Visit to Lodge Hill Cemetery

Thursday 14th September

The Stone Plinth in the WW1 section of Lodge Hill Cemtery
We went by minibus to Lodge Hill Cemetery in Selly Oak, only a few miles away from Queensbridge School and Highbury Hall. We told the young people a little about where we were going, and asked them about memorials, what they were and whether they were a good way to remember people who had died. There was a discussion about the young people's own experiences of graveyards and memorials. One mentioned that they had planted a tree as a memorial to her grandmother and how that was a positive thing to do, to leave a memory with a living thing that becomes part of nature, absorbing carbon dioxide and providing a habitat for insects, and therefore food for birds. We also talked about whether there were digital memorials to people, such as facebook accounts that are continued after a death to allow family and friends to post images and text in remembrance.

We then talked about the cemetery itself. It is well described on Wikipedia:

“The cemetery has a large number of war graves from both WW1 and WW2,  maintained and recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission  (CWGC). This includes 498 graves of soldiers, who mostly died from their wounds at local hospitals during the First World War, and particularly those from when the University of Birmingham acted as the 1st Southern & General Military Hospital, most of whom are buried in the war graves plot in section B10, where a Screen Wall memorial running around three sides of the plot lists those buried in the plot and in graves elsewhere in the cemetery that could not be individually marked.The section is easily identifiable by the Cross of Sacrifice and stone plinth with the words Their name liveth for evermore. Each panel on the screen wall is represented by a number stone plaque set into the grass in the middle of the plot.In another small section nearby, enclosed by a golden privet hedge, are buried 14 German prisoners of war from the same War, each of these graves being marked by a flat memorial stone in the shape of an Iron Cross”.

 We had arranged to meet with Marcus Belben, one of the founder members of the excellent People's Heritage C-Operative who are based in South Birmingham. The group had done a lot of work researching aspects of the impact of the war in Birmingham, and had also researched Lodge Hill Cemetery. Marcus helped the young people understand the different engraved lists of names, as the dead soldiers were listed by regiment and rank. The young people were amazed to see names from all over the globe, as we identified men from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Australia. The dates of their births and deaths identified many as under the legal age of 18 to join the army, indeed the youngest British soldier of World War One, Sidney Lewis, was twelve when he enlisted and fought in the Battle of the Somme when 13. It has been estimated that up to 250,000 British soldiers were under 18 when they joined up. This couldn't quite be comprehended by some of the students. 

There was also great interest in their ranks, as Private was abbreviated to Pte and Corporal was abbreviated to Cpl,  One of the young people saw that 'Sargeant' had been spelt as 'Serjeant' and there were other puzzling titles such as 'Pioneer' which we later learnt were military engineers, there were also riflemen, machine gunners, fusiliers and even a bandsman. There were men from not just the army, but also the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) before it became the Royal Air Force in 1918.

Matt Hinks