There are loads of amazing articles telling you about the many different wonderful museums and sites you can potentially visit – which is why I wanted to do something slightly different. I wanted to write about Glasgow Western Necropolis, which is a cemetery that has many casualties from the first and second world wars, whose graves are cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). Cemeteries can be an important source of information, knowledge, and beauty - especially if you know where to look! So, this article is for all those world war history buffs, history enthusiasts and architecture lovers, and I hope it prompts everyone to think about respectfully visiting their local cemeteries to learn more about the history of the places we live.
Glasgow Western Necropolis is located on the same site as a few other cemeteries and is very much an active cemetery. In addition to the 492 CWGC burials here, there are 240 in Lambhill, 333 in St Kentigern’s, and 4 in Garnet Hill Hebrew Burial ground. The Glasgow Western Necropolis is a fairly large site even if you do not take into account the other cemeteries.
Near the main entrance, you will see a stunning piece of historical architecture – the cross of sacrifice. This is a feature present in all CWGC cemeteries where there are 40 or more CWGC casualties buried. Originally designed in 1918 by prolific British architect and garden designer Sir Reginald Blomfield, the stone cross with downward sword reflects the faith of the majority of those commemorated in the cemetery. However, the Western Necropolis also has a unique feature. Which is a screen wall behind the cross of sacrifice. The screen wall is near the main entrance and has the engravings of all the regimental badges that could not be included on the headstones of those buried within the cemetery.
To the right of the main gate for the Western Necropolis stands Glasgow Crematorium, the oldest crematorium in Scotland which opened in 1895. There is a garden of remembrance next to the crematorium as well, and within that garden stands a CWGC Memorial, which has the names of one serviceman of the First World War and 72 servicemen of the Second World War whose remains were cremated there.
There are also many stories that you can ‘dig up’ about the casualties buried within the site. The reason that you will find many service members, of different nationalities such as Canadians, Australians, Germans, and South Africans to name a few, from both world wars is because Glasgow was a hub of military activity during that period. Additionally, during the First World War several military hospitals opened in Glasgow, and those who did not recover were buried in cemeteries in the city - if their families did not request otherwise.
Sister Annie Winifred Munro, who served in the South African Nursing Service, is one such individual who is buried in the Western Necropolis. Annie was the daughter of William and Ellen Munro - of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and member of the South African Military Nursing Service. She served in West Africa, Gallipoli, and in France where she was based close to the front lines. As a nurse, she worked extremely long hours, often in demanding conditions, which resulted in her contracting pneumonia – a respiratory disease that causes inflammation of the tissue in one or both lungs. Annie was sent to a hospital in England to recover and when she felt a little better, she travelled to Scotland - the country where her father was born and raised. Unfortunately, Annie became ill again and was taken to hospital in Glasgow where she sadly died on 6 April 191 - at just 26 years old.
Annie is buried with a private headstone designed by English architect Sir Herbert Baker and erected by the South African Comforts Committee - under the personal direction of Viscountess Gladstone. Today, visitors to the site can find a CWGC pedestal marker at the base of the headstone, as the original headstone was no longer legible.
If you are planning on visiting Glasgow Western Necropolis do bear in mind that it is an active cemetery. There are still people being buried here. Similarly, please do consider your own health and safety, and do not venture too close to any headstone, especially those that are over 1m tall as there is a slight risk they may topple over. There is parking available for visitors, and the site is accessible through public transport. Finally, dress weather appropriate – the cemetery is in Glasgow after all! My advice would be put on a pair of walking/wellington boots before you go.
If you would like to find out more Information about the cemetery before you go it is available on the CWGC website - https://www.cwgc.org/our-war-graves-your-history/explore-great-britain/scotland-west-region/glasgow-western-necropolis/
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Sehar is Currently working as a Public Engagement Coordinator for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. She has a background in heritage education as well as public engagement and completed her undergraduate degree in History from the University of Glasgow.