On the boundary between Chatham and Rochester lies the site of Fort Pitt, one of the Napoleonic Forts built around Chatham. Little remains of the original fort, but in the south-western corner of the site, unnoticed by the thousands of people who pass it every day, lies Fort Pitt Military Cemetery.
The entrance to the cemetery is in City Way. At the top of a ramp are a pair of white-painted gates, with swords attached, leading through to an open space with a small chapel on the left.
This entrance space is dominated by a large stone memorial, topped with cannon, rifles, hammers and pick axes. The inscription reads:
To the Memory
of many brave
buried near this spot
who gave their lives
for the honour of their
and Country in
1854 - 8
During this period, the British army fought in the Crimean War (1854-56), the Second Opium War (1856), the Anglo-Persian War (1856-57), the Indian Mutiny (1857) and destroyed the Mughal Empire (1857) in Afghanistan.
The graves in this southern area of the cemetery are the oldest. They're quite sparse, which isn't surprising given their age. As the fort was built in 1805, I assume the graves date from then onwards. I didn't get time to check the dates when I took these photos as it was already past the cemetery's closing time, and I was worried about getting locked in. I'll take a closer look next time I go there.
The north half of the cemetery contains the graves of soldiers who died during and after the First World War. In the middle of the path is a stone cross of sacrifice, stained green with the verdigris from the bronze sword set into it.
The inscription on it says:
THIS CROSS OF SACRIFICE IS ONE IN DESIGN
AND INTENTION WITH THOSE WHICH HAVE
BEEN SET UP IN FRANCE AND BELGIUM AND
OTHER PLACES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
WHERE OUR DEAD OF THE
GREAT WAR ARE LAID TO REST
Close to the cross of sacrifice, almost all of the grave stones are of the usual Commonwealth design, seen in cemeteries throughout the world, showing that these men were casualties of war.
Before the 1990s the British Government repatriated very few men who had been killed in action, so these men probably died of injuries or illness after they'd been brought home.
Moving further away from the cross, some different types of grave stones appear. These normally, but not always, signify that the dead soldier did not die due to injuries sustained during active service. I'll be trying to find out the dates on these stones, to see whether the soldiers died during the inter-war years.
Although the fort was closed in the 1920s, the most recent graves date from around the 1990s with few of them being in the Commonwealth style. All of them I saw, in the brief time I was there, were the graves of old soldiers and their families.
All photographs copyright 2007 Jason Ross