Southwark is burying and building over War Graves

with Commonwealth War Graves Commission knowledge.

11th November 2018

Southwark Council is in the midst of the largest grave re-use and mounding project in the nation.

They have been burying and building over CWGC War Graves and civilian casualties. Plans show WW1 and WW2 War Graves under new burial areas from 2007 and possibly earlier. The War Memorial lists 131 WW1 War Graves scattered in Camberwell Old Cemetery – Graves which Southwark is obliterating when they should be remembering.

Camberwell Cemetery War Graves

Above: Plots above war graves, each red circle is a war grave. And the same area being built on, October 2018.


Southwark is building over at least 37 Commonwealth War Graves in this area. Southwark has not informed relatives, let alone consulted them, and only contacted the CWGC late in 2015 once development was under way. Roadways, terraces and ‘new’ burial plots will obliterate the war dead buried here.

Southwark’s Area Z planning application misled the public over the number of war graves to be developed over – claiming only 6. Now the Council admits it is in fact at least 37, possibly 48. And Southwark has stated they have no intention of commemorating all with CWGC headstones. And in fact, they do not know where these service personnel are.

A victory for the Save Southwark Woods Campaign:

Campaign forces Commonwealth War Graves Commission to do its job – erect CWGC headstones for War Dead

Actions by the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries – the Save Southwark Woods Campaign – have forced the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to erect headstones for war dead in the two Camberwell Cemeteries in Southwark.

The CWGC was set up in 1917 to commemorate the fallen. Their ‘Principle One’ requires all service personnel killed in the two World Wars to be commemorated with a headstone or a memorial.

CWGC has been meticulous in finding and memorialising graves overseas.

But the CWGC has not been as scrupulous on UK soil, where thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of WW1 and WW2 service personnel lie buried in unmarked graves, including Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries.

The CWGC’s own records – publicly available – give the exact locations of all unmarked graves across the UK. And they have had 100 years to do it.

Southwark Council also knows the locations of unmarked war graves in their cemeteries. But have developed over them for years – as revealed by SSW in 2016 – without informing the CWGC.

SSW continued to campaign on the issue through 2016 and 2017 with articles in The Telegraph and Evening Standard, and letters and emails from the public to the CWGC asking for answers.

Clearly, CWGC war grave headstones would have got in Southwark’s way of burying and building over the war dead.

What now for ‘Area Z’ development area in Camberwell Old Cemetery Wood where 48 service personnel lie buried.

And what will CWGC do about the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of other unmarked war graves in cemeteries across the country?

If CWGC has not erected headstones, these graves too are at risk of development by ruthless cemetery owners like Southwark.

The Save Southwark Woods campaign is fighting to preserve the woods, meadows and graves of the Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries in East Dulwich and Honor Oak.

AREA D1 One Tree Hill, Camberwell New Cemetery

Southwark is destroying memorials throughout their cemeteries – here building a road over graves – to make ‘new’ burial plots. There is a CWGC war grave in this area, possibly under this road, also graves of those who died at home during WW2 from enemy action.

Headstones - D1 - BURIAL AREAS

Calling the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

What is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission doing?

The CWGC state ‘We only have responsibility for the war graves and these have all been identified and will not be affected by the works.’

Headstones, including those of war graves, are being removed, and probably crushed. The plans call for roads and embankments above many of the graves, and it is improbable that the Council will free enough area above the war graves so that no war grave is actually buried over. And what of their families; graves? And what of the civilians’ graves?

The Council claim that remains of the dead will not be ‘disturbed’ and the CWGC accept their claim. The area above the graves will be scraped clean of memorials and these memorial dumped or crushed. The CWGC have not responded to the Friends concerns, let alone our questions.

We appealed to the CWGC without reply. Read our concerns and questions.

25 May 2017


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has agreed with the London Borough of Southwark that: no war graves will be disturbed during the planned works at Camberwell Old Cemetery, that no burials will take place above the war graves and that we will be able to mark graves which were previously inaccessible.

We only have responsibility for the war graves and these have all been identified and will not be affected by the works.

We follow a similar process at other sites where the war graves are exempt from any reuse scheme.

Southwark Council hypocrisy – remembering those who died in the V1 and V2 rocket attacks, while destroying their graves

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Above: Cllr Ian Wingfield and the grave of Albert Bowskill, Killed in Enemy Action died 2nd March 1944. His grave is in the path of a new roadway or in the area where WW2 era graves are scheduled to be dug up to create ‘new’ graves.



Camberwell Old Cemetery ‘The Island’ burial area:

Since at least 2003, Southwark has been selling new burial plots over thousands of common graves – including WW1 service personnel, killed in active service

Area F/F1 Woodvale, Camberwell Old Cemetery:

In 2013, Southwark developed a ‘new’ burial area along the southern boundary of the cemetery along Woodvale – including developing over two CWGC war graves without consulting or even alerting the Commission or relatives.


Area Z, Camberwell Old Cemetery, at least 37 CWGC WW1 and WW2 service personnel’s War Graves being built over:

Southwark is building terraces, roads and embankments on two acres of graves to sell 700 ‘new’ burial plots over 48,000 existing graves – including at least 37 WW1 and WW2 War Graves.


Ten acres of graves are under imminent threat in Camberwell Old Cemetery and more in Camberwell New Cemetery.

Southwark intends to cut down the woods and scrape away the headstones to sell burial plots over thousands more graves – including MORE CWGC War Graves.



Email the CWGC

Demand they ask Southwark Council to respect the war dead in the Camberwell Cemeteries.

Report Southwark’s destruction to the Press

You can help by emailing, writing, tweeting, instagramming media outlets including:,

And please copy us in:

Camberwell Old Cemetery War Memorial

Camberwell Old Cemetery War Memorial

The War Memorial lists the 131 WW1 War Graves scattered around Camberwell Old Cemetery. Southwark Council knew about these – and that the CWGC also had their locations and relatives’ contact details. Yet they have been burying on these men and women, and continue to build on these men and women. We ask them to stop.