Chatham Maritime - The St George's Centre

The prisoner of war memorial at the St George's Centre Chatham.During the Napoleonic wars, tens of thousands of French prisoners of war were held in the UK, with many of them at Chatham. Those who died were buried on the nearby marshes. When erosion started to reveal the bodies, they were exhumed and reburied on St Mary's island, and a memorial placed there. When in 1904 the Royal Navy needed to expand the Naval Base to cover St Mary's Island, the 521 bodies were disinterred again and reburied in varnished boxes next to the Naval Barracks and St George's Church (now the St George's Centre). The memorial was re-erected there, where it still stands surrounded by roses.

Engraved plaque on the prisoners of war memorial, St George's Centre, ChathamThe engraved bronze plaque on the front of the memorial says:

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 BUT

SUBSEQUENTLY ABANDONED EXTENSION OF CHATHAM

DOCKYARD NECESSITATED THE REMOVAL OF THE PRISONERS'

REMAINS TO THEIR NEW GRAVE BENEATH IT

The prisoner of war memorial at the St George's Centre Chatham, showing the steps to the memorial.As you can see, the monument is on a raised piece of ground next to the church. Not surprising as there are over 500 bodies buried underneath.

I took these photographs during September 2007, after it had been raining hard. I noticed there is a white grave stone a little way to the right, away from the main memorial, but I didn't get any photos of it at the time as I didn't want to mess up the grass by trudging across it as the ground was saturated.

The prisoner of war memorial at the St George's Centre Chatham, showing the memorial to the additional prisoners.When I revisited the St George's Centre in December 2007, it was drier so I walked round to get this photo of the memorial and the additional stone.

The small prisoner of war memorial at the St George's Centre Chatham, dedicated to the additional prisoners buried there.The inscription on the small memorial stone says:

THIS MEMORIAL WAS LAID HERE

ON 22ND JULY 1991

TO COMMEMORATE THE REINTERMENT

OF THE REMAINS OF A FURTHER

362 PRISONERS OF WAR

FROM THE ORIGINAL CEMETERY ON

ST MARY'S ISLAND

The prisoner of war memorial at the St George's Centre Chatham, showing the nearby doorwayOne thing I noticed was a small white door (about 4' high) in the side of the raised piece of ground, about twenty yards from the memorial. I've also added this to my Strange Things in Chatham page.

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All photographs copyright 2007 Jason Ross