Up The Line – An Evening Remembrance Performance

A Brockley Central Guest Blog by John McKiernan

Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery, SE4 for Armistice

11.11.09 from 7.30 until 8.41 (1 hour 11 minutes)

There is perhaps no event in history that has taught us more about the horror of warfare than the Great War. To avoid repeating the mistakes that led so many people to their deaths, we must remember its lessons.

With the passing of the last witnesses to WWI, it’s important that we find ways to pass on those memories between the generations.

Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery is a beautiful, almost unaltered space, with two very poignant memorials to those who died from their wounds on their return to the UK during WWI. Local men in the main, from early teens to their forties. Many local people know little or nothing of the memorials or those who are engraved on the walls, including those who perished in Deptford during the first London Blitz of WWI from the Zeppelin attacks.

On Armistice Day, November 11th at 7.30 an event is to be held to recognise the sacrifice of these young men and others and the work of those who have tried to keep their memory alive. The intention is to create a simple experience that is sober rather than somber, yet powerful enough to lodge deep in the mind of those who attend. It is not intended as a history lesson but a reflection on history that will be accessible for all ages.

The event will be a lantern-lit walk through the cemetery during darkness and regardless of the weather conditions. The route will be between Brockley Road and the Ladywell gates. Classical musicians and poets will perform recitals of appropriate pieces and writings of the time, while contemporary dance will capture the essence of passing and a silent film and soundscape expressing the 'ordinariness' of how the War became during this period.

The intention is to lodge an experience in the mind that will create questions and leave those present with a lasting memory. I hope that as many families and younger people as possible will come because it’s important that the next generation understands the experiences of the last century. Please come with your friends, family and neighbours, young and old.

I hope that in the days, months and years that follow the audience will occasionally remember beautiful evening they were part of and think again of World War I, the loss it caused and lessons it taught us.

A slow walk will take approximately 25 minutes maximum you can arrive anytime up to 8.25pm. The Rivoli ballroom have kindly offered to open for people to gather to discuss and chat regarding their experience of the evening.

The event is a huge collective effort by the people of Brockley and Ladywell and it would not be possible without the energy and talent of many groups and individuals, including the
Friends of Brockley Ladywell Cemeteries (FoBLC.org), RBL club in Crofton Park, Lewisham Police who will be organising a guard at each entrance, Max Media Arts (Brockley Max), Mr Lawrence's, Rivoli, Oscars of Ladywell, South London Press, Lewisham Council officers, councilors and the mayor, as well as a huge array of talented artists from across London who will be performing in silhouette on the night.

Full details will be on the www.brockleymax.co.uk website and the event is bought to you by Moonbow Jakes events. This is a borough wide event to honour all those who died from and in Lewisham and remembering those from overseas who are also laid to rest on our behalf.


Anonymous said...

Just hope It gets a massive turn out.

Tamsin said...

And rememberance for all caught up in the War - recently had cause to look carefully at a WW2 Roll of Honour for alumni at one of the Oxford Colleges - among all the British names with various regiments and some in the SOE (what stories!) there was a German lad. He had been at the college, was killed in the War and so rightfully there...

Veteran said...

Lest we forget

Anonymous said...

From a Canadian website is this extract from a letter dated 3 Apr 1918...

What dreadful fighting there has been again this two or three week, we have not had a Raid now for several weeks, but I expect they will be giving us a turn again soon, the last time they were over, they went to Maida[?] Vale I think four houses were destroyed & a number of people killed, the time before they were over our way one bomb dropped the bottom of Vicars Hill not far from Ladywell Stn one dropped in Lewisham Park & two in Hither Green Lane they done a lot of damage but no one was killed only two slightly injured, it was marvelous how they escaped.


John - Up The Line Event said...

Join the event.

Thank you for this info so quickly. Anon, how did you come across this letter? We are interested in as many people contributing to this event as possible, including needing loads of volunteers on the night as marshals.

In the next few days we are going to set up a way of contact via Brockley Max website.

Initially we want teachers, community projects that may have interest in attending the event with users and other blogs, newssheets, bulletin boards, media etc from across London to let their readers know of the event. Those buried have connections across the city and the world. Does anyone have a high knowledge of Australasian poetry from this time? There are three Australians buried together on the route of the walk. We are also interested in expertise in other nations poetry.

