Sunday, 13 July 2014

Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery

Part of the reason for my trip to Gosport was to take a look at Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery (aka Clayhall Royal Naval Cemetery), it is within walking distance of the ferry terminal, and equally close to Haslar Naval Hospital.   My curiosity about this site was piqued after watching a documentary about an investigation into the burial grounds inside the hospital which revealed that over 7000 individuals are buried there, mostly from the Royal Navy. Unfortunately I could not access the hospital as it was all locked and barred and there was nobody to ask any questions of. This is one place to bear in mind if ever I return to that area. The strange building in the photograph is a water tower according to the security guard who I met on my later visit.



The Cemetery I was after is a bit further along and it was a hot day, with scattered clouds and a bit of humidity. It was not uncomfortable weather, but I could see that I was going to take a lot of pummelling from the sun while I was photographing graves.  According to the relevant CWGC   page, there are 1347 identified casualties here, and I really was going to go for the regular CWGC headstones on this visit. It may not seem like too many, but the logistics of photographing 1347 graves in one session is formidable.


The main entrance by the Cross of Sacrifice is locked, but access is via a gate by the sextons cottage (which is a site to see all of its own). The cemetery is an old one, with casualties dating back to before long before WW1. It is an orderly cemetery too, with a block layout and very regular patterned headstones. The two biggest concentrations were what I was interested in, although I was really getting the smaller groups done before I headed in that direction.


I slowly worked my way along, sampling occasional headstones, but concentrating more on the CWGC headstones.  To complicate things there were a number of non wartime graves with a headstone not unlike the regular CWGC headstone, they can usually be recognised by the different shape to the top of the headstone. In the image below, the headstone on the left is a non wartime death (1955) while the headstone on the right is a wartime death (1941). However, amongst the casualties in the cemetery it is likely that most died in the nearby naval hospital.



There are a number of group memorials, two of which were especially interesting. The first is to the crew of HM Submarine L55, which sank in 1919. The remains of 34 crew members were interred at Haslar in 1928.


The other memorial is to HMS Eurydice that sank in 1878 off the Isle of Wight with a heavy loss of life. It is a really imposing memorial, topped by the anchor from the vessel. 


And after all those distractions I started on the graves. 


I was fortunate that there was a bit of shade here, but it did not detract from the fact that there were roughly 64 graves in this group. The next group was even bigger, with over 400 graves in total. Between this group and the next was a huge plot of similar headstones that tie into the naval hospital.


And at this point I had a problem, it would be too much work to try identify each grave and decide whether to get the pic or not, it was much easier to get the pic and decide later, but there were a lot of these graves and I would prefer to leave them for another day. I was after those regular white slabs at this moment.


I lost count somewhere along the line, but I suspect I have about 650 graves from this cemetery photographed, but still to be sorted and labelled, only then will I have a final tally. I was ready to go home, and I slowly headed towards the entrance, on my way passing a small Turkish Naval Cemetery dating back to the 1850's, and it took a bit of reading to explain this anomaly.


Apparently in November 1850, the Turkish warships: Mirat-i Zafer and Sirag-i Bahri anchored off Gosport on an extended visit. Some of the crew contracted cholera and had to be admitted to the nearby naval hospital where some of them died. They were subsequently buried here with other members of the crews that had died during training accidents. They are now sons of Gosport.
It was also time to head off back to Portsmouth to catch my train back to Salisbury, although I would be making a detour in Southampton to do some shipwatching.
It had been a great day, my visit to HMS Alliance was wonderful, and I will do a blogpost about it one of these days, but it was an equally tiring day, and I came away with 1175 images to process, that should keep me busy for awhile. But, I will return to Gosport, after all, somewhere along my route I may find my packet of biscuits that went missing.

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