Not just a Cemetery but a tribute to bravery and dedication for men and women from all over the world, civilians and military.
In the last blog entry I described a short walk from Hamble to Royal Victoria Country Park to visit the beautiful Royal Victoria Chapel Restoration .
But there is actually another point of interest on this walk, and although the thought of a cemetery may not be everyone’s idea of a nice day out, I can assure you that this one is both beautiful and poignant, and lends itself well to a quiet walk, or a relaxing place to sit and chill out.
So how d’you get there? Well, based on my last blog (short walk from Hamble to Royal Victoria Country Park) the route to the cemetery is halfway along the route, as marked on the map below (courtesy of Ordinance Survey Map OL22:
The Green circle lower right (south-east) shows the start point on Hamble Lane, the red circle middle left (north-west) shows the Chapel, and the yellow circle in the centre shows where the path sharply diverges to lead to the cemetery, the yellow arrow shows the direction (roughly north-east) to take down the path (it does actually slope downwards) to reach the cemetery.
If you are walking from Hamble towards the Chapel you will find a sharp right turn about halfway along your journey. If you are coming back from the Chapel, then you will see a fork in the path, with the path to the cemetery to the left, and the path back to Hamble going slightly uphill to the right.
The path to the cemetery is broad and slopes downhill with the occasional low concrete marker post along the edge, numbered, and showing the boundaries of the Military land with the “Broad Arrow” of the Royal Ordnance on them. (Sounds like a metaphor for life eh? A Broad Path, going downhill, with the odd marker along the way?)
At the bottom of this broad path you will come to an old gate, and some fencing along the side aimed at keeping the local deer out (although whether this is successful or not is hard to say).
Once you are in you will see a grassy Knowle to your right with a group of grave stones, including a number belonging to Polish Soldiers.
One of the min parts of the graveyard, along a path and uphill from this little shady mound, is the open area that contains most of the soldiers who died in WW1, this area is marked by a suitable memorial cross.
There are people from a wide number of nations buried here, although the majority are British, there are also members from all the Countries of the Commonwealth, particularly Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Perhaps surprisingly The Hospital dealt with many German POWs who were wounded, and some of them lie in graves represented with pointed stones in the graveyard, easy to spot among the rounded tops of the British stones, and nice to see a degree of respect for men, although the enemy at the time, who fought for their country. Lying together on a quiet Hampshire hillside.
Off a path on a small secluded piece of land sloping away from a large shady fir tree are a small group of stones for Belgian soldiers who were wounded defending their homeland in WW1 from the invading Germans, were shipped by steamer to Netley, and subsequently died and were buried in this little part of Hampshire. Framed in the sun by the mauve Rhododendron flowers.
If you take time to wonder around the graveyard (not as macabre as it sounds, albeit if you chose a sunny day for it) you will find many curiosities, including civilian graves, and the stories of nursing staff who served here, including a Japanese Doctor.
Below are just two of the interesting cases. The first is E. Mbenyesi a Private in the South African Labour Corps, who died on 26th August 1917. Thousands of Labourers came from all over the Empire to support the Motherland in the conflict with Germany in WW1, many never returned home. Without these men digging trenches and moving supplies in their work to support the front line troops, the Germans could never have been stopped in their march across France and Belgium. How “native” volunteers from countries like South Africa survived in the harsh winter conditions in the European conflict is amazing, and a testament to their bravery. The was the son of Mkatali and Mampinga, and the husband of Mantsaka.
The next is an interesting stone, and a reminder of conflicts nearer to our own time, and the only Jewish grave stone in the cemetery. In this case a Jewish soldier named E. Nirke a Serjeant in the Intelligence Corps. Eugene Nirke is a bit of a riddle, he seems to have been brought up in Shanghai China with his father Jacob, who later moved to Israel. Eugene served in the British Army and fought against the Japanese invasion of Burma. He seems to have suffered from some form of illness or injury, and was moved from active service in the front line to the British Intelligence Service in India in 1945. He turned up in Russia in 1947, and took British citizenship. In 1950 he was shipped to the sanatorium at Netley Hospital where he died. Is it just possible that Eugene was a British Spy in Soviet Russia?
Note the small stones placed on top of his stone as a mark of respect. Although I’m a confirmed atheist, we did place a small pebble there ourselves, as a mark of respect for his sacrifice. Maybe not all spies get the publicity of a James Bond?
Not all soldiers who died at Netley were buried there. Some of the Indian fallen were cremated on purpose-built pyres according to their religious customs, their ashes then sprinkled into soft brown Hampshire streams that cross the site in times of rain, and carried their remains down to the Solent mixing with the clear water of the trout streams of the Test and Itchen, before being joined by the rich waters of the Hamble and then out into the sea to join their ancestors.
Others were transported away by Governments (in the case of US Troops), or by relatives. One such case was a man called Clement Kray, who died at Netley Hospital in 1915. A member of the Honourable Artillery Company, and an East End Cockney, Clement was the Great Uncle of the Kray Twins, he was the second member of the family to have been in Netley, you can read their story here:
So, if you are going to RVCP to see the chapel make sure you walk the short distance to the Cemetery as well, it’s a lovely quiet place, and well worth the small effort involved. With many stories beyond the ones I’ve mentioned here.
Hamble-le-Rice is a wonderful place, and the Hamble Peninsula holds so many sites of interest which can be walked to without too much effort. One of the easiest is Royal Victoria Country Park (RVCP) at Netley.
