Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Walking in Southern Cemetery and remembering the Manchester Blitz

Yesterday I walked in Southern Cemetery.

The day was warm, the light perfect and once again I remembered why I liked the place so much.

It is that mix of history, the abundance of nature and that sense of tranquilly.

All of which makes it somewhere that draws you in.

For most of course it is to visit the graves of family members but there are regular talks and walks focusing on the monuments of the good and great and more than a few given over to spotting the varied wildlife.

And many of those guided tours will end at the memorial to those civilians who died during the Second World War.

It is on the eastern side of and the simple and modest monument records the names of those who died and are buried in the cemetery.

It is a humbling experience to sit in front of the mass grave and read off the names, more so because as you would expect there are whole families interred here like the Hopkins family of Fernleaf Street Moss Side.

They were killed on December 23 1940.*

Mr Hopkin was 31 his wife 29 and their two children were just five and two.

And close by on the following night Marjorie and June Hall died in Heron Street in Hulme.

Marjorie was 19 and June was five months old.

Now 75 years separate us from the events of those December nights, long enough for many of the survivors to have also died and with them the vivid memories of the blitz and the subsequent bombing that went on into the middle of the war.

All of which makes it important I think to pause and visit memorials like this one along with the Tree of Remembrance in Piccadilly.**

And even in this year of anniversaries which began in the August of last year with the start of the Great War has continued with Gallipoli, the Battle of Britain concluding in December with the Manchester Blitz it is still easy to become blasé about the loss of life and the small individual tragedies as well as the big events.

So I will take time off again to visit the memorial in the cemetery and combine it with a visit to the permanent exhibition in the Remembrance Lodge by the gates.

I was there yesterday with David Harrop who maintains the exhibition from his collection of memorabilia spanning both world wars along with material from the history of the Post Office.

And much of it has a direct connection to Southern Cemetery ranging from medals of men who are buried here to letters, postcards and stories of the blitz.

Most are the everyday things that would have come through the letter box and were happily discarded when the war ended including a leaflet on what to do after the bombing and letters and postcards.  There are even a few souvenirs bought as part of a war drives to raise funds for charities.

And this porcelain piece which may postdate the war.

Pictures; from the collections of David Harrop and Andrew Simpson

*Greater Manchester Blitz Victims, http://www.greatermanchesterblitzvictims.co.uk/index.php

**In Piccadilly Gardens at the Tree of Remembrance, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/in-piccadilly-gardens-at-tree-of.html

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