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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NUNHEAD CEMETERY OPEN DAY Saturday 19th May 11am – 5pm

The FOBLC will again be having a stall at this event organised by the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery. It's a great day, hopefully see you there!

RAF Centenary Guided Walk - Sunday 29th April at 2pm (Ladywell Gate)

A British Avro Lancaster bomber over Hamburg, 1943

Please join us to Commemorate 100 years of the formation of the Royal Air Force out of the Royal Flying Corps.

The guided walk led by Foblc historians Peter, Mike and Mick will visit some of the family graves of those who lost their lives in both World Wars serving in the RAF/RFC as well as civilians killed by enemy action.

Meet at the Ladywell Road gate.

All welcome.

Spring Flowers walk Sunday 22nd April guided by Tom Moulton and Pete Robinson

Please join us for a Spring Flowers walk around the Brockley & Ladywell cemeteries on Sunday 22 April, starting from the Ladywell Gates at 2pm. The walk will be led by Tom Moulton and Pete Robinson whose flower survey of the cemeteries can be found here. We'll also be listening out for the birds with a chance of hearing blackcap, chiffchaff, green woodpecker and song thrush. If the weather's particularly good on the day, we may even see one or two butterflies.

Cuckoo Flower, Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries

Spring flowers had been getting a lot of rain, so now that the sunshine has materialised we should find a colourful range of flowers on the 22nd - some wild, some planted. Hopefully, these will include bluebells, lesser celandine, cow parsley, primroses and the cuckoo flower - a survivor from the days when the cemeteries were meadow land over a hundred and fifty years ago.

The walk should last between 60-90 minutes

Louis 'Dri' Drysdale (1883-1933): Famous Jamaican tenor buried in Brockley & Ladywell cemeteries

Finding out recently from records that the famous Jamaican tenor and singing professor, Louis 'Dri' Drysdale, was buried in Ladywell cemetery was a particularly welcome if serendipitous discovery.   Dri as he was popularly called died aged 49 years at his home on Westbourne Road, Forest Hill in March 1933.  Although the whereabouts of his grave are known it seems that any headstone has been lost due to WW2 bomb damage . However his long forgotten story is wonderfully captured on the Jamaica.History website

Dri arrived in the UK as a part of the  Kingston Choral Union which became famous as the 'Jamaica Choir' during its two tours extending from 1906 to 1908. Several members, including Dri decided to stay on to make use of the opportunities to improve their musical skills.

The Kingston Choral Union of Jamaica, renamed the Native Choir from Jamaica, left the island on 4 January 1906 for Bristol and then to Liverpool where they were to appear at the colonial products exhibition for entrepreneur Alfred Lewis Jones. Led by T. Ellis Jackson, with pianist Harry Nation, the males were Louis George Drysdale, Carlton Bryan, J. T. Loncke

( photograph courtesy of Historian Jeffrey Green -whose excellent website has as its main focus the activities of black people in Britain ca 1830-ca 1940-

With the backing of Sir Alfred Jones, Dri was able to study at the Royal College of Music with outstanding operatic performers of the day. He then made a very successful career training singers, using the finest Italian methods. Although it does not seem that he ever returned to Jamaica, and he and his first wife were divorced around 1911, he maintained strong links with the island.

From the Daily Gleaner, October 31, 1924
Lovers of music in Jamaica will be interested to learn that Mr. Louis Drysdale, the tenor singer who was a member of the Jamaica Choir which left here under Mr. T. Ellis Jackson to sing at the Liverpool Exhibition in 1906, is a teacher of singing in the Italian method and a specialist in breath control, diction, phrasing and style in London. He studied at the Royal College of Music with Gustave Garcia, and under such other distinguished masters as Prof. Giovanni Clerici (Hon R.A.M., Florence), Signor Lenghi Cellini and Signor Joaquin Bayo. Mr Drysdale has had exceptional experience in training voices, his pupils being most successful. He trains pupils for opera, oratorio and the concert platform.

