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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Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries (FoBLC)



10.45am – 12.15pm approx

Meet at the Ladywell Cemetery Cross of Sacrifice

There will be a brief introduction to the significance of the event

Following the 2 minute silence:

Wreath laying at the Cross of Sacrifice
Ladywell Cemetery

Walk to the Brockley War Memorial via
three relevant memorials

including 2nd Lt. T. A. Challis MC of the Tank Corps
where a veteran of the Tank Regiment will lay a wreath.

Wreath laying at the Brockley Cemetery War Memorial.

Join us for all or part of the event. 

All welcome.

Thomas Archie Challis MC (1893 to 3rd Nov 1918), 2nd Lieutenant 13th Tank Corps, A Coy

Thomas Archie Challis was born in Walworth in 1893 to parents Charles and Rosa. He had two elder brothers - William and Charles, a younger brother Harold and sister Isabel. Charles, Thomas' father worked as a general labourer and then as a sewerman or flusher for London County Council.
Thomas is recorded as living at 8 Larcom Street, Walworth (1901 census), 201 Franciscan Road, Tooting (1911 census) and 26 Merritt Road, Crofton Park (1918 probate calendar). Thomas was recorded as Archie on the 1901 census so that may have been the name by which his family called him.

Thomas was working as an office boy at 1911. He is recorded on his medal roll as having served as a Lt Sergeant in the ACC (Army no 13443), a Sergeant in the MGC (Army no 114414) and a 2nd Lieutenant in the 13th Tank Corps, A Coy. Thomas was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the Military Cross. He was awarded the MC for his actions on 8th August when in action with the Australian infantry advancing between Warfusee and Harbonieres. At 8.20 that morning his tank, Mouswald, was fired on by German field guns and was hit four times and put out of action. Challis continued on foot with machine guns and the remainder of his crew.

Supplement to the London Gazette 1 February 1919
T./2nd Lt. Thomas Archie Challis, 13th Btn., Tank Corps
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty near Bayonvillers on 8 August
1918. He attacked three batteries of field guns and received three direct hits on his Tank which wounded some of the crew. In spite of this he continued to advance and endeavoured to silence the batteries with his guns. His Tank having received a fourth hit, which entirely disabled it, he got out of it and in the face of heavy artillery and machine- gun fire went forward with his machine guns and remainder of his crew and engaged the enemy. The resistance of the batteries was finally overcome, and the Tanks were enabled to continue their advance.

Thomas was wounded on the 23 August 1918 and returned to England to convalesce in Ashton Court Military Hospital in Long Ashton, Bristol. Thomas died of pneumonia and influenza at Ashton Court Hospital. The informant was M L Bryant, Commandant, Ashton Court Hospital. (information from a family tree on He is buried in Ladywell Cemetery (Plot C1884)
Photo courtesy of Find a Grave

The following is a letter written by T A Challis written whilst convalescing in Ashton Court Hospital, Bristol and printed in Dumfries and Galloway Standard 14 September 1918. (scanned in by Jackie13 on Mouswald is south of Dumfries just off the A75

‘Mouswald’ Tank in Action - Commander’s Interesting letter
The following letter has been received by the clerk of Mouswald Parish Council. The tank referred to and an aeroplane were acquired as the result of the War Loan Week in Mouswald last April:-
Ashton Court Hopsital, Bristol, 8 September, 1918
To the inhabitants of Mouswald, -
I am writing to let you know that in France I was commanding a tank named ‘Mouswald’ after your Parish, and thought therefore you would be pleased to know what good work it has done. During June and July of this year, with other tanks my tank was in reserve and in case of necessity at Heilly, just behind Morlancourt, north of the Somme river. Towards the end of July we were relieved, and did some practising with the Australian troops behind the line. These practices were to everybody’s advantage, as it was later proved in action. During one of these practices, Sir Douglas Haig witnessed my tank at work and complimented my section commander on my work. He seemed extremely delighted at the ability of my tank to turn quickly, and was also surprised at its speed. The tank was one of the latest large fighting type. We afterward were pleased to be sent into the line again, and were in action on August 8th with the Australian Infantry. We advanced between Warfusee and Harbonieres on that day, and I went forward at about 8.20a.m. We had not gone far (about 600-800 yards) when we fell among the German Field guns, who fired at us at a distance of about 50 yards. He fired 6 shots, and the tank was hit 4 times, being unfortunately put out of action with the last shot. We felt very downhearted at being put out of action so early in the show, but I knew that I had drawn fire on my tank, and so kept it off the infantry. We were certainly by no means done, however, and I took my crew forward with my machine guns. The tank was only temporarily out of action, and. If not already, soon it will be on the fighting list again. I would like to be with it as it was certainly a good tank, and I had it looked after very carefully. Unfortunately, however, I shall not be going out again just yet, as I was wounded on August 23rd when in action with another tank.
While resting here in convalescence I thought I would write to you, as I felt sure you would want to know what work the tank did that was named after your parish. 

