The German military cemetery in England

July 29, 2018

On Friday I visited the German military cemetery at Cannock Chase. Holding the graves of more than 2,000 German and Austrian military and civilian internees from WW1, as well as nearly 3,000 WWII and other graves, it was a cemetery I didn't even know existed until earlier this year.

 

The graves are laid out with slate-grey stone markers, many with four names to a stone, two on either side.

 

I was specifically looking for the last resting place of Oberleutnant zur See, Walter Eduard Alexander Schmitz, born in 1891 in Recklinghausen in Westphalia.

Schmitz had risen through the ranks from sea cadet in 1909 to become the third commander of U-Boat UC-57. 

His U-Boat had sunk the HMAPV Dirk which my great-uncle had been serving on, off Flamborough Head in the early hours of 29th May 1918. Schmitz was captured 2 days later as the U-Boat attacked a second merchant convoy in the same area and was itself sunk in the subsequent exchange of fire with HMS Fairy. Interrogated at Cromwell Gardens in London he was then sent to the POW camp at Raikeswood in Yorkshire.

Schmitz died of influenza there on 4th March 1919, one of 37 prisoners who died there that month alone. First buried in Morton cemetery along with '22 Commonwealth soldiers who died of sickness and wounds in the Keighley War Hospital', Schmitz's remains were transferred to Cannock Chase in the 1960's.

 

I found his grave. The stone notes his rank, birth and death dates. 

I wonder whether anyone has ever made a specific visit to his grave before. The irony is that he lived for a while in Yorkshire, albeit as a POW, and died there, whereas my great-uncle, who was from Yorkshire, has no burial place, having been killed by the UC-57 at sea in 1918.

 

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