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Oxford War Memorials: Botley Cemetery

There are 167 Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) sites in Oxfordshire, but some of them are very small: Headington Quarry Methodist churchyard, for example, contains only one war grave.

Oxford (Botley) Cemetery is by far the largest with about 740 war graves. Of these, 156 are Commonwealth war graves from the First World War and 516 from the Second World War; and in addition there are about 68 non-Commonwealth war graves.

Stone of Remembrance at Botley Cemetery
Stone of Remembrance in Botley Cemetery, 26 December 2016

Only twelve sites in the United Kingdom have a Stone of Remembrance (designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens), and they are usually reserved for Commonwealth cemeteries with more than 1,000 burials: Botley is the exception.

Every Commonwealth cemetery containing 40 or more graves has a Cross of Sacrifice, which was designed in 1918 by Sir Reginald Blomfield. A bronze longsword, blade down, is affixed to the front of the cross.

Cross of Sacrifice

Left: The Cross of Sacrifice at Botley Cemetery


Below: The shelter building at Botley Cemetery, designed by Sir Edward Maufe


First World War

Many of the 170 First World War burials at Botley were of patients who had died at the 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford, and all were from the UK and the Empire, except for four Germans. The following report appeared in The Times on 3 September 1920:

A memorial cross to 159 men who died from wounds or illness caused by the war at the Third Southern General Hospital, at Oxford, was unveiled yesterday in Botley Cemetery by Lord Valentia [MP for Oxford in the 1890s]. A short dedication service was conducted by the Bishop of Oxford. The Mayor, Colonel Stanier Waller, and the Corporation attended, together with Lord Jersey, the High Steward of the city, Territorial detachments of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, nurses, and Boy Scouts, who looked after the graves during the war.

This cross does not appear to be in the cemetery any more.

British nurse


There is just one woman in Botley Cemetery with a First World War war grave:

Mabel Murray served as a Staff Nurse at the 3rd Southern General Hospital in the First World War and died in Oxford on 2 November 1918 at the age of 35 of pneumonia following influenza. She was the daughter of Captain Edward James Murray of the Royal Artillery and his wife Alice, and at the time of the 1911 census was living with them and her younger sister Ethel at 55 First Avenue, Manor Park, Essex. Her family paid for the words O'ER WHOSE TOMB IMMORTAL LAURELS EVER BLOOM to be added to the headstone (right)


Second World War

During the Second World War, the Oxford (Botley) War Cemetery was extended and was designated a Royal Air Force regional cemetery, for the use of RAF stations in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and neighbouring counties.

In addition to the graves of those from the United Kingdom and the Empire who died in the Second World War there are about 65 graves of Belgians, Czechs, Dutch, Germans, Italians, and Poles, as well as that of T. Lagos, who died in Oxford on 18 October 1944 and is the only Greek soldier buried in the whole of the United Kingdom. His headstone is inscribed with a quotation from Pericles' funeral oration as recorded by Thucydides: ΑΝΔΡΩΝ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΩΝ ΠΑΣΑ Η ΓΗ ΤΑΦΟΣ (“The whole earth is the tomb of famous men”).

There is one woman with a Second World War war grave: Aircraftwoman Glenys Doreen Harris (19) was killed when an RAF de Haviland DH.98 Mosquito B Mk XVI plane crashed in training at Upper Heyford on 24 September 1945.

The different types of headstone

The photographs below show the typical British headstone, followed by the headstones of men from eleven other countries from both wars who died in England. Those who came from countries in the British Empire (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia) have headstones the same shape as the British one, but each of the other seven foreign countries represented below (Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, and Poland) has its own distinctive style.

British grave man
Great Britain (1941)
Joseph Baird

Australia (1945)
Keith Walter Ainsworth

Belgium (1914)
Jan François de Wiest

Canada (1916)
Joseph Clermont

Czechoslovakia (1944)
Julius Sofránko

Germany (1918)
Bernhard Friedrich Karl Dodenhof

Greece (1944)
T. Lagos

ItallianItaly (1944)
Vittorio Mischiatti

Dutch grave
The Netherlands (1944)
Jan George Egter van Wissekerke

New Zealand
New Zealand (1916)
John Moffatt Hampton

Poland (1947)
S. Stankowski

South African
South Africa (1944)
Jan Abraham Cronje

In addition, in order to preserve the appearance of the War plot, a headstone shaped differently at the top from the typical Commission headstone is used to mark non-war dead. It is similar in style to the top of the headstone used by the Italians (see Vittorio Mischiatti's headstone above).

An example is the headstone (right) of T. A. Hetherington, a civilian who was formerly a Private in the Royal Ordnance Corps (Service No. 14607222). His death on 22 April 1944 was not attributable to his war service, and so he is not listed in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database.


See breakdown of war dead by nationality

Hetherington headstone

Remembrance Sunday 2016 Botley Cemetery on Remembrance Sunday 2016, at the going down of the sun

Botley Cemetery and the Great War
(address given by Malcolm Graham on 9 November 2014)

Film with drone views of Botley War Cemetery

© Stephanie Jenkins

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