War Graves in the Churchyard at St Mary the Virgin, Morpeth

memories from Pat Baker, daughter of the Rev. Canon F. Baker, Rector of Morpeth (1938-39 and 1945-62) and Mrs L Baker

Gallowhill Hall near Bolam was converted into an emergency hospital during World War II and many Polish casualties were treated there. Sadly, most died because their health had suffered when escaping from Poland and Nazi atrocities, they had lived rough and stole food, many contracting Tuberculosis (TB). A section of St Mary’s Churchyard was set aside for War Graves and the Poles were buried there. There are 74 graves of Polish servicemen, 25 graves of Polish civilians and 7 war graves of other nationals, including some British airman who died in an air crash.
Interments had to be done using specified spacing and depth, and the coffins were lined with lead so that they could be sent back to Poland after the war.
A number of Polish visitors came and still come to Morpeth seeking the graves: on one occasion, a Polish gentleman came to The Rectory and asked if there were war graves in the Churchyard. As his English was not good, my mother took him to the graves. On the way, he said that he was looking for his cousin’s grave. The grave was found and he cried, he broken-heartedly said that they had lived on neighbouring farms back in Poland and used to play together as children.
Post-war, a mother of one casualty used to send cash to The Morpeth Rectory to buy flowers to put on her son’s grave, which she continued to do until she died.
The graves are still inspected regularly by the War Graves Commission to see that they are well maintained.

For more information see MORPETH CEMETERY (polishresettlementcampsintheuk.co.uk)

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