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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Russian aviator and inventor Captain Sergei Alexandrovich Oulianine (aka Ulyanin) 1871 -1921

Part hidden off the pathway heading towards the near seamless boundary between Ladywell and Brockley cemeteries, topped by a broken cruciform headstone, lies the final resting place of the distinguished Russian aviator and inventor Captain Sergei Alexandrovich Oulianine (aka Ulyanin) 1871-1921.   He lies buried alongside his wife Ludmilla Oulianine (1887-1970)

Captain Ulyanin was based at the famous Imperial Air force flying school in Gatchina (Petrograd, now St Petersburg).  This was the first aviation school in Russia and as its head he was responsible for the training of a galaxy of outstanding airmen at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914.   His name was almost as legendary as some of his former students who became internationally recognised as fighter aces including the prolific aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky, and Pyotr Nesterov,  the founder of aerobatics, including the famous death loop. 
A Russian Pilot by Vassily Svarog (cover of the Solntse Rossii monthly, ca. 1916)

The first aerial photographs were taken over Paris in 1858 by French photographer and balloonist Gaspard- FĂ©lix Tournachon. In Russia, aerial photography was pioneered by Lieutenant Alexander Kovanko and Dimitry Mendeleev the scientist better known for creating the periodic table.  In 1885, they set up a park for training army officers in aeronautics and aerial photography. But in the 1890s, Captain Sergei Ulyanin's noted enthusiasm and technical expertise led to the development of box-shaped kites especially for aerial photography.

Ulyanin’s 19th century “drones” could carry a camera either as it went aloft or be the receptacle for one sent up the string on a small cart once the kite was airborne. Sergei Ulyanin had also invented a type of aerial camera that was built specifically for aircraft and was ideal for military use. The camera had a pneumatic altimeter and a clock that time-coded the 13x13cm images. Indeed Ulyanin type kites had been used as a part of aerial reconnaissance and the mapping of terrain during the disastrous Russo-Japanese War of 1904 -1905.  However it was not automatic and had to be operated manually from the aircraft. Certainly determining the coordinates of enemy forces became an essential aspect of contemporary warfare in light of the stalemate of trench warfare, intense artillery bombardments and the protecting or assaulting of fortified positions.  As the aircraft had to fly at low altitude  around 5,000 feet)and as they were not armoured the risk of being shot down was considerable. The longest siege of the First World War at the Austro-Hungarian fortress of Przemysl (present day Poland) from 1914 -1915 witnessed the extensive use of aerial photography by the Russian Imperial air force. By April 1917 a total of 77 Russian aircraft had been fitted with Ulyanin's camera.

This remarkable photograph shows Captain Ulyanin meeting Tsar Nicholas II,
believed to have been taken on a visit to Gatchina on 26th October 1911. 

It remains a mystery how this remarkable man who as a Russian engineer, balloonist, and military pilot, creator of the collapsible aircraft and the initiator of aerial photography in the Russian military, arrived in London.   Possibly it was as an emigre following the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917 after the October Revolution and bloody Civil War.  Not far from where families now fly kites on Hillyfields lies the spot in Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries where Captain Ulyanin lies quietly interred,  inventor the aerial kites which helped the Russian military gain an edge at the outset of the Great War before the use of airplanes became more widespread and whose memory is still held in such considerable esteem for his contribution to aviation history.

War poet David Jones commemorated with maroon plaque

The unveiled plaque to David Jones
On Wednesday 2nd December at 67 Arabin Road, SE4 there was an unveiling of a maroon plaque to commemorate the Great War poet, soldier and artist David Jones (1895-1974), who is buried in the  Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries. Born in Brockley in 1895 he served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers during the Great War, having interrupted his studies at Camberwell Art School, and was wounded at the Battle of Mametz Wood during the Somme Offensive in July 1916. Of all the Great War poets he served the longest on the Western Front and his superb poetic memoir 'In Parenthesis' published in 1937 won the prestigious literary award The Hawthorden Prize and was described by writer T.S. Eliot as a 'work of genius'.  A convert to Catholicism, he spent time with the sculptor and artist Eric Gill and his calligraphy and brilliant artistic outpourings were compared by the art historian Kenneth Clark to those of the artist William Blake. He suffered greatly from the trauma of the trenches which resulted in nervous breakdowns and much of his artistic imagery is defined by these formative experiences.  Following the publication of his second long poem 'The Anathemata' in 1952 his critical acclaim as a poet and artist merited the accolade from Poet WH Auden as' probably the finest long poem written in English this century'. David Jones died in Harrow in 1974 and was buried in the family grave in Ladywell cemetery.  On November 11th 1985  the Poet Laureate Ted Hughes unveiled a memorial stone in Poets Corner Westminster Abbey to sixteen Great War poets including David Jones.