We would like people to make this blog an historical record. We are interested in stories, research, links and personal impact of WWI. Please remember people will be reading this who still carry a personal grief from this time and it is not for views on war in general.

This is a local event to recognise a terrible world event – please join in from wherever you are.

The title, ‘Up the line’ was in general usage in the trenches.


John - Ex-Moonbow Jakes

Sevenoakser said...

Hope it's a great success, John. I don't have huge knowledge of Australian WWI poetry but I am Australian - F.E. (Frank) Westbrook might be a poet worth looking up. A shearer I think, who never wrote a word of poetry til he was sent to Gallipoli. Eventually injured and sent to London for treatment and he wrote some nice stuff about how exiled he did feel here: eg this one from 1916-ish, called Longing, which might be appropriate in circumstances, with these Aussies in the cemetery far from home. I did not know they were there, I'll make a point of visiting.


I'm tired to death of the city streets,
The walls and their height and grime;
The pattering beat of the hustling feet
Seem running a race with time.

I'm sick of the jostle of bustling crowds,
The wooden set London stare,
The frozen face in the public place
Where the crowds swarm everywhere.

I'm Southern born, and a touch of sun
Has kindled a fierce desire
For a real sun-bake where the beaches take
From sunshine a Southern fire.

I'm wearied to death of the roaring wheels,
Of the traffic a-hustling by;
I long for the plains where distance wanes
To a blend of the earth and sky.

For a breath of the wattle aflame in fire,
for the blue of a sun-bathed sky,
For the carolling sweet when magpies greet
The dawn when the night-stars die.

I'm lonely at heart in the worlds great hub,
There's an ache in my heart-strings sore
for the glimpse of a face that my thoughts will
That will come to my side no more

For the khaki form of a soldier lad
At rest on the Anzac slopes,
Sad honour keeps where his body sleeps,
The wreck of a mothers hopes.

I'm lonely and lonelier still for the sweet,
Brief touch of soft finger-tips,
For homelier ways and the Southerners phrase
From Australian sun-kissed lips.

I'm tired of the hum of the city street,
Of the walls, the fog, and the grime;
The pattering beat of the hustling feet
seem running a race with time.

He also did a nice touching one called Percy about a posh English officer at Gallipoli. Good spot to see all his work seems to be http://anzacandafter.blogspot.com/

Another well-known WWI poet, again a young guy actually doing the fighting, was Leon Gellert - he has a beautiful one called The Last To Leave, which he wrote about the evacuation of Gallipoli

Tamsin said...

I've got some books of war poetry if you would like to borrow them for a browse through...

Anonymous said...

Here's another local WW1 story....

From Hazel Basford of the Kent Bellringers..


One of the most interesting items I received through contact with families has been the photograph of the original grave marker on the grave of Merrick R Warnett of Lewisham who died aged 25.

His father, Harry Warnett, tower captain at Lewisham for many years, was listed as an Association "Instructor" as early as 1891 and his brother was also a ringer.

Merrick joined up in August 1914 and saw a lot of action, including Loos in September 1915.

He suffered a fatal wound in May 1918 and is buried at Contay, Somme in a burial ground used by one of the Casualty Clearing Stations.

As a service to grieving relatives the War Graves Commission photographed graves after the war and made them available, together with full details of the location, including the nearest railway station.

In 1921 the Lewisham War Memorial was unveiled and the bells of St. Mary's were rung.

Among the bellringers was Merrick's brother conducted by their father.

"A quarter peal of Grandsire Triples, 1260 changes in 49 minutes, with the bells half muffled, was rung at St. Mary's, Lewisham, by the following members of the Kent County Association of Change Ringers on the occasion of the unveiling and dedication of the memorial :

S. Goodwin treble,
E. B. Crowder 2,
C. H. Walker 3,
G. R. Simmonds 4,
T. Easterby 5,
H. Warnett, jun., 6,
H. Warnett, sen. (conductor),

H. G. Goodwin tenor."

The Kentish Mercury, 13 May 1921, page 7.

Baldrick said...

Boom boom boom boom, boom boom boom

John - Up The Line Event said...

This is amazing and just what we were hoping for, using a new technology for the purpose of historical record.

