The third site of memory as part of the main War Graves Week events takes us to the East of England and to Cambridge City Cemetery. The Public Engagement Coordinators for the Commission who cover the East are Megan Kelleher and Sophie Newton.
Megan is the Public Engagement Coordinator for the East (Central) region of England, which covers the counties of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland. Like Will and Megan Maltby, Megan started her career with the CWGC as a Centenary Intern, working primarily at Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium. Her interest in the work of the Commission began when researching her family history; three of her relatives are commemorated by the CWGC in Belgium, whilst the other is in Egypt.
In addition to her work with the Commission, Megan is also completing her PhD in History at the University of Kent, where she is researching the presence of First World War graves in the United Kingdom and their impact on the culture and memory of the conflict. She finds this research fascinating, and it has been helpful in her work with the Commission. One of her favourite memories of working with the Commission was being part of the D-Day celebrations at Portsmouth back in 2019; reflecting on the events, she said “it was amazing to interact with so many people with personal connections to the Commission’s work and to discuss their ongoing work”.
Sophie is the Public Engagement Coordinator for the East, which covers the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Sophie grew up with family across the region, which has meant she has long been interested in the history of its landscape. With a background in widening participation and community education, she is particularly interested in the diverse stories of individual casualties across the region.
Alongside her interest in community education, Sophie’s academic background in the History of Art means that she is fascinated by the architectural and design histories of CWGC sites. When discussing this aspect of the Commission, and highlighting the variety of sites found across the region, she said “I hope that I will be able to help communities engage with their local history in a personal and meaningful way”.
Cambridge City Cemetery: Annie Simmons
Cambridge City Cemetery is the final resting place of over 1,000 servicemen and women who lost their lives as a result of service in the two World Wars. It is just one of eight sites in the UK with such a large number of war graves. Many of the casualties from the First World War here are individuals who died as a result of wounds or illness in the 1st Eastern General Hospital, which was established in Cambridge during the First World War.
During the Second World War, General Service and the Air Force plots were established for the burial of casualties from the air force stations set up in the eastern counties during the conflict. These included Bomber Command bases in Lincolnshire and Fighter Command stations in Norfolk and Suffolk. A Stone of Remembrance, which was unveiled by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder in 1951, stands near to the centre of the Air Force plot.
Among those commemorated at Cambridge City Cemetery is Member Annie Simmons. Annie appears to have been a local to Cambridge; her parents were Laurence and Catherine Simmons, and their address on their next of kin form was recorded as 56 Brookfields, Mill Road, Cambridge. Annie was serving in Number 3 Group HQ of the Women’s Royal Air Force at the time of her death; she is buried with her parents at the site, with a Private Memorial marking the grave.