Today, the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries has appealed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to help locate war graves and families of the hundreds of WW1 and WW2 servicemen and women buried here.
Yesterday’s statement by the CWGC is below.
Questions we have asked include:
Whether soldiers have been or are to be developed over?
Whether all WW1 and WW2 war graves of servicemen and women will have CWGC headstones?
And how is the CWGC locating families or agencies about the war graves, including at least six from Commonwealth countries including Australia and Canada.
Please can FOCC help locate families?
Southwark Council started the largest grave ‘reclamation and reuse’ development years ago. But it seems they only contacted the CWGC in 2016.
Southwark has been developing blind, mounding over tens of thousands of graves along Woodvale, Camberwell Old Cemetery in 2013 – to sell 700+ new private plots without first locating all WW1 and WW2 scattered war graves.
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries, the SSW Campaign is fighting to protect the woods, nature and all graves – not just WW1 and WW2 servicemen and women – and make the cemeteries nature reserves.
Our letter to the CWGC this morning is below.
26th May 2017
Scattered WW1 and WW2 war graves in the Camberwell Cemeteries
We are still extremely concerned about Southwark Council’s redevelopment of Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries. Hundreds of WW1 and WW2 servicemen and women are buried here, many in war graves scattered around the cemeteries, as mentioned on the War Memorials.
After years planning mass grave ‘reclamation and reuse’, Southwark Council began in 2013 to mound over thousands of graves in Camberwell Old Cemetery for resale (Areas F/F1). This was followed in 2015 by Areas Z and D1. Yet it appears Southwark did not contact the Commonwealth War Graves Commission until late 2016 about the 131 WW1 scattered war graves.
CWGC’s press statement yesterday said that war graves will not be buried over but did not say whether roads, footpaths, terraces or other structures have been or would be built over, nor how many war graves would be receiving the CWGC headstone, nor how many families have been contacted.
We would be grateful therefore for the following information:
1. Two war graves are currently under a planned new road in Camberwell Old Cemetery (Area Z), and an access road next to a war grave on One Tree Hill (Area D1). Has Southwark Council now agreed that no development - including roads, paths, drainage tanks or terraces - will be built over war graves?
2. Will the CWGC be allowed to mark every war grave in the cemeteries with a headstone - or will only some be marked? If only some, please would you explain why?
3. How many war graves are in Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries and where exactly are they located? Please provide detailed location on a map with grave and section number, and personal records for each. Has this information also been provided to Southwark Council?
4. Are any WW1 or WW2 war graves located under Southwark’s 2013 burial development in Area F/F1, Woodvale, Camberwell Old Cemetery?
5. Considering some war graves may be up to 20 feet deep, how does the CWGC find the exact location of graves to ensure that war graves are not buried or built over?
6. We understand that trying to contact families is part of the CWGC’s protocol, is this correct? The CWGC has made incredible efforts to identify, sometimes by DNA testing, those buried on the Western Front and to locate their families. How is the CWGC locating families of the First and Second World War servicemen and women buried in the Camberwell Cemeteries, as both cemeteries are to be developed over wholesale over the coming years? Please may we assist you in this process as we have a very wide reach?
7. We understand there may be as many as 200,000 WW1 and WW2 service men and women buried in scattered graves across the UK. Would you tell us the CWGC’s protocol for locating these war graves, identifying those buried and contacting their families?
8. In the wake of legislation passed in 2007 allowing London cemeteries to apply to dig up graves over 75 years old, how is CWGC preparing for wholesale grave exhumations?
9. You may not be aware but Southwark has removed more than 100 grave memorials to make way for developments - do you know whether Southwark has cross-referenced these against CWGC or their own records or online data?
10. Finally, we understand there are at least six WW1 Australian, Canadian or other Commonwealth servicemen or women buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery. What is CWGC’s protocol for contacting other Commonwealth country agencies about these war graves and locating families?
The names and information about the 131 WW1 scattered war graves in Camberwell Old Cemetery are here:
Given the urgency of the situation we look forward to as early a response as possible.
Chair, Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries
The Save Southwark Woods Campaign
07731 304 966
Commonwealth War Graves Commission statement regarding planned works at Camberwell Old Cemetery
25 May 2017
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has agreed with the London Borough of Southwark that: no war graves will be disturbed during the planned works at Camberwell Old Cemetery, that no burials will take place above the war graves and that we will be able to mark graves which were previously inaccessible.
We only have responsibility for the war graves and these have all been identified and will not be affected by the works.
We follow a similar process at other sites where the war graves are exempt from any reuse scheme.
The CWGC will continue to work with the London Borough of Southwark as it develops the site.
For more information on planned works at Camberwell Old Cemetery, please contact the London Borough of Southwark: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/
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