Soldiers, adventurers and rumours of a time machine: tales from Brompton Cemetery

A few weeks ago, I went to Brompton Cemetery again.  I was with my friend Sharon, a fellow graveyard explorer, and I also had a new camera lens to put through its paces.  Since my last visit, a lot of the undergrowth that had swallowed up a good many gravestones had been cleared, and as a result we came across many graves that I’d never seen before.  Last time I wrote about Brompton, I felt that I’d not been able to do the place justice in just one article, so it seems like a good time to revisit the cemetery and look at more of its rich heritage.  Some of the graves featured this time around are grand and mysterious, others are modest and unassuming; yet all of them have their own fascinating stories to tell.

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Brompton Cemetery, an open-air cathedral of remembrance

A couple of weekends ago, I was invited to attend an event being held as part of the London Month of the Dead at Brompton Cemetery in west London.  The main cemetery entrance is on Old Brompton Road, not far from Earl’s Court station, in that slightly ragged edge of town where Chelsea, Fulham and Kensington meet, and where genteel houses make way for seedy hotels and dreary bedsits with grimy windows.  Behind high railings, and through an imposing gateway, is one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries.

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Commemorating the heroic exploits of a WWI pilot

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Brompton Cemetery is particularly rich in grand memorials.  In the centre of the cemetery, amongst the dark Victorian crosses and angels, stands a paler, more modern memorial.  The face of a young man stares out from an impressive, well cared for headstone.  Beneath the inscription is a dramatic image of a Zeppelin – one of the monstrous German airships of the First World War – falling to the ground in flames while a comparatively tiny aircraft flies to safety.  The headstone, which occupies a prominent spot in the cemetery, commemorates the bravery of one of the British Armed Forces’ first heroes of aviation – Flight Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Alexander John Warneford. Continue reading