Now that all Lewisham Council's burial and cremation records have been uploaded to the Deceased Online database, I look at the twentieth century history of the cemeteries at Brockley and Hither Green and discover how hard the area was hit by air raids during the two world wars.
|Hither Green Cemetery|
War was declared on 4th August 1914 and on the 4th January 1915 the first official war burial at Hither Green took place. 53 year old Able Seaman Frank Finn RN 97447 of the HMS Pembroke died on the 29th at the Royal Naval Hospital in Chatham, Kent. Finn had previously served in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882-4 and left a widow, Jane Finn of 21 Medusa Road, Catford. His body was returned to South East London and he was buried in plot B 909.
|Page from the Burial Register of Hither Green Cemetery for early 1915 showing the entry (5th from top) for Able Seaman Frank Finn RN|
On the night of 19th to 20th October 1917, the Hither Green area became a victim of the war when it was hit by a 300lb bomb from a Zeppelin L45. The bomb landed in Glenview Road [now Nightingale Grove], about a mile from the cemetery, destroying 4 houses and killing 5 women and 9 children. One man, Samuel Lilly Milgate, died 5 days later of his injuries. The complete list of victims is:
- Emma Dorey (72 years)
- Frances Sarah Grant (32)
- Edith L Jenner (8)
- Annie A Kingston (18)
- Bridget Mary Kingston (16)
- Mary Elizabeth Kingston (11)
- Kathleen Violet Kingston (10)
- Richard Kingston (8)
- Thomas John Kingston (6)
- Edith Elizabeth Kingston (3)
- Elsie Margery Milgate (13)
- Leonard Alfred Milgate (8)
- Samuel Lilly Milgate (53)
- Edith Mabel Milgate (18/19)
- William James Turner (13)
After the war, the respected local historian Leland Lewis Duncan (24 August - 26 December 1923) was laid to rest in Hither Green. Duncan was born in Lewisham and lived there throughout his life. He worked as a civil servant but developed interests in history and archaeology. This led to his appointment as general editor of Challenor Smith's 1893 Index of Wills (British Record Society, 1893). He is remembered today for the extensive research he undertook on the history of Kent, including his book, The Parish Church of St Mary, Lewisham (1902), The History of the borough of Lewisham (1908) and The History of Colfe's Grammar School and a life of its founder (1910). Although he had planned to work further on his historical research when he retired, Duncan sadly died the following year. In memory of Leland L. Duncan, Lewisham Local History Society erected a gravestone to the right of the entrance of Hither Green Cemetery in 1998.
|Hither Green Cemetery|
33 of the 44 victims of this daytime raid were buried in a civilian war dead plot in Hither Green during a ceremony conducted by the Bishop of Southwark. More than 7,000 mourners attended. The image above is a close-up of a page in the burial register showing name after name of children whose place of death is given as "Sandhurst Rd. School S.E.6.". Two of the victims, 5 year old Anne Rosemary Biddle and Judith Maud Biddle, the daughters of E. J. [should be R] Biddle, appear to have been twins. Their mother, Edith Rose Biddle, served as a Private in the ATS and was killed a few months later in November 1943. She also lies buried in Hither Green.
In 2009, a number of Sandhurst Road School survivors spoke to the Daily Mail about their memories of being at school when the bomb hit. Eric Brady was then 75 but could still vividly remember the experience - which put him in hospital for 18 months. Sadly, Eric's 14 year old sister, Kitty, was one of those killed. In his account he revealed that this school and five others had been deliberately targetted by the Luftwaffe. Eric remembered that Kitty had been talking to a teacher when they heard a distant siren. She was told to go to the dining hall to tell the children there to go to the shelter, but just as she arrived, the bomb fell. At that moment, Kitty had called out to Eric. Although he tried to shelter under a table, Eric was hit by falling masonry and sustained damage to his head, arm and leg. His sister was found nearby. It was believed that she had saved his life. Eric was sent immediately to hospital and only learned of his sister's death some time later.
Air raids continued over Lewisham until March 1945. From June 1944 Germany launched the V1 "Doodlebug" attacks. Lewisham was the third hardest hit London borough by V1s (after Wandsworth and Croydon). During this period 126 civilians were killed by V1s in Lewisham.
|Image of a V-1 (Fieseler Fi 103) in flight.|
One of the worst Doodlebug attacks took place at 9.41 on the morning of Friday 28th July 1944 when shoppers and traders were hit without warning in the bustling market and high street. 28 civilians were killed out right, with at least 83 injured. By September the number of casualties had risen to 52. A full list of the victims of the raid can be found on Lewisham Local History and Archives' site at http://lewishamwarmemorials.wikidot.com/names:lewisham-high-street-v1-incident-names Burial records for those killed from Hither Green and Ladywell Cemeteries can be found in the Deceased Online database.
|Memorial at Brockley Cemetery|
|Grave of George Pitt|
|The grave of Rachel and Margaret McMillan|
Like Hither Green, the area around Brockley Cemetery was severely affected by the air raids of the First and Second World Wars. Of the original 4 chapels in Brockley and Ladywell cemeteries, 3 were destroyed between 1940 and 1945. Many memorials were also damaged or destroyed. As family historians, it is important to bear this is mind when searching for ancestors' graves. Fortunately, all the records have survived and are searchable on the database.
|Trees in a peaceful corner of Brockley Cemetery|