Believe me, yours very sincerely,

T A Challis, 2nd Lt, Tank Corps

Information researched, written and provided by Anne Williams, a friend of Bob Swiniarski who often walks in this cemetery.

Remembering Private Elkins, torpedoed on the R.M.S Leinster 10th October 1918 in ' Ireland's worst maritime disaster'

Located on the berm that lies between the two cemeteries on the Ladywell side pathway is found the Elkins family grave. Private Thomas Elkins ( Middlesex Yeomanry) aged 36 years, Husband of Mabel Duncan Elkins, 39, Byne Road, Sydenham, was aboard the Royal Mail Ship ( RMS) Leinster when it was sunk by a German submarine U-123 shortly after leaving Dublin on the 10th October 1918.

Thomas Elkins who was born in Poplar in 1881 was a military passenger on board R.M.S. Leinster which was sunk by two torpedoes in the Irish Sea, 16 miles east of Dublin, shortly before 10am on the morning of 10th October 1918, on its outbound journey of 68 miles from Kingstown [now Dun Laoghaire] Dublin, to Holyhead, Anglesey, North Wales. It was Ireland's worst maritime disaster.

RMS Leinster carried 771 passengers and crew and was commanded by Captain William Birch (61), a Dubliner who had settled with his family in Holyhead. Apart from Birch, the Leinster had a crew of 76, drawn from the ports of Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) and Holyhead. Also on board were 22 postal sorters from Dublin Post Office, working in the ship's onboard postal sorting room. There were 180 civilian passengers, men, women and children

But by far the greatest numbers of passengers on board the Leinster were military personnel. Many of them were going on leave or returning from leave. They came from Ireland, Britain, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia. On the Western Front the German Army was being pushed back by the relentless assaults of the Allied armies. On 4 October Germany had asked U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for peace terms. As the Leinster set sail the weather was fine, but the sea was rough following recent storms. Earlier that morning a number of Royal Navy ships at sea off Holyhead were forced to return to port due to the stormy conditions

Shortly before 10 a.m. about 16 miles from Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) a few people on the deck of the Leinster saw a torpedo approaching the port (left) side of the ship. It missed the Leinster, passing in front of her. Soon afterwards another torpedo struck the port side where the postal sorting room was located. Postal Sorter John Higgins said that the torpedo exploded, blowing a hole in the port side. The explosion travelled across the ship, also blowing a whole in the starboard side.
In an attempt to return to port, the Leinster turned 180 degrees, until it faced the direction from which it had come. With speed reduced and slowly sinking, the ship had sustained few casualties. Lifeboats were being launched. At this point a torpedo struck the ship on the starboard (right) side, practically blowing it to pieces. The Leinster sank soon afterwards, bow first. Among those who died, including nineteen year old Josephine Carr, a shorthand typist from Cork. She was the first ever member of the Wrens (Women's Royal Naval Service) to be killed on active service.

Thomas Elkins –Middlesex Yeomanry -10.10.18 aged 36. He is buried at Grangegorman Military Cemetery (CWGC) Co. Dublin

Ironically the U Boat that sank her was herself lost soon after. The UB-123 was probably lost in a minefield in the North Sea on its way back to Germany, on or about 19 October 1918. The bodies of her commander Robert Ramm and his crew of two officers and thirty-three men were never recovered.

Another casualty of the sinking is separately remembered on a family headstone a short distance from the Elkins family grave – Dulwich born Captain Frank Winterbourn (1890-1918) London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers). He is also buried at Grangegorman.

The Friends group have been in contact with author Philip Lecane, who’s powerfully moving book on the sinking ‘Torpedoed’ tells the stories of many of the people who sailed on the last fateful voyage of the R.M.S. Leinster.

Between July and December 2018 the National Maritime Museum, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, will host a new exhibition to mark the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Leinster on 10 October 1918. The RMS Leinster was originally built for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company to service its route across the Irish Sea, and had been pressed into service during the First World War. The sinking of the Leinster remains the single biggest maritime disaster ever recorded in the Irish Sea, and will be marked by a full commemorative programme in late 2018.

