Another visit to Brookwood had been on the cards for a while. Back in the early Spring I had made enquiries of the staff at the Brookwood Cemetery office regarding the location of my great grandparents’ grave, that of William and Annie Wakefield. Annie had died first, in 1929 and then William in 1941 and I have burial numbers for both. However, it seems that any record of the location is harder to track down than one might imagine for relatively recent burials and all that they were able to tell me was that the grave was likely to be in Woking Ground 1.
And then, going through some papers at the family home I came across a cemetery map, with an ‘x marks the spot’! Brilliant.
Armed with the new information we headed over to Brookwood and to the Woking Ground marked on the map. As we drew to a halt, we could see the name ‘Wakefield’ on a headstone! And there it was: “In loving memory of Francis Wakefield, died 4 February 1927 aged 88”. Francis??? Not exactly what I was expecting. But no, there were no additional names on the headstone and no other Wakefield graves nearby either. What a disappointment. How we came to have a map with that grave location marked on it is a mystery – maybe on a previous occasion of someone enquiring about the grave that was the only Wakefield one they could find. I don’t know, but Francis is definitely not on my family tree.
Ah well. The second objective of the day was to head to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Centenary Exhibition. Never having been to the Military Cemetery before, it took us some time to find the entrance, which is actually off the A324. However, once we entered the cemetery and parked by the Canadian building we could see that the scale of the cemetery was vast. As with all the other CWGC sites we have visited abroad, this is immaculately kept, with beautiful landscaping and planting.
The Centenary Exhibition, though not huge, is well put together and informative. It gives interesting background on how the CWGC was set up and the people involved, including of course Edwin Lutyens, who designed the Thiepval Memorial in France and Rudyard Kipling, who advised on inscriptions.
Visitors are invited to take a postcard on which is the name of a soldier buried at Brookwood, and to find the grave, photograph it and upload it to Twitter using the hashtag #CWGC100. We did this for Signalman Harold William Rupert Parkyn of the Royal Corps of Signals, who died in March 1944, aged just 18.
Volunteers take guided tours of the cemetery twice a day. Being a bit tight of time we opted to just wander around and take in the sheer scale of the cemetery, including as it does both WW1 and WW2 graves and with a large US section and French, Italian and Polish memorials, among others.
The Centenary Exhibition is on until 19 November and is open every day. I would recommend a visit. http://blog.cwgc.org/brookwood-exhibition