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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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

Mike Guilfoyle
Vice-Chair FOBLC

Battle of Jutland centenary: Able Seaman Arthur Mark Lane ( 1893-1916)

Destruction of the British Armoured Cruiser HMS Black Prince during the night of 31st May 1916 at the Battle of Jutland: painting by German artist Willy Stower.

On the boundary between the two cemeteries aside a roughly trodden pathway lies a faded headstone inscription that reminds the onlooker of one of the last fateful engagements during the greatest naval battle of the Great War fought in two main phases over 36 hours in the North Sea 60 miles off the coast of Denmark at Jutland ( also known as the Skagerrak) on Wednesday 31st May/ Thursday 1st June 1916  (the clash is also referred to as Der Tag-The Day) between the British Grand Fleet under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe aka 'Hellfire Jack' and the Imperial German Hochseeflotte (High Seas Fleet) under Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, involving a total of almost 250 ships and 100,000 men which is in terms of combined tonnage the largest naval battle in history. The defining sea battle of the war, its intense ferocity resulted in the deaths of 6,092 sailors of the Royal Navy and 2,551 German seamen. Both sides claimed victory in what was an indecisive action, but though numerically a German success,  the fact was that the Grand Fleet was ready for action the following day and the High Seas fleet having returned to port never again seriously threatened British naval supremacy.  Jutland was undoubtedly a strategic British victory, but for many at home it came to be viewed as a missed opportunity to annihilate the enemy.  Winston Churchill' made the famously barbed observation on Admiral Jellicoe's tactics at the battle, 'the only man who could have lost the war in an afternoon', 

Able seaman Arthur Lane served on HMS Black Prince which was launched at the famous Thames Ironworks at Blackwall in 1904 and was a 13,550 ton Armoured Battle cruiser. At the outbreak of war she was stationed in the Mediterranean. At the Battle of Jutland whilst under the command of Captain T P Bonham RN she lost contact with the rest of the British Fleet. At 08.48 pm she wired that she had sighted a submarine. No one in the British Fleet witnessed her catastrophic end but it was presumed that she had either been torpedoed or struck a mine. A German account however reports that “Black Prince” headed towards their lines at around mid-night and her crew did not realise their mistake until too late. In attempting to turn the vessel round it presented a broadside to the German Fleet gunners and the battleship “Thuringen” opened fire. With several German ships within 1,000 yards the “Black Prince”was sunk within 15 minutes, after burning for a few minutes and at 12.10 am she exploded with the loss of all hands. A total of 37 officers, 815 men and 5 civilians were lost in the grey waters of the North Sea including Able Seaman Lane of Lower Sydenham who is also remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.  This clash of the Dreadnoughts will also feature prominently as one of the Governments six iconic landmark battles of World War One (the only naval conflict) in its centenary year.

Mike Guilfoyle
Vice-Chair FOBLC