Death of a Local Hero : Major Charles Edward Fysh DSO MC and Bar. Killed in Action on the Marne, France July 28th 1918

Major Charles Edward Fysh
Major Charles Edward Fysh (1894-1918)
Located alongside one of the inner pathways in Ladywell cemetery lies the headstone (see photograph below) on which the name of Major Charles Edward Fysh is inscribed with those of his parents. He was with British troops taking part in Marshal Foch’s large scale and highly successful counter offensive of the River Marne in July 1918, which proved to be the start of an unbroken series of Allied successes termed 'The Hundred Days Offensive' lasting until the November 11th Armistice.

The headstone will be visited on a Guided Walk: The Final Push on Sunday 9th September 2pm – 3.30pm. The walk commemorates  the final efforts to end the First World War and will visit other relevant headstones and memorials.
Headstone with name of Major Charles Edward Fysh inscribed alongside those of his parents.
It was whilst serving with the 6th battalion Seaforth Highlanders that he was killed on 28 July 1918 at Chaumuzy on the Marne while holding the rank of Acting Lieutenant Colonel. He had attended Colfe's School from 1906-1911 and was 23 when he was killed having earlier joined the Seaforth Highlanders on the outbreak of war from his university Officer Training Corps.  The London Gazette of 24 July 1917 carries the citation for his first Military Cross : “ For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in leading his company in a successful counter-attack upon the enemy. He afterwards personally reconnoitred and cleared up the situation in front of his line, taking command of another company which had lost its commander and establishing strong posts and communication with both flanks. His promptness and initiative were most marked. ”

His second MC was Gazetted on 23 July 1918 :”For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. It was mainly owing to this officer's courage and determination in command of a company that the line held throughout two days' fighting. He continued his fine work during the three following days, constantly exposed to machine-gun fire, and by encouraging his men inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.

The citation for his Distinguished Service Order Gazetted on 13 September 1918 reads : “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in command of his battalion in action. He displayed great capabilities for organisation, rallying men of other units and leading them forward through heavy fire to posts from which they were able to inflict severe loss on the enemy. He made repeated reconnaissances to the front and flanks, regardless of his own safety, and on one occasion it was mainly due to his good work that the enemy failed to effect a crossing over a canal.”

He is buried in the churchyard of the village of St Imoges near Epernay
(Inline image)  churchyard of the village of St Imoges near Epernay

The Fysh family have a very distinguished lineage - one relative Sir Philip Oakley Fysh became Premier of Tasmania and another was Sir Wilmot Hudson Fysh, KBE, DFC who became a famous Australian aviator during the Great War in the Middle Eastern Campaigns and was the founder of the Australian airline company Qantas
Inline image

Messages, Medals, and Memorials – public art exhibition in Ladywell Cemetery Chapel Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th September 11am – 4pm

Messages, Medals, and Memorials – a public art exhibition which will be in the Chapel of the Ladywell Cemetery on Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th September 11am – 4pm, commemorates the contribution of Colonial troops and the Labour Corps to the war effort in the First World War. Though never fully acknowledged, Europe's Great War was a war of colonials and a colonial theatre of war. Over 4 million African, Indian, Caribbean and other colonial troops and personnel played a crucial role in supporting the Allied cause in World War I. The Labour Corps, formed in January 1917, grew to some 389,900 men, more than 10% of the total size of the Army by the Armistice on 11th November 1918.

In sharp contrast to notions of duty, honour and fighting for King and Country, Colonial troops and Labour corps faced a whole range of inequalities in military and non-military equipment, mobility and privileges that separated them from their white counterparts. Non-white colonial troops and labour corps were routinely segregated, closely watched, subject to curfews and other restrictions.

Messages, Medals, and Memorials through the artworks on display tells the stories of their lives before the war, their war service and their heroism, as well as the memorials that stand as a testament to their sacrifice. Nicky Scott-Francis explores the war service of the Gurkhas. Sara Scott will focus on the Sikh soldiers of the Indian Army who lost at least 174,187 soldiers during the war. Monica Wheeler tells the story of black soldier Walter Tull, whilst Louse Kosinska looks at the contribution of the North and South African Labour Corps. Elizabeta Chojak-Mysko draws attention to the Chinese Labour Corps, the soldiers of ‘menial chores’ who worked 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. Jill Rock and Jolanta Jagiello uncover the truly forgotten ‘soldiers’, Jill Rock commemorating the 210,000 Irishmen who served in the British forces, with Jolanta Jagiello highlighting Conscientious Objectors who refused to kill and were imprisoned for their beliefs fighting in the name of peace.

The exhibition was originally funded by Southwark Council Neighbourhood Fund and is curated by Jolanta Jagiello.  The exhibition is in the Chapel of the Ladywell Cemetery, Ladywell Road, SE13 7HY on Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th September 11am – 4pm. and