Every November the senior management team at Corps Security lays wreaths at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey in remembrance of our fallen soldiers who are buried there. But over the past year, the cemetery has been a hive of activity throughout the year thanks to our restoration project.
Brookwood is a beautiful Grade 1 listed cemetery – at 220 acres it’s the largest in western Europe – created in 1854. After the Corps of Commissionaires was founded in 1859, an area of the cemetery was set aside for the Corps as a burial ground for members and their families. It is the final resting place for two holders of the Victoria Cross – Sergeant William Kenny and Lance-Corporal James Hollowell – in addition to more than 580 original Commissionaires, their spouses and children. Our founder, Captain Sir Edward Walter, is commemorated by a prominent granite obelisk at the cemetery, although he is not buried there.
Over the years our plot has become neglected and the older parts of it have fallen into disrepair and become totally overgrown. But last year, as part of our heritage project, Corps set aside funds to begin restoration. During the last few months, teams have been busy clearing and restoring graves and trimming back the undergrowth. The image above of the same grave before and after restoration demonstrates the immediate impact of our work. Our military champion Diz Sollesse has worked with Kim Lowe, the chairwoman of the Brookwood Cemetery Society, to map out the plot and list all 582 interments. In addition to the restoration work, signs have been created to mark the graves of our VC holders to commemorate their bravery and act as a point of interest to visitors.
In October, ahead of Remembrance Day, the senior management team will support this work with their regular volunteer clear-up day and view the progress which has already been made. The next task will be to mark out graves which currently have no headstones. Our work will continue in spring next year when we hope to participate in the cemetery’s open day and provide visitors with information on the history and on-going renovation of our plot.
Diz Sollesse, who has led the restoration project, said: “We are proud to be improving this unique piece of our heritage and ensuring that our Commissionaires are remembered and honoured.”