Testimonials to his musical influence are numerous and include some from world famous artists of the day. He was  acknowledged as one of the best teachers in singing in Europe. His palatial studio in Forest Hill, London, S.E. 23, was regarded as a Mecca of Music.:

From the Daily Gleaner, February 5, 1930
In 1930 the great Jamaican comedian, Ernest Cupidon, wrote of his recent visit to Britain 'While I was in England it was my good fortune not only to meet Mr Drysdale and his charming English wife, but to stay in their home at Forest Hill for several weeks. That Mr. Drysdale is a distinguished teacher of voice production and singing has been demonstrated by the results he has achieved.  His wife, an accomplished accompanist, is of invaluable service to his art. He has a large clientele of men and women of all nationalities, and people travel from distant parts of England to take lessons from  Mr. Drysdale.'   

In addition to his 'palatial' house at 11 Westbourne Road, Forest Hill, Dri had studios in the centre of London, one being at the Grotrian Hall on Wigmore Street. Among those mentioned as benefitting from Dri's coaching were the enormously popular American singer, Florence Mills, and the young Marian Anderson, at the start of her remarkable career. Dri offered a generous scholarship to Jamaican singers in 1930, and fellow Jamaicans were always welcome at his home.

One source noted that after Louis Drysdale died in London in 1933, he was for several years remembered by Jamaicans for his achievements, but, as has happened to so many, his name soon faded from the Jamaican memory. Lets hope that with his final resting place now known, his enduring musical legacy will once again be remembered in guided walks and other cemetery events.

Chicago Defender July 15, 1933
One of many glowing obituaries from contemporary newspapers

Lance Bombardier Sydney James Hedger- ' Died for his Country'- Dunkirk 1st June 1940 aged 21 years

British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation.
Located amidst a cluster of graves in Brockley cemetery lies the gothic shaped family headstone of the Hedger family. The stark details of Sydney James Hedger's sacrifice, lettered on the headstone, having been wounded at Dunkirk tell the viewer that ' he died for his country and us' on the 1st June 1940  aged 21 years as part of  91 Field Regiment and now lies buried in the familiar soil of South East London.  Sydney who was the son of Harry and Lily of Catford, is also remembered on the Brockley screen wall.

Hedger gravestone courtesy of Billion Graves

The recent release of the film 'Dunkirk' ( 2017) has once again brought to wider attention with its dramatic recreation of the evacuation,  an evacuation codenamed Operation Dynamo, which saw the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other allied soldiers from the French seaport of Dunkirk. By 4 June 1940, nearly 350,000 troops had been saved.

The evacuation associated with the troops trapped on Dunkirk, was called a  “miracle” by Winston Churchill. As the Wehrmacht swept through western Europe in the  spring of 1940, using Blitzkrieg, both the French and British armies could do little to halt the onslaught. For the people in Western Europe, World War Two was about to start for real. The “Phoney War” was now over.  The advancing German Army trapped the British and French armies on the beaches around Dunkirk. 330,000 men were stuck here and they were a sitting target for the Germans. Admiral Ramsey, based in Dover, formulated Operation Dynamo to get off of the beaches as many men as was possible. The British troops, led by Lord John Gort,  were professional soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force, trained men that we could ill afford to lose.

From May 26th 1940, small ships transferred soldiers to larger ones which then brought them back to ports in southern Britain. The beach at Dunkirk was on a shallow slope so no large boat could get near to the actual beaches where the men were. Therefore, smaller boats were needed to take on board men who would then be transferred to a larger boat based further off shore. 800 of these legendary “little ships” were used. It is thought that the smallest boat to make the journey across the Channel was the Tamzine – an 18 feet open topped fishing boat which is now on display at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Despite attacks from German fighter and bomber planes, the Wehrmacht never launched a full-scale attack on the beaches of Dunkirk. Panzer tank crews awaited the order from Hitler but it never came. In his memoirs, Field Marshall Rundstadt, the German commander-in-chief in France during the 1940 campaign, called Hitler’s failure to order a full-scale attack on the troops on Dunkirk his first fatal mistake of the war. That 338,000 soldiers were evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk would seem to uphold this view.

One of the reasons put forward for Hitler not ordering an attack was that he believed that Britain had suffered from the might of the Wehrmacht once and that this experience would be sufficient for Britain to come to peace terms with Hitler. For a powerfully paced narrative account of the Dunkirk Campaign the special 75th Anniversary edition of the book by Simon Sebag-Montefiore comes highly recommended.