Today the 1st August 2018 is the “soft” opening day for the newly restored Chapel of the of The Royal Victoria Military Hospital.
This was once the largest Hospital, and reputedly the largest building in Europe, and although the buildings fell into rack and ruin some time ago, the chapel was saved and has been renovated with the help of Lottery Money.
This walk is on the ordinance Survey Map OL22 excerpt below:
The Green circle is the start, yellow line the route, red circle the end. Although I am only describing a short walk of about 2-2.5 miles round trip, you can of course start from Hamble Village, head across Hamble Common, turn right, then carry on walking up the beach until you come to RVCP on your right after about 2 miles. But I’ll describe that in another blog, for now here is the shorter walk:
The Path is picked up from Hamble Lane, It is signposted to Netley and marked as a national Cycle Path. If you are coming from the North down Hamble Lane towards Hamble, then the entrance is a few dozen yards past the school on your right, just past the old light railway level crossing bars (disused). If you are coming up from Hamble heading North on Hamble Lane, then the entrance to the path is on your left a few dozen yards past the small parade of shops on your left. here are a few parking places along the road near the school, or you can park in Hamble and walk up.
The path from Hamble to RVCP is an easy fairly flat walk, of about a mile, shielded by trees along a raised causeway that leads into the Southern entrance to the Country Park. If you stay on this raised broad path you will not get lost, as it leads directly into the Park.
On the route, once you are near to the park you will see some low information boards giving a little information and showing a direction to different facts and features.
When you leave the trees through the wooden barrier you will see the open grass and scattered trees of the RVCP and a little way ahead the Chapel dominating the view.
To the West, on your right, is a sloping vista leading the eye to Beach on the Solent and the view across to the New Forest side of the water.
Before you reach the Chapel you will see some information booths to your left as you enter the park, and ahead towards the Chapel as well as on the far side of it, they are art in themselves and are well worth spending some time studying.
The front of the building, and its entrance, faces the Solent, and it’s worth a walk down the short boulevard of trees sloping down from the main entrance to the Solent.
Here you’ll find more information boards, a memorial to the D-Day Invasion (unfortunately slightly defaced by scratches by anti-social morons).
There are some benches where you can have a seat in the sun, relax and watch the plethora of Cruise Liners, Container Ships, Yachts, Cruisers, and jet-skis, enjoying the Solent’s Waters, and the pebble beach stretching from Hamble Point to the mouth of the River Itchen at Southampton.
This view-point is where the old pier reached out into the Solent to receive the cargo of wounded soldiers from steamers in the channel.
Heading back to the Chapel it is now open to the Public, the attendants are friendly and helpful, and it’s worth a couple of hours looking at its history.
What mustn’t be missed is the chance to climb the stairs up to the bell tower in the roof. There is a lift, but the stairs (109 steps) are worth the effort as you will see different views at different points on the way up.
Once at the top there is artwork to show what the view would have looked like at various dates in the past which is a very nice touch.
If you are lucky, and you ask the tour guide nicely enough they may let you actually ring the bell, but be warned it is very loud. We were the first public tour of the Tower on the opening day so a few of us got to do this. Very satisfying.
Remember to take some 20p coins with you to use the old seaside style telescope that is mounted in one of the windows looking out across the Solent.
The views from up here are tremendous, with or without the telescope and really shouldn’t be missed. Southampton Docks are visible to the North, and the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth to the South. Look carefully to the South and you’ll just see the masts of yachts in the Hamble River at Hamble Point. Across the Solent is the Industrial, but none-the-less picturesque outline of Fawley, the Oil Terminal (worth a visit itself if you like some industrial heritage), and further down the Solent to the South the omnipresent Chimney at Fawley Power Station.
We you come back down stop at the large reception area and take a look out of the big window:
Then turn directly around and go into the chapel gallery. In here are some fascinating stories of former military patients, complete with photographs, printed on the back of the benches.
After this go back down stairs to the main exhibition. When you stand in front of the video panels, step back a little and make sure you are under the area speakers, which quietly direct recollections from patients and nurses into a small area set back from the screen.
To return from the RVCP to Hamble, just retrace your steps the way you came.
If you’d like to know more about the Military Hospital at Netley, and the presence of the Kray Twins’ Family at the Hospital and in Hamble then you can read more here:
You can also see the piece I did on this with Fred Dinenage from ITV Meridian by following this link: ITV Meriden Interview
Hope you enjoy this short walk. More will follow.
Thanks for joining me! Living in Winchester and then Hamble-le-Rice on the Hampshire Coast, we have found many walks that we enjoy, and thought that you might too, so decided to tell you about them.
These posts will describe in words and pictures the beautiful countryside, Town, and Village walks we’ve discovered. Some are short some are long, all have a charm of their own.
Having survived Lime Disease, Pericarditis, a Melanoma, and a Bunion, I’m guessing that if that lot didn’t get me, I’m probably immortal, and I walk cross country to stay that way; so far it’s worked.
Having said this, cross country walking brings rewards beyond the physical; the pleasure and peace of mind that only nature and a sense of history can bring to the soul.
Ok I’m an atheist, so should really say “…can bring to your brain chemistry to release endorphins” true but not as poetic.
In any case, I hope you enjoy the walks described, whether you walk them, or just read them. If you do leave a comment or a rating, I’d love to hear from you.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton