The Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery
The Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery Shooters Hill Road London SE18 4LX
The Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery a hidden secret Gem
A little bit of History: “Our Dumb Friends League” was founded in 1897 to look after the welfare of animals. In 1914 the league re-opened its Blue Cross Fund, first set up during the 1914 Balkan War. The first efforts were directed at the suffering of horses; the 1st Blue Cross Hospital was in France.
Moving On: The Blue Cross Quarantine Kennels at Shooters Hill were acquired at the end of World War 1, to house the dogs being brought back home by returning soldiers and families from abroad.
At one time 123 dogs were kennelled there, along with cats and other pets including guinea pigs.
This "local Institute" within the league was run by Mr and Mrs Burden.
In the 1930’s, these kennels provided a safe haven for service men and women's' pets and working dogs, safe in the knowledge that while they were serving their country their animals were safe and cared for and, if needs be, they would be given a final resting place.
The kennels also took in the animals of refugees – free of charge – as people rarely had any money. One refugee in 1942 was a red setter called "Whisky", who had escaped with his owners from France in a small boat; they were picked up by an English Destroyer after several days at sea and "Whisky"
resided at Shooters Hill for the duration of his quarantine.
By now the kennels were a truly international company; there had been dogs from France, Norway, Holland, Denmark and many other countries including one internee from Germany.
Today: the pet cemetery is still there but less loved than in previous times. It is a little oasis of calm adjacent to, but not part of Hornfair Park. It is a timely reminder of how our servicemen and women from the 1st and 2nd World Wars cared for their animals, for those that are buried there the poignant inscriptions on the stones bear testament to this. The stones no longer stand in a well-tended garden but lie flat to the ground. Many of these animals received recognition for their service during these wars.
There are 240 graves stones on the site and one cannot fail to be moved by inscriptions such as:
“Flossie” - From six weeks we had her but age crept on with time; a dear old girl that we loved so well she will always be in our minds. Flossie died in 1939 at the age of sixteen
Or another stone, now worn with time, recalls the 12 years’ military service of “Simba” with the 93rd at home, in Jamaica, China and India.
The Friends of the Pet Cemetery (FOPC) was started in 2012; the aim of the group is to refresh the memorial stones, replant the garden beds, install bird and bat boxes and repair the seating - working with a group of retired gentlemen who are known as the "Men in Sheds".
We intend to take the History of the Pet Cemetery into schools, teaching the value of the companionship of animals to service personnel and members of the community in their homes.
All in all making this "Historical Gem" a special place to visit
There is now a memorial wall where pet owners can commemorate their pet
(details from the secretary or Chair – see below)
Researching the Past: Research into the site is on-going but it is difficult, as the Blue Cross records of the site were lost in a fire many years ago, and this where the group require the help of you, the members of the public.
Do you know of someone who worked at the kennels?
Do you have any memories of the kennels and Pet cemetery?
Do you know when the garden was disbanded?
Do you know someone who worked at the site when the garden was disbanded and the stones laid flat?
Do you know someone who had a pet buried there?
Any information will be gratefully received to help us piece the history of the Blue Cross Pet Cemetery together.
Any donations will be gratefully received and go towards the maintenance of the pet cemetery, so making it an inviting place to visit, to stop and pause for a few moments and reflect on all that has happened here, and the animals and people who passed through this site.
Further information and details contact:
Liz McDermott Chair firstname.lastname@example.org 07815558680
Jean Patrick Secretary email@example.com 07977208362
A 45- minute Power Point Presentation on the History of the Old Blue Cross Cemetery can be booked through the Chair - Liz McDermott contact details see above