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


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Private Graham Charles Hines Bulford (1895-1916): Soldier killed at the Somme

Part hidden by a spangle of dotted vegetation in a grove alongside one of the inner pathways close to the boundary between the two cemeteries lies the Bulford family grave.

The son of Charles and Ada Bulford of 57 Adelaide Avenue, Brockley (lying opposite the green expanse of Hilly Fields) Graham’s name appears in a 1911 London Gazette post as a Temporary Boy Clerk before he enlisted as a private in the 2nd Battalion, Eastern Ontario Regiment, Canadian Infantry (Canadian Expeditionary Force) Service number: 444226. He died in action on the Somme, aged just 21 on 12th October 1916.

Canadian Soldiers Fixing Bayonets Before An Attack On The Somme
The following extract on Canadians on the Somme is from the Veterans Affairs Canada website.
The Battle of the Somme was not a one day affair and the fighting continued, notably with a largely successful dawn attack by the British on July 14, through the summer months. In late August 1916, the "Byng Boys" moved from the muddy fields of Flanders to the Somme, where they took over a section of the front line west of the village of Courcelette. They ran into heavy fighting and suffered some 2,600 casualties before the full-scale offensive even got underway.

In the major offensive which began at dawn on September 15 the Canadian Corps, on the extreme left of the attack, assaulted on a 2,000 metre sector west of the village of Courcelette. Advancing behind a creeping barrage (a tactic which had recently been introduced by the British, a consequence of adequately trained gunners, more and better guns and more reliable ammunition), the infantry was aided by the "new engine of war," the armoured tank. There were only a few of these and they were extremely unreliable and very vulnerable to artillery fire. However, at this early stage of the war their sheer presence often threw the enemy into confusion. The attack went well. By 8 a.m., the main objective, a defence bastion known as the Sugar Factory, was taken, and the Canadians pushed ahead to Courcelette. Numerous German counter-attacks were successfully repulsed and by the next day the position was consolidated. The enemy then brought up reinforcements, the fighting intensified, and gains became microscopic.
Canadian Recruitment Poster

In the weeks that followed the three Canadian divisions again and again attacked a series of German entrenchments. The final Canadian objective was that "ditch of evil memory," Regina Trench. It repeatedly defied capture, and when the first three divisions were relieved in the middle of October, Regina Trench was closer, but still not taken.

When the newly arrived 4th Division took its place in the line it faced an almost unbelievable ordeal of knee-deep mud and violent, tenacious, enemy resistance. However, despite the almost impenetrable curtain of fire, on November 11 the Division captured Regina Trench—to find it reduced to a mere depression in the chalk. A week later, in the final attack of the Somme, the Canadians advanced to Desire Trench—a remarkable feat of courage and endurance. The 4th Division then rejoined the Corps opposite Vimy Ridge.

There were no further advances that year. The autumn rains turned the battlefield into a bog and the offensive staggered to a halt. The line had been moved forward only ten kilometres, though ground of itself was not particularly important except in terms of morale. The Allies had suffered some 650,000 casualties, and both sides had about 200,000 killed. The Germans refer to the Battle of the Somme as das Blutbad—the blood bath. One German officer described the Somme as "the muddy graveyard of the German Army," for the British it turned an army of eager, inexperienced recruits into a fighting machine on a par with those of France and Germany, but at a terrible cost in human life.

The Somme had cost Canada 24,029 casualties, but it was here that the Canadians confirmed their reputation as hard-hitting shock troops. "The Canadians," wrote Lloyd George, "played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked out as storm troops; for the remainder of the war they were brought along to head the assault in one great battle after another. Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst."
Second Canadian cemetery at Sunken Road, Contalmaison ( Somme, France) in which Private Bulford whose death age 21 was recorded as 12th October 1916 lies buried. He is also remembered on the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa, Canada.

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