Commonwealth War Graves Harrogate

Last year, I enjoyed visiting two sites through the Heritage Open Days scheme. I may never even have heard of the places we visited had they not come to my attention through being listed on the website. Such is the case with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the cemeteries they started and now maintain.

There weren’t as many choices on the Heritage Open Days website this year. However, I think the chance to learn more about the work of the Commission and the stories behind some of the servicemen and women buried in Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate overshadowed any sadness at the diminished range of venue.

Sadness was reserved for the stories we were told, as we were being shown around the war graves by Elizabeth Smith, one of the Commission staff.

Flying Officer L.A.Hannah was about to take off at an airfield in Lincolnshire. His plane was carrying a crew of six other men and a cargo of bombs. The plane caught fire, so the only way to save his crew and the airfield was to continue to take off. After the crew had parachuted out, he continued flying to avoid the plane blowing up over the village below.

About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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22 Responses to Commonwealth War Graves Harrogate

  1. Always a sobering experience.

    More details of “your” Hannah here –

    His brother was killed just over three months later and he is also buried in that cemetery.

    • Helen says:

      Thank you for the links. The guide yesterday read out the letter from Harold to their mother and also showed us his grave. They had seven other siblings I think, two or three of whom were in the armed forces, too. I think they all survived but I wouldn’t like to swear to this. Nonetheless, the parents’ grief must have been tremendous.

      • I couldn’t find any other listed by Commonwealth War Graves, but even so, two was bad enough.

        • Helen says:

          The guide had found some more but I don’t supposed it was on Google. I think it must be part of her job to do this research.

          While we were doing the tour, the great grandson of another person buried there was visiting his relative’s grave. He joined us as we had space with one attendee not turning up. Then Elizabeth (the guide) had a good conversation with him.

  2. Carol anne says:

    Wow! What a sad story! I’m glad you got to see the graves and hear these stories! A piece of history. xoxo

  3. Clare Pooley says:

    How brave and noble Flying Officer Hannah was and what a desperately sad thing to happen. My uncle’s plane was shot down in WW2 over Germany. They all began baling out but one of the crew was trapped at the rear of the plane. By the time he was free it was too late for the pilot to escape who continued flying for as long as he could so that the rest of the crew could land safely. He and the plane were destroyed.

    • Helen says:

      That is so sad – I wonder how often these incidents happened? At the time of WWII, flying was still in its early days, so I imagine there was a lot of room for mishap.

    • Helen says:

      Did your uncle survive?

      • Clare Pooley says:

        Yes, he did. He and a fellow crewman went on the run for a few days, hiding in ditches etc. They split up eventually. He also got help from an Englishwoman (who was married to a German) who fed him and looked after him for a short while. I’m not sure if he gave himself up or was captured but he stayed at the police station at first and was well looked after by the policeman. They then had to hand him over to the SS who didn’t treat him well, as you’d expect. He was only 19 or 20 years of age at the time. He was sent to a prisoner of war camp in the far East of Germany and stayed there for a couple of years until 1945 when the prisoners were told to leave by the Commandant and make their way home. The Russians were coming and the Germans didn’t want to be captured by them and the prisoners didn’t want to be rescued by them either!

        • Helen says:

          I’m glad your uncle survive. It is an interesting story, although I am sorry he was treated badly by the SS. It is heartening that the policeman was kinder.

  4. nanacathy2 says:

    Thanks for this- I had no idea this was in Harrogate.

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