Vice-chair Mike Guilfoyle and Nicholas Elkin 
great-nephew of David Jones 

The campaign to recognise Brockley's most illustrious poet, soldier, artist has been spearheaded by the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries and all the funding to pay for the maroon plaque was sourced from the generous donations of admirers of David Jones with the support of the Homeowners and Lewisham Archives.  The maroon plaque celebrates the achievements of former residents of Lewisham Borough. The unveiling was undertaken by Nicholas Elkin, trustee of the David Jones Society and great nephew of the war poet, Nicholas Elkin, seen above with Mike Guilfoyle, Vice-chair of FOBLC.

There is also a video of some of the event on YouTube

The unveiling of the plaque to David Jones has been widely covered in the local press including the South London Press.

Commonwealth War Graves Tour

Commonwealth War Graves Tour 22/11/15 2pm to 3:30pm, meet Ladywell Chapel
Our next guided walk will concentrate on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials in Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries as part of their Living Memory Project. .  We are also intending to have a small relevant display of photos and other information in the Ladywell Chapel from 1:30pm to 3:30pm.

The walk will start at 2pm on Sunday 22nd November and we'll meet at the Chapel.   Please come along, and encourage your friends and neighbours to join us

Remembrance Sunday Event on Sunday 8th November

This Sunday 8th November from 10.55am - 12noon the FOBLC will be holding a Remembrance Sunday event. Please come and join us!  We meet at the Ladywell Cross of Sacrifice for wreath-laying, then walk via three points of interest to the Brockley Heroes corner for the final wreath-laying.

'Brockley Cemetery' poem wins poetry competition

Congratulation to Jake Kirner’s whose poem ‘Brockley Cemetery’ won the inaugural HopCroft Neighbourhood Forum poetry competition.  The judges commented that 'This poem did a fantastic job of celebrating and evoking the tranquillity, emotion and deep-rooted personal feeling that anyone who has ever visited Brockley Cemetery will understand.'  We agree !

Brockley Cemetery – by Jake Kirner

‘Dear’ strangely dispassionate;
used equally to friends, foes and strangers.
‘My dear’, little more than jovial;
the Luvvies’ favourite point of address.
Therefore, for now, your name will stand alone
above the letter I’m about to write,
for, at this point in casual proceedings,
I mean not to indulge in artifice.

Cara, I hope this letter finds you well
(an awful lot can change within a week)
I trust your newest home awards you much
a sense of independence and relief.

Whilst some enjoy the sight of their possessions
arranged just so,to cast upon their room
an imprint from their years of acquisitions,
I wish only to know I needn’t move.

For movement between two destinations
requires one to discipline the mind
and count each penny, measure every hour;
accounting food, democratising time.

The latter I particularly deplore.
They call it ‘Chronos’ – dividing each hour
as if it were no different to the last,
a logic to which we all too often cower.

And even in those favourable places,
the parks, cafes, the bookshops and museums,
I still find I’m prevented from escaping
the various constraints upon my being.

But one place, too infrequently I visit,
provides me with a greater peace of mind,
perhaps because it deals only in death
and thus transcends the tyranny of time

Walking through the cemetery, I have
often found a lightness from inquisition,
the passions of mankind, in their absence,
illuminating many an inner-vision

such as how little poetry would matter
if life was ever servant to the truth
and how many a dear, hopeless endeavour
is best the means by which we can improve

upon our flawed but far from pointless
time spent treading hours upon this earth,
seeking something describable as peace
within a mind – by want and conflict – ever cursed.

And so, my dear neighbour and newest friend,
I wish to extend to you the mere gift
of an afternoon amidst the grass and flowers,
the gravestones and all else that has come to live

along the paths of Brockley Cemetery
where it would be my great pleasure to share
with you the serenity of the scene
whilst taking in the cleansing autumn air.

I leave enclosed my number and address.
A knock upon my door, always a pleasure
– especially spontaneous arrivals
who’s offering of time is their sole endeavour.