Our October club visit to Brookwood could not have been more timely. In the week in which the Eastern Med. is experiencing its most destructive outburst of conflict and suffering in years and Ukrainian forces continue their struggle to resist Russia’s invading forces it was a sobering experience to visit the UK’s largest military cemetery.
Here amongst the headstones of the 5,600 graves of those who lost their lives in this country as a result of service in the last century’s two World Wars we were reminded yet again of our humanity’s inability to learn from history.
Welcomed by Commonwealth War Grave volunteers Mike and Georgina we started our visit by taking a moment to remember our fellow Moleside member Michael Wellby who laid the foundations for this visit at the turn of the year before suffering a serious accident from which he tragically did not recover.
We know he would have wanted us to make the visit and our events coordinator Andrew Bogle was delighted to make sure that it happened as Michael envisaged.
First established towards the end of the 1914-18 War, and later extended to include those who lost their lives as a result of service on this side of the Channel in the 1939-45 war, there are almost 40 acres here of carefully maintained lawns, pathways, hedgerows, trees and simple elegantly tendered flower beds.
Each plot has a uniform style of gravestone, and the principle here is equality. Whether senior officer or of more humble rank each memorial is configured the same way. Many of them carrying personal inscriptions requested by those who knew and loved them.
Along with the Canadians and other member countries of the Commonwealth, in the two hours of our visit we saw plots dedicated to the Polish, Czechoslovakian, American, Scandinavian and French who lost their lives in our homeland during the two major conflicts of the 20th Century.
I am sure that many of the 15 of us who made the visit will not forget learning that at least one of the graves here is German. An enemy bomber pilot who had to bale out over London and died in the land which he was attacking at the time is also buried here in Brookwood – a simple reminder that all lives that are lost as a result of war ought to be respected as an encouragement always to seek for peace.
A very leisurely lunch at Pirbright’s White Hart concluded a moving and much appreciated Moleside visit. Thanks to Andrew for making the final arrangements.
For reports on other recent Moleside visits click TAGs below.