musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Cannock Chase War Cemeteries

Following my visit to Burntwood, we decided to drive down to Cannock Chase War Cemetery, as well as The German Military  Cemetery  close by. 
CWGC Has a very informative information board at the cemetery,  and it is well worth reading it to gain some sort of context to the two cemeteries.

What makes this cemetery unique is that the majority of allied troops in it are New Zealanders, a number of whom succumbed to the Spanish Flu in 1918. There are also the graves of 286 Germans who died in Brocton Internment Camp and Hospital.

Like all CWGC military cemeteries, it is a study in linearity and order, and the alignment of the graves always fascinates me.
  
It is strange though to walk in a cemetery were there are so many men from both sides, and at the end of the day, when the war ended, their ideological differences were of no more consequence. 
 
I walked the rows, photographing as I did. Unfortunately the weather kept on changing as dark clouds covered the sun each time I wanted to take images, so my pics do vary in consistency.
 
The major difference between a the German and Allied forces is that while the headstones may look the same, they differ in the shape of the top of the stone, as well as the amount of detail on the stone.
Having taken my pics I was now ready to head towards the German Military Cemetery just a bit further up the path. 
 
This cemetery is uniquely German, and is the first I have ever seen. The next closest one would be in Continental Europe.  
  
It was very difficult to get a sense of the cemetery as we arrived shortly before it closed, so I really only had a bit of time to dash around and grab pics without straying too far from the exit.

There were a number of aspects of this cemetery that I must mention, the first is the Zeppelin memorial that commemorates the crews of SL11 (03/09/1916), L32 (24/09/1916), L31 (02/10/1916) and L48 (17/06/1917) .

The other aspect that interested me was the “Hall of Honour” with the statue of “The Fallen Warrior”, sculpted by the eminent German sculptor, Professor Hans Wimmer. It is a powerful piece, and there is something stark and dismal about this space. It almost has an abandoned look about it, or maybe that was the intention?

 

Then it was time to visit the graves. There are 2143 World War One burials here, and 2786 from World War Two.

The cemetery is quite a large space, with the two sets of war dead separated by a sunken walkway, each headstone generally has 4 names on it, two per side, or sometimes 3.

In the case above the one is an unknown soldier, and there are a number of unknowns buried in the cemetery too. The stones are of a Belgian granite, with white engraving, and these give the cemetery a very stark feel about it. This place was very different to the CWGC cemetery I had visited earlier.

The picture was very different on the the next day when we went to visit. It was cold and grey and the light levels were low, making the cemetery a sad and poignant place. Inside my mind I kept on hearing the words from a traditional lament from the German Armed Forces: Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden (“I had a comrade”), (that piece may be heard on Youtube). It was an odd feeling though, almost as if there was a lot of sadness and loss associated with this quiet place.

 

Then it was time to head to our next destination; RAF Cosford, where many of the aircraft that had fought against this foe were on display to those who came to see them, and of course there were also aircraft that some of these men may have flown. Many of those buried here are aircrew from the bomber raids. 

I believe that a ceremony of Remembrance is regularly held, although it does not draw as many as a CWGC service does. But I know people come here because every here and there was a bouquet, or a poppy, a sign that while the dead lay in foreign fields they are always close to the heart of those who mourn their loss.

The question is: do I feel the same way about this cemetery as I do for the many CWGC cemeteries that I visit? It is a difficult question because of the way the war was conducted, and there is an element of “who was the winner and who was the loser?” But at the same time, I feel a lot of sadness for these men, just as I do for the soldiers of the Dominions who are buried far from home, or for the nurses that travelled to hospitals to perform their duty, or the men of the SANLC who died when the Mendi was sunk. At the end of the day they all had hopes and dreams, possibly family, or a puppy, they were humans, and they are no more, and for that alone, they deserve to be remembered. This cemetery was probably the most different war cemetery I have ever seen. It will remain with me for a long time.

 
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