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Author Topic: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham  (Read 14299 times)

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Offline bromptonboy

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #23 on: August 07, 2018, 16:21:18 »
The 'Prisoners Bank' and the cemetery on St Mary's Island were two separate locations. When the Dockyard extension was being built burials from the Prisoners Bank were removed and re-interred at the St Mary's Island cemetery.

Offline Local Hiker

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #22 on: August 02, 2018, 16:58:01 »
Does this help? Courtesy  of old-maps.co.uk

Offline henly1234

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #21 on: August 02, 2018, 16:14:21 »
Anyone have any idea on the precise location of the 'Prisoners bank' on St Mary's Island? The prisoners of war burial ground.

Offline bromptonboy

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #20 on: January 07, 2014, 09:33:04 »
Although known as a memorial to French POW's, there were numerous American, Dutch, Swedish and Danish prisoners held on the hulks a proportion of which died and were interred alongside the French nationals. Maybe the annual memorial service should also see representation from these other nations as well?

Offline kyn

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #19 on: January 06, 2014, 19:04:28 »
It was interesting to read a detailed account of the burial grounds and to get the dates for the movements of the bodies.  This was actually a newspaper article!

Offline busyglen

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #18 on: January 06, 2014, 18:33:11 »
Thank you for this interesting information Kyn.  :)
A smile is a curve that straightens things out.

Offline kyn

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2014, 18:07:19 »
Prisoner’s War Memorial.

Unfamiliar Monument with a History Beginning from Nelson’s Days.

Chatham Man’s recollections.

How many people have read or even seen a lengthy and closely printed notice displayed behind glass near St. George’s Church, the Naval Barracks, Chatham?  The notice makes highly interesting reading.  This is what is says, word for word:-

By 1798 a large number of French prisoners of war were incarcerated in England.  In that year there were 30, 625 French prisoners besides 300 officers on parole, confined in Portsmouth, Plymouth, Normancross, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Chatham and Stapleton.  In 1790 the number was 25,646.

On 1st January, 1801, in consequence of the high rate of mortality among them, the prisoners were supplied with warm clothing at the public expense.

Those imprisoned at Chatham were confined to hulks in Gillingham Reach and Short Reach, and the bodies of those who died were buried on the marsh land, now known as St. Mary’s Island, but now a marshy promontory belonging to the Gillingham Gas Company.

In 1854 the Admiralty purchased St. Mary’s Island and the marsh land adjoining, to allow an extension of Chatham Dockyard, which had long been in contemplation.  The Chatham dockyard Extension Act was passed on 26th July, 1861, and work began after the construction of suitable dams had been completed.  Convict labour was employed.  The convicts were drawn from various penal establishments, and were housed while the work was in progress, some in hulks in the river and later on ground which is now occupied by the R.N. Barracks.

In 1868 the attention of the secretary of state for Home Affairs was drawn to the burial ground at “Prisoners Bank.”

The Gillingham Gas company stated that the erosion of the bank was causing the exposure of skeletons and coffins.  The Home Secretary requested the admiralty to remove the remains or to construct works to protect them.

A question arose as to whether any convicts who had died while employed in the dockyard Extension were interred there, as this apparently had a bearing on the disposal of the remains, but it was shown to the satisfaction of the Home Secretary that deceased convicts had been buried in Gillingham Churchyard.

After the Gas Company had given their consent to the removal on 21st January, 1869, subject to all damage being made good, the admiralty, on 8th March, 1869, issued an order to remove the remains from Prisoners’ Bank and to re-inter them in the existing French Cemetery, on St. Mary’s Island.

This Cemetery already contained the bodies of a “large number” of prisoners, but no details are available as to their numbers or nationality.

On 11th May, 1869, the Chatham Dockyard authorities reported to the admiralty that 711 skeletons and some coffins had been removed from Gillingham Prisoner’s Bank and re-interred in the French Cemetery at a total cost of £87 6s.  At the same time isolated and scattered graves on St. Mary’s Island were opened, and all remains were concentrated in the French cemetery.

In 1869 the Director of Works, by their Lordships’ order, produced a design for a memorial which was approved to be built and erected in the French Cemetery, the work to be done by convict labour.

In September of the same year a tender was accepted for a Sicilian marble figure for the memorial, but the figure was eventually made of some other material.  The convicts erected and completed the work.

On 5th December, 1891, the charge of the French Cemetery on St. Mary’s Island was taken over from the Dockyard by Captain Ernest rice, R.N., H.M.S. Pembroke, and the Admiralty having appropriated the annual sum of £10 for its maintenance, this sum was ordered to be paid to the Paymaster of the Depot Ship.

In 1899 the Gillingham Gas Company reported the discovery of two more skeletons contained in coffins similar in construction and material to those found 30 years’ previously.  On the evening of 3rd July, 1899, these remains were brought over by boat and re-interred in the French cemetery.  On 4th February, 1903, in view of the contemplated constriction of a new Dockyard Basin, which would take in the French Cemetery, Rear Admiral R.W. Craigie, the Admiral Superintendent and Senior Officer at Chatham, appointed a committee consisting of Captain R. Wintz, H.M.S. Pembroke, Chaplain the Rev. J.W. Moriaty, R.N., and Thomas Hunter, Esq., S.C.E., to report on the best procedure for transfer elsewhere from the French Cemetery all the remains from the French Cemetery all the remains and to report on the best site in the Dockyard to erect the Memorial.

