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At The Pet Cemetery

August 6, 2023
by the gentle author

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I discovered a curiosity to view the garden of remembrance in Ilford where more three thousand of our fellow creatures lie interred and see how they have been memorialised by adoring owners as a means to assuage their sense of loss.

It is a commonplace to observe the peace that prevails in a cemetery yet this was my first impression, provoked by the thought of the cacophonous din that would result if all these dogs, cats, pigeons and budgies were confined together within this space while they were alive. On closer examination, the collective emotionalism of so many affectionate elegies upon the gravestones expressing both gratitude and grief for dead pets is overwhelming. Especially as most of the owners who placed these monuments are dead too – including Sir Bruce Forsyth whose beloved collie Rusty is interred here.

Between the twenties and the sixties, animals were buried continuously in this quiet corner of Redbridge but then the cemetery was closed and fell into neglect until 2007, when it was reopened with a celebratory fly-past of racing pigeons and a military ceremony by the King’s Rifle Corps. Especially noticeable today are the white marble headstones for heroic animals, carrier pigeons that delivered vital wartime messages, dogs that rescued survivors from buildings in the Blitz and ships’ cats that killed rats on naval vessels.

Yet in spite of the heroism of animals in war and the depth of feeling evinced by domestic pets, the cemetery is quite a modest affair, just the corner of a field hidden behind the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Curiously, many of the owners attribute themselves as ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ on the gravestones, declaring a relationship to their pets that was parental and a bereavement which registered as the loss of a member of the family.

Animals surprise us by discovering and occupying a particular intimate emotional space close to our hearts that we did not realise existed until they came along. They forge an unspoken yet eternal bond, entering our psyche irrevocably, and thus while we consider ourselves their custodians, they become out spiritual guardians.

In memory of Binkie, an Adorable Little Budgie Who Died

In Memory of our Dumb Friend, the Dog that God gave us, Trixie

Peter the Home Office Cat – Payment for Peter’s food was authorised by the Treasury thus, ‘I see no objection to your office keeper being allowed 1d a day from petty cash towards the maintenance of an efficient office cat.’ It seems that the money was requested not because Peter was underfed, but rather that he was overfed because of all the titbits that staff provided. It was felt that this ‘interfered with the mousing’, so if food was provided officially, the office keeper could tell staff not to give Peter any food.

In Loving memory of Our Boxers, Gremlin Gunner, Bramcote Badenia, Bramcote Blaise, Bramcote Benightful & Panfield Rhapsody

Be-Be, Our Little Dog So Loyal and True, Now He is in Peace God Bless You

In Loving Memory of our Darling Sally & Our Greyhound Swan & Our Cat Brandy Ball

In Loving Memory of Benny, a Brave Little Cat and Constant Companion to Those he Loved

Mary of Exeter, Awarded Dicken Medal for Outstanding War Service – A pigeon that made four flights carrying messages back from wartime France, returning seriously injured each time. On her last return, shrapnel damaged her neck muscles but her owner, Charlie Brewer an Exeter cobbler, made her a leather collar which held her head up and kept her going for another 10 years.

In Memory of Our Dear Pal Wolf

Mickey Callaghan, Here Lies Our Darling and You Always Will Be

In Memory of Simon, Served as ship’s cat on HMS Amethyst – Simon’s heroic ratting saving the crew from starvation during the hundred days the ship spent trapped by Communists on the Yangtze River in 1949. Simon was originally the Captain’s cat, a privileged creature who fished ice cubes out of his water jug and crunched them, but after he survived being blown up along with the Captain’s cabin, he was promoted to ‘Able Seacat’ and became pet of the whole crew. Unfortunately, the decision to bring the feline hero back to Britain proved the end of him as he caught cat flu in quarantine and died.

In Memory of Good Old Brownie

Memories of Our Faithful Doggie Pal Sally

My Babies Always In My Heart, Dede, Nicky, Sophie & Scruffy

In Memory of Rip DM, for Bravery in Locating Victims Trapped Under Blitzed Buildings – Rip was a stray who became the first search and rescue dog

In Memory of Jill who Adopted Us and Gave Us 15 Years of Loving Companionship

Shane, Bobby & Tina

In Loving Memory of Whisky, We Loved Him So, Mummy & Aunty Flo

Rusty, A Magnificent Irish Setter, We Were Better For Having Known Him, He Died with More Dignity Than That Most of Us Live – Rusty lived with Sir Bruce Forsyth in his touring caravan and performed on stage at the London Palladium. Rusty was a truly lovely fellow who performed all sorts of fantastic tricks, his favourite was to flip a biscuit off his nose and catch it in his mouth,’ recalled Sir Bruce, ‘But one day his back legs gave up on him. It was awful to witness – almost overnight he had become this pathetic, helpless animal. The only way I could take him outside for exercise was to grab hold of his tail and lift his back legs up, allowing him to walk on his front legs with his back end gliding along. This didn’t hurt him at all and he loved to be outside, but people in the street gave me filthy looks.’

In Fond Memory of Tops & Tiny Tim

In Loving Memory of Scottie Tailwaggger & Muffin

Our Buster, Faithful Intelligent Beautiful Golden Labrador

In Memory of Our Little Dog Sonny & Our Beloved Shandy, Quietly You Fell Asleep Without a Last Goodbye

In Loving Memory of Our Darling Poppet

Our Most Precious Snoopy

In Loving Memory of Perdix Crough Patrick, Bulldog

To the Dear Memory of Patch

In Loving Memory of Dinky & Dee-Dee

Beautiful Memories of Binkie, Golden Cocker Spaniel & Tender Memories of Joey, Blue Budgie

Nanoo, Sally & Rags

In Memory of Punch for Saving the Lives of Two British Officers in Israel by Attacked An Armed Terrorist

In Memory of Tiger & Rosie, Two Dear Old Strays

Peter, Loved by Everyone

Tim, Out Little Darling

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. David Hall permalink
    August 6, 2023

    Wonderful…..very touching …..but couldnt Sir Brucie have got a trollie fixed up for poor Rusty ?

  2. Milo permalink
    August 6, 2023

    “A celebratory fly-past of racing pigeons…”
    I bet that would raise the hairs on the back of ones neck and a tear to the eye. On a practical note they should have tried that as a back up plan when the rain washed out all those high tech planes at the Kings inaugural’s.

  3. August 6, 2023

    A wonderful series of photographs. I am even more sad that I can no longer travel, as I would love to return to London if only to visit this cemetery.

  4. Marnie permalink
    August 6, 2023

    Some headstones in this pretty little cemetery are in a sorry state–damaged, lying on the ground,

    surrounded by straggly vegetation and clutter.

    I do hope that someone can forward GA’s photographic tribute to these loved and missed critters

    to the head maintenance person and s/he will send a team post haste to set the headstones


  5. Leana Pooley permalink
    August 6, 2023

    Ooo-ooo! The lump in my throat!

  6. Cherub permalink
    August 6, 2023

    I had no idea this existed, so I asked my husband and he says he remembered it from childhood. I like the dedication above the gateway.

    My brother has neighbours who have a little graveyard in a discreet part of their garden for their much loved terriers, it’s very pretty.

  7. Irene Lilian Pugh permalink
    August 7, 2023

    Never knew this cemetery existed. I loved the story of Mary the wartime Pigeon. Sadly once their owners pass on – the graves become neglected.

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