We have a poet and Head of English putting the poetry together who I will pass on the offer of books; it is a very kind offer Tamsin. Sevenoakser, I think they will be very interested in this post. BC can become a central source of other poems and stories for the very large group of people working on this project.

The bells Anon has made me think whether this is a possibility for the evening? Would anyone be interested in organising bell ringing across the area or borough? Ft Bates at St Hilda’s is very keen on the event, maybe he is a starting point?

Best, John – Ex-Moonbow

John Up The Line Event said...

Baldrick, I assume this is reference to the final scene in Blackadder where they ‘go over the top’ and many saw as an excellent piece of television and inspiration for them to seek more understanding of WWI?

John Ex-Moonbow

Anonymous said...

Hi John, Ex-Moonbow Jakes, is this of any interest. I think I discovered this via this site and the Transpontine site. http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=76008

It should be Lewisham's Pride 1916 - Apologies of this is not what you are looking for.

John Up The Line Event said...

Wonderful link. Anyone who is unsure of how this period affected the rest of the century then maybe also watch this short film from the same site http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=84084

Thanks Anon, any chance of people putting a name to posts as this adds to the historical record.


John Up The Line Event said...

Up The Line Event for Armistice in the cemetery 11.11.09: There will be a get together this evening (Wed 14th) at Mr Lawrence’s Wine Bar, Brockley Road, 8pm for anyone interested in joining in or hearing more.

All the best

John Ex-Moonbow Jakes

Anonymous said...

I share 'enthusiastic enthusiasm' for this event:

As a representative of FoBLC (Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries) I attended a very interesting meeting 14Oct09 at The Lawrence Wine Bar with John McKiernan and four others to forward ideas toward ‘A Cemeteries Remembrance Performance Evening’. –

It occurred to me at the meeting that ‘Lewisham Insurance’, which FoBLC is able to access as accident cover, etc. during our weekend workdays, could similarly apply to this event. Is anyone able to verify this? It would solve an extremely important item if this public event were to go ahead without undue prevarication and difficulty.

The success of the occasion does appear to rest with Lewisham Council’s ultimate say-so, which at this late stage, despite ongoing approaches, and, with some assurance and expressed willingness from enthusiastic Lewisham quarters, remains unspecific as to allowance let alone an offer toward funding. –

John McKiernan has already enlisted varied ‘arts parties’ and others as well as FoBLC who are all extremely willing to contribute freely to said ‘memorial evening’. Local schools are contacted as to relevance to WW1 curricula. The Ravoli Ball Room in Brockley Road is to open its doors freely for after-event networking.

We all hope Lewisham Council may sanction, even at this late stage, what promises to be an extraordinary creative memorial evening for the people of Lewisham and other interested visitors.

John McKiernan’s “Up The Line – An Evening Remembrance Performance” is to take place on Remembrance Day 11th Nov Wednesday evening.

What a tragedy if it didn't?

Isabel White said...

Harry Patch, last survivor of the Great War, made mention of ALL old comrades, those who fell on both sides of the conflict. The content will include British, Australian and German poets and poems. Please post any poems or anecdotes on the blog in the days to come.


Princess Patricia’s C L I
Came to Wipers,
Came to die.
Pals at their side,
they fought and died,
gained a few yards,
they fought and died.
Hussar and Sepoy
Severed leg and Fusilier
Fifty-five thousand
Listed here...

kung fu hustle said...

100,000 Chinese fought for the Uk in the frist World War - recruited from China and used for labouring on the Western Front.

Other Chinese were settled in the UK and served in the Merchant navy - in Liverpool there is a monument to them and to their families as many were sepeerated from the British wives and Childeren and forcibly repatriated to China at the end of the War.

John Up The Line Event said...

Radiohead recorded a tribute to Harry Patch that can be downloaded here http://download.waste.uk.com/Store/did.html


John Up The Line said...

Thanks for the support Obertra

Lewisham Council must go through their processes and are keen; I am confident they will come good as this crosses so many areas of the community.

Although I wrote the proposal there are a large number of very talented people working on this event and I am only the front face as people know Moonbow Jakes.

Kung Fu hustle - this was mentioned last night and the lady who organises Children’s Day in Hilly Fields for Brockley Max is working through whether it is feasible to hold a children’s workshop creating lanterns followed by a possession at the event.

