Brookwood Military Cemetery is located 3 miles west of Woking (Surrey), located right next to Brookwood Rail Station and the privately-owned Brookwood (Civil) Cemetery.
In May 1917, with the establishment of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it was recognised that a cemetery for the burial of Commonwealth personnel who had died as a result of war wounds on the Western Front, of sickness or in training accidents was required. The Military Cemetery was expanded for the burial and commemoration of Second World War casualties. It is unique for a CWGC war cemetery, in that there are two Stones of Remembrance and two Cross of Sacrifices.
Brookwood Military Cemetery is divided into several sections, according to the nationality and the war in which the casualty died.
CANDIAN RECORDS BUILDING and SECTION
The Canadian Records Building, designed by Edward Maufe, was a gift of the Canadian Government and was constructed by Canadian Royal Engineers. One of these engineers sculptured the Canadian beaver, located above the door. Inside the building are painted pictures of the Canadian coat of arms and battle honours and badges of the Canadian armed forces.
Brookwood Military Cemetery contains 326 WWI and 2405 WII Canadian casualties; the vast majority in the Canadian Section.
On 19 August 1942, a force (of over 6000 men) with a large Canadian contingent attacked the French port of Dieppe (Operation Jubilee). Over 60% of this force were either killed or captured. The Canadian wounded who managed to return, but then died of their wounds, are located in Plot 38.
The Canadian Section also contains the graves of two Canadians who were posthumously awarded the George Cross: Corporal James Hendry and Sergeant John Rennie.
B/28593 Corporal James Hendry, 1st Tunnelling Company, Royal Canadian Engineers was aged 29 years’ old when he was killed.
On 13 June 1941, Corporal Hendry was in charge of a working party in a powder magazine at Loch Laggan in Scotland. Upon detecting that a fire had broken out, Corporal Hendry managed to get all his working party clear of the danger area. He then went back into the magazine to try and extinguish the fire. However, the magazine then exploded killing Corporal Hendry.
B/45960 Sergeant John Rennie, 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s) was aged 23 years’ old when he was killed.
On 29 October 1943, Sergeant Rennie was conducting a grenade training exercise at a Canadian Training Camp at Slough, Buckinghamshire. A grenade had been thrown, but did not clear the protective embankment and rolled back into the throwing area. Despite having plenty of time to get clear, Sergeant Rennie ran forward putting himself between the live grenade and the rest of his training party. Whilst attempting to pick up and throw the grenade clear, it exploded mortally wounding Sergeant Rennie.
THE BROOKWOOD MEMORIAL
The Brookwood Memorial was designed by Ralph Hobday and unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958. It commemorates 3438 men and women of the Commonwealth land forces who died during World War II and have no known grave. They died in the 1940 Norway campaign, in raids on Occupied Europe (including the 1942 Dieppe raid) and as special agents.
EXECUTED CRIMALS ON THE BROOKWOOD MEMORIAL
There are 17 people convicted of murder, executed by hanging and commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial. As was the usual practice, executed persons were buried within the prisons where they were executed. The Army failed to follow the example of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, who discharged the condemned person before their execution.
The Army’s policy meant that the men were executed whilst members of the Army during the 1939 to 1947; the period used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for World War Two casualties. As they were members of the Army when they died, and they have no ‘known’ grave then they met the criteria for commemoration on the Brookwood Memorial. In reality, they have all known graves; the prison where they were executed.
Theodore Schurch was tried and convicted by a Courts-Martial for treachery, the other prisoners were tried and convicted by a civilian court for murder.
- Executed at Wandsworth Prison.
- Executed at Pentonville Prison.
- Executed at Dorchester Prison.
- Executed at Birmingham Prison.
- Executed at Bristol Prison.
- Executed at Leeds Prison.
- Executed at Liverpool Prison.
- Executed at Cardiff Prison.
GEORGE CROSS RECIPIENTS ON THE BROOKWOOD MEMORIAL
There are two GC recipients commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial: Violette Szabo and Captain Thompson.
Captain Jenkin Robert Oswald Thompson was a Doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps. For most of the war, Captain Thompson served aboard various hospital ships.
The Great Western Railway ship St. David was taken over for service as a hospital ship during World War Two. The St. David was built at the Cammell Laird shipyard in 1932. The ship had dimensions of 327.2 x 46.7 x 17.7 feet and a displacement of 2702 tons. Powered by 1590 nhp turbine engines, the ship had a maximum speed of 21 knots.
On 24 January 1944, when 25 miles south-west of the Anzio beachhead the St. David was bombed by German aircraft. Captain Thompson organised parties to transfer the patients from his ward to safety on another ship. However one injured patient remained trapped below decks. Captain Thompson refused to leave the ship and returned to make further efforts to free his trapped patient. It was not possible to release the trapped patient, so Captain Thompson remained with him as the St. David sank.
The St. David’s Master, Evan William Owen and 56 others went down with the ship. The Merchant Navy casualties are commemorated on Panel 90 of the Tower Hill Memorial.
BROOKWOOD AMERICAN CEMETERY and MEMORIAL
Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial are owned and maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The graves are arranged in four plots around a flagpole. The cemetery commemorates American personnel who died of wounds received in France, died of illness or died in accidents during WWI. The memorial chapel commemorates American service personnel who died at sea and have no known grave.
BROOKWOOD UNITED KINGDOM 1914-18 MEMORIAL
The Brookwood United Kingdom 1914-1918 Memorial was created in 2004. It commemorates the 217 Commonwealth casualties who died in the UK during World War One but for whom no grave could be located.
OTHER COUNTRY SECTIONS
In addition to the American graves mentioned earlier, Brookwood Military Cemetery also contains the graves of the following non-Commonwealth countries: Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Serbia.
THE MAIN COMMONWEALTH SECTION
The Main Commonwealth Section contains the graves of all Commonwealth nationalities from both World Wars. They are grouped by nationality and the war in which they died.
20216 Private Thomas Andrew Knowles, 1st Regiment South African Infantry, was from Kimberley, South Africa. On 22 October 1918, Private Knowles (aged 15 years’ old) became one of many who died in the great Influenza Pandemic.