British War Cemetery Jerusalem
Israel is full of unexpected places packed with fascinating history. The Jerusalem British War Cemetery and Memorial on Mount Scopus is one of those unusual places. The Jerusalem cemetery is for British and British Commonwealth soldiers who died in Palestine during World War I (1914-1918). The Jerusalem War Cemetery was planned for the fallen soldiers who had come from far and wide to serve in the Great War and the memorial was inaugurated in 1927 in the presence of Lord Allenby.
The British in Palestine
When WWI broke out Palestine was ruled by the Turkish Empire (Ottomans) and Allied Forces advanced into the region in 1916. In November 1917 the Allies captured Jerusalem, forcing the Turks to surrender and vacate the city. It was a bloody military campaign that cost the lives of many Allied soldiers and led to the downfall of the Ottoman Empire which had ruled Jerusalem since 1517. As was the custom, the British established a military cemetery near to the battle site for fallen soldiers who died far from home. Soon after WWI ended the League of Nations appointing Britain with the Mandate for Palestine, to administer the land that was now a non-self-governing territory. The British Mandate was in place from 1920 to 1948.
2515 British Commonwealth Graves
The 2515 soldiers buried here are from Britain and the British Commonwealth countries including New Zealand; Egypt, Australia, South Africa, the British West Indies, and India as well as 100 unidentified fallen soldiers and a few German and Turkish dead. The gravestones are identical in shape and size but bear the soldier's rank, name, army unit, and date of their demise.
At the foot of the headstones, families have been allowed to add a personal message. There are touching engraved epitaphs such as "What can a man do more than die for his countryman;" Farewell brave son, until we meet again" and "Time flies, Love remains" and "His last message, no more wars for me." One of the many interesting gravestones marks the final resting place of a British driver called William Shakespeare who died in 1918. There is a small Jewish section in the cemetery for the 24 Jewish soldiers that served in the British army during World War I.
A large white stone memorial commemorates the lives of 3,300 fallen Commonwealth servicemen who died fighting in Egypt or Palestine. The memorial was designed by Sir John Burnet and sculptures are by Gilbert Bayes including one of the Patron Saint of England George fighting a dragon. In the memorial chapel is a mosaic by Robert Anning Bell.
Discover the British War Cemetery
The cemetery on Mount Scopus is between the Hadassah Medical Center and the Hebrew University. The entrance gate honors the Imperial Guard with the unit's motto inscribed in stone in Hebrew, English, and Arabic. A path leads from the cemetery entrance to the chapel and intersects with a second path to form a cross. At the intersection stands the Cross of Sacrifice and the Memorial Stone, traditional symbols of British military cemeteries. The beautifully kept grounds are a quiet haven from the hustle and bustle of the city below. From the cemetery, there are magnificent views across the Old City. Laws prevent the construction of anything obscuring the view of the Old City from the cemetery on Mt. Scopus.
This cemetery of British and Commonwealth soldiers so far from home brings to mind the words of British poet, Rupert Brooke in his poem The Soldier: "If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is forever England…"