Is there any Chinese poetry from this time?

Please keep your thoughts coming.

Headhunter said...

Harry Patch wasn't the last survivor of the Great War, he was the last surviving British Tommy who fought in the trenches, there is still at least one other survivor who was in the Royal Navy I think.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there's a man who lives in Australia now who was in the navy. Wikipedia reckons there are about 5 remaining veterans worldwide.

Kung Fu Hustle said...

There is no Chinese poetry from this time - 1st World War - but there is poetry from a lot earlier that sums up the feeling s of this time:

Lodging at the Stone Creek Way-Station, Hearing a Woman Crying by Li Duan (ca. 780)

Outside the door of this mountain station is a woman,
Crying bitterly into the night clouds of autumn.
She told me her husband died in the wars;
This morning she met his general coming home.



On Birds and Bugs by Bai Juyi (772-846)

Mites fight bloody battles for nests on a mosquito's eyelash;
Tiny kingdoms are at war over lands on a snail's horn.
If we looked down across our own world from highest heaven,
We would see heroes fighting to the death for a speck of dust.


At the Frontier by Xu Hun (791?- late 850s)

We fought all night, north of the Sanggan River;
Of our forces, half did not return.
When morning came, so did mail from home;
Families still sending dead men warm clothes for winter.

Tamsin said...

Wow! "The Universal Soldier" and universal suffering indeed. Nothing changed in over 1000 years.

Sorry not to have made it to the meet up on Wednesday. Among other books I've got "Women's War Poetry and Verse" which includes a couple by E Nesbit - not great poetry but a local connection.

Headhunter said...

Did E Nesbit live locally then?

Wick E. Pedia said...

"When Nesbit was 17, the family moved again, this time back to London, living variously in South East London at Eltham, Lewisham, Grove Park and Lee."

Tamsin said...

Indeed she did and there is a plaque to commemorate it in Elswick Road off Loampit Hill.

Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) born 15th August, at 38 Kennington Lane. 1875 Her mother and the family moved to 6 Mount Pleasant, Barnsbury Square, Islington (no longer there).1879 Edith moved to Blackheath, 16 Dartmouth Row. Married Hubert Bland 1880. 1880-1886 lived at 28 Elswick Road, Lewisham. This is when she was first establishing herself as a writer, the period during which she met Alice Hoatson who she was later to live with as a menage a trois. Lived in Eltham 1899-1922, in March 1886 moved to 5 Cambridge Green for 6 months, thence to 8 Dorville Road (demolished 1970). In 1889 to 2 Birch Grove, also demolished. In 1894 to Three Gables in Baring Road. Also demolished, but backed on to the railway line running between Hither Green and Grove Park. There is a footpath beside the house, (now the Stratfield House flats) which was renamed The Railway Children Walk in 1996.

Tamsin said...

Glancing through the piece that I cut and pasted - she seems to have left a trail of demolition in her wake! Or does it just show how much of what was there in the early 20th C. has gone.

Headhunter said...

It may have suffered bomb damage in the 2nd WW so had tobe demolished

Tamsin said...

It's four out of the five houses mentioned - the Elswick Road one is the only property still available to put a plaque on.

Since they wont be on the web - herewith

The Fields of Flanders

Last year the fields were all glad and gay
With silver daisies and silver may;
There were kingcups gold by the river's edge
And primose stars under every hedge.

This year the fields are trampled and brown,
The hedges are broken and beaten down,
And where the primoses used to grow
Are little black crosses set in a row.

And the flower of hopes, and the flowers of dreams,
The noble, fruitful, beautiful schemes,
The tree of life with its fruit and bud,
Are trampled down in the mud and the blood.

The changing seasons will bring again
The magic of Spring to our wood and plain:
Though the Spring be so green as never was seen
The crosses will still be black in the green.

The God of battles shall judge the foe
Who trampled our country and laid her low...
God! hold our hands on the reckoning day,
Lest all we owe them we should repay.

The last stanza might be usable - as He didn't and sowing the wind at Versailles reaped the whirlwind of WW2...

The other one is

Now the sprinkled blackthorn snow
Lies along the lovers' lane
Where last year we used to go -
Where we shall not go again.

