmshampshire.org/


Mike Guilfoyle
Vice-Chair FOBLC