A grass site near the Staff Captain’s Office, was selected, but was objected to by the Rear Admiral on the grounds that it would occasionally be flooded by the river.  A site in Gillingham Old Cemetery was then proposed by the Committee, and the Vicar of Gillingham and the Rear Admiral concurred, but in March, 1903, the Admiralty having desired that the remains and the memorial should be on Naval Ground, the Rear Admiral directed Captain Wintz to submit proposals for a suitable site in the new Naval Barracks ground.

On 17th March, 1904, the C.-in-C., Sir H. L. Pearson, the admiral-Supt. Rear Admiral R. W. Craigie, Captain Wintz, H.M.S. Pembroke, the S.C.E. and the French Naval Attache inspected the French Cemetery, visited the R.N. Barracks, and approved the present site.

Admiralty letter D.W. 5095/4296, of 20th April, 1904, directed the removal of the remains and the re-erection of the memorial on the site to the South of the Naval Chapel in the E.N. Barracks.

The cost was made chargeable to the item, “Chatham Dockyard Extension, under head (B) of the Naval Works Act, 1903.”   The remains were exhumed and placed in deal varnished boxes, 6ft. by 2½ft. by 2ft., and as the Admiralty had directed that every care was to be taken that the work should be carried out decorously and without publicity, the Dockyard workmen employed worked in the evening after normal working hours.  The transfer began in the evening of 25th August, 1904, and on 16th September it was reported that 521 skulls and remains had been reburied in 29 boxes in the R.N.B. site.

The re-erection of the memorial then began, and under date 7th December, 1904, the C.-in-C. reported to the Admiralty that the work was completed.  The total cost of the transfer was £645.

Under date 24th January, 1905, their Lordships wrote in reply, “it is considered best not to have a public ceremony for the unveiling of the monument.  In addition to the French prisoners of war, it is possible that some Dutch prisoners, taken in the battle of Camperdown, 11th October, 1797, may have died and been buried on the Medway banks, but no records in confirmation can be found.  It is improbable that there are any prisoners’ remains dating from the three Dutch wars in 1652-1654, 1664-1667, and 1672-1674.

The memorial bears the following inscription:-  “Here are gathered together many brave soldiers and sailors, who having once been foes, afterwards captives of England, now find rest in her soils.  Remembering no more the animosities of war, or the sorrows of imprisonment, they were deprived of the consolation of closing their eyes amongst the countrymen they loved.  But they have been laid in an honourable grave by a nation who knows how to respect valour and to sympathise with misfortune.”

On the memorial tablet appears:-  “This memorial, built to Admiralty order by convict labour in 1869, and placed in the prisoners of war cemetery on St. Mary’s Island, was re-erected here in the autumn of 1904, when a contemplated, bust subsequently abandoned, extension of Chatham Dockyard, necessitated the removal of the prisoners to their new grave beneath it.”

Mr. C. E. Clark, of 81, Ordnance-street, Chatham, a much revered local celebrity, has a photograph in his possession taken about half a century ago during the time the monument was on St. Mary’s Island.  His duties as a river policeman in those Victorian days brought him almost daily to the vicinity of Stangate Creek and Dead Man’s Island, as it was known, where it is common to see human bones exposed *** wash of the tide. 

Offline kyn

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2014, 19:20:40 »
Chatham Royal Naval Barracks French Cemetery.

Remains actually removed about September 1904

Reported complete Dec 5th 1904.

Offline kyn

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2013, 20:15:47 »
An overlay showing its rough initial position.

Offline Leofwine

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2012, 19:14:53 »
Gale & Polden Postcard c.1905-10 showing the Memorial in the new Pembroke Barracks

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Offline kyn

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2012, 18:56:33 »
7 November, 1961.
Commander-in-Chief,
Portsmouth.

I am to inform you that approval is given to the renovation of the War Memorial to French Prisoners of War adjoining the R.N. Barracks Church, Chatham, at an estimated cost of £200 chargeable to Vote 10 III E. Repairs and Maintenance,

BY COMMAND OF THEIR LORDSHIPS,

L. K. Petre

Offline kyn

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2012, 17:04:10 »
It is not thought that there is any peculiar historical value in this monument other than normally attaches to any memorial of this nature.  Head of H.S. would rank it with out own Imperial war Graves Commission’s cemeteries; and if we are prepared to spend money on the upkeep of those, presumably we should do at least as much for this.
2.   The conditions in the Chatham prison hulks during the Napoleonic War is a blot on out national escutcheon which will take a deal of erasing.  It seems only decent that we should take some pains to keep in good order this little memorial to men who died largely because of British neglect and inhumanity.  Maybe, if we needed some sort of small quid pro quo, we might invite the French Naval Attaché to advise on its restoration, in the knowledge (or hope) that he would report this graceful little gesture to his masters in Paris, and thus contribute to goodwill all round.

P.K. K??ys
Head of Historical Section.
28th June, 1961.

Offline kyn

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2012, 08:57:34 »
Yes that`s what I thought too.

Offline Jason

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2012, 01:42:19 »
If one does a search in Googlebooks under the search phrase 'the prisoners' bank chatham dockyard' it should bring up an article published in the Once a Week magazine of 1869 that contains some great details about the prisoner of war burials and re-interments.

From the article and Kyn's posting of the 4th January, that sounds like they were originally buried at the Strand.

Offline bromptonboy

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Re: French Prisoners of War memorial, Chatham
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2012, 17:49:59 »
If one does a search in Googlebooks under the search phrase 'the prisoners' bank chatham dockyard' it should bring up an article published in the Once a Week magazine of 1869 that contains some great details about the prisoner of war burials and re-interments.

 

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