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Their Last Parade

 

 

WAR VICTIMS BURIED OR COMMEMORATED AT
ALLERTON CEMETERY, LIVERPOOL.

 

In northern France and Belgium the war cemeteries are a familiar sight, their ranks of headstones set out with parade formality, each with its small tale to tell.  Nearer home, in Allerton Cemetery there are nearly four hundred of the standard war grave stones, but they are not lined up for inspection but stand here and there among the thousands of civilian memorials.

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour Register lists over 400 men and women whose deaths were attributed to their service in the two World Wars and who were buried in this large civic cemetery in South Liverpool.  The register can be searched online: http://www.cwgc.org/debt_of_honour.asp.    I have attempted to explore some of their stories, but much more can be done by using online subscription services and other tools to examine surviving service records.  I hope someone may pick up the torch.

 

In attempting to take photographs of the 400 headstones, I failed to find around 10%, and believe that some of the graves are not marked,  while the numbering system used at the cemetery is curious, even when a numbered plan of the burial plots is consulted.

 

During my searches I came across a large number of family memorials where servicemen are remembered, who fell far from home and were buried or commemorated elsewhere.  I have listed them separately with their details from the War Graves Commission’s Register, and many more may await discovery.  I have attempted to link their official resting place with their family memorial, adding what I have been able to find about the individual, his unit, ship or aircraft.

 

Among those remembered in this peaceful park there are two holders of the Victoria Cross who died outside the officially-recognised span of war-related deaths - one earned at the Battle of Colenso in the Second Boer War, the other in WW1 - and families, victims of the WW2 blitz, whose place of burial is not listed by CWGC.  There is a pilot who was shot down by Von Richthofen (the Red Baron), members of bomber crews, a Battle of Britain pilot, sailors whose tugs, landing craft, carriers or battle-cruisers went down in the Mersey or the major oceans, soldiers who fell in the major battles of both world wars, French and Greek sailors, Poles, and the latest: an Artillery sergeant, soldiers of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and a member of the Royal Air Force who fell in the present Afghanistan conflict.  Ages range from 2 to 65;  all arms of the services and the expeditionary forces of Australia, Canada and New Zealand are represented.

 

Some are listed with no grave reference but are named on ‘Screen Walls’ ;  these men were buried in common graves and their names were inscribed on four stone panels, two each side of the path running near the disused Roman Catholic chapel.

 

In compiling their Register the CWGC used two cut-off dates to define ‘war-related’ deaths:  31 August 1921 and 31 December 1947.  It is surprising to find how many deaths of those listed by CWGC for Allerton fell between the end of hostilities and those cut-off dates: 64 for WW1 out of 115 and 70 for WW2 out of 285.  I have not been able to identify causes of death in enough cases even to speculate about numbers of those dying from wounds, accident, sickness or other causes, but it is worth remembering that in 1914-18 very large numbers fell on the Western Front and other overseas theatres of war while few came under threat within the UK;  in WW2 the Blitz accounted for many casualties among service personnel and civilians, and many naval and RAF men returned to base only to succumb to wounds later.

 

Allerton was the last of Liverpool’s civic cemeteries to be opened, the first burial being carried out in 1909.  It was intended to serve the southern areas of the city and has separate sections set aside for Church of England, Roman Catholic,  Non-Conformist  and Jewish burials, although there is some evidence that these distinctions are not always observed.

 

The War Graves Commission’s list of Liverpool’s twelve public cemeteries gives the number of war-related burials in each, which together total over 2,500.  A similar number of Liverpool’s civilians lost their lives in the Blitz; over 1400 names are on the Pier Head memorial to Merchant Seamen who died in the service of the Royal Navy.

 

Lest we forget.

 

 

Richard Daglish
November 2010