In the hedge the buds are new,
By our wood the violets peer -
Just like last year's violets, too,
But they have no scent this year.

Every bird has heart to sing
Of its nest, warmed by its breast;
We had heart to sing last spring.
But we never built our nest.

Presently red roses blown
Will make all the garden gay...
Not yet have the daisies grown
On your clay.

Anonymous said...

This may be of interest where 7 siblings aged from 3 - 18 years of age died.......

On the night of 19/20 October 1917 a 300lb bomb from Zeppelin L45 fell at Glenview Road, Hither Green [now Nightingale Grove].

The funeral took place at Ladywell Cemetery 25 October 1917.


Anonymous said...

Back to comments re 'Memorial Production: There may be intimations Lewisham Council is only to allow a small section of Ladywell Cemetery to be utilised. I hope this is not so. Otherwise, the creative impact would be wholly diminished. Far better, as I hope, a contrast of the two (twinned) cemeteries may be accessible via both entrance gates with the individuality of Ladywell’s openness and adjacent Brockley’s wooded ambiance all through lit with creative memoriam.

Anonymous said...

Celtic cross (an exact copy of the ancient cross of St. Columb, Cornwall) which has been erected in the grounds of St. Hilda's Church, Crofton Park, as a memorial of the 144 men and one nursing sister (Miss Rosabelle Stanley) from the parish who laid lown their lives in the war. The cross which is of Cornish granite, is 14 ft in height, and the cost, upwards of £350

Crofton Park War Memorial
"The Glory of England"
Article from The Kentish Mercury, June 4, 1920

via http://www.croftonpark.com/sainthildas/archive/memorial.htm

John Up the Line said...

Mr Lawrence’s this evening 28/10/09 from 7.30 for anyone wishing to get involved with cemetery evening event.



John Up the Line said...

Mr Lawrence’s this evening 28/10/09 from 7.30 for anyone wishing to get involved with cemetery evening event.



Tamsin said...

I don't think I will make it to Mr. Lawrence's (colds always feel worse in the evening) - but if you find you are short of stewards or the like do get in touch.
Meant to flag it up earlier - but, if relevant, can I put in a plea for passing over the more well-known of Wilfred Owen's poems - Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce et Decorum est - and perhaps consider "The Parable of the Old Man and the Young"

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb, for this burnt-offering?
Then Arbam bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there
And strachéd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! and Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

and on the same theme the biting Kipling couplet "If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied"

Tamsin said...

Don't trust the web - apart from freaking at the grave accent I don't think the wording is quite right. I can check in an actual book when I get home.

John Up The Line Event said...


The more stewards the better, around 3 hours in all, everyone welcome no exp req.

That is very poignant. The poetry guys check in every few days and I am sure they will look at this – thanks for your support.


Tamsin said...

Not the web at fault - two different drafts - the one I cut and pasted is from Osbert Sitwell's papers and the other - that I remember and I thing reads better - is from the British Museum collection with this variant of the closing lines:

Neither do anything to him, Behold,
A ram, caught in a ticket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man wold not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Eruope, one by one.

Anonymous said...

So glad to know both twinned cemeteries are to be utilised for 'remembrance event' on 11th November night. Judging from input at meeting I attended, I am really looking forward to what promises to be a creatively produced 'night to remember' with dance, poetry, music, children's lattern procession and general 'night-lit ambiance' along the lit cemeteries path route.

John - Up the Line said...

Children’s Lantern Workshop will be taking place on the afternoon of the
11 Nov as part of the remembrance event – suitable for children of all ages and free of charge

The Police will be escorting the children at 7.30pm to the Brockley Road Gate where the procession will begin.

Please email info@Brockleymax.co.uk if your child would like to take part

John Up The Line said...

The Cemetery Remembrance Event will take place this Wednesday 11th Nov 2009

You can arrive anytime between 7.10pm and 8.10pm and the walk takes approx 15 minutes.

Entrances are Brockley Gate, (Ivy/Brockley Rd) or Ladywell Gate, (Ivy Rd/Brockley Grove)

35 performers from 11 countries

Children’s Lantern workshop at St Andrew’s from 4-6pm with procession at 7.30pm

Info: www.brockleymax.co.uk or www.foblc.org.uk

Email: info@brockleymax.co.uk

Volunteers Welcome

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