The Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery

Pune (Poonah) India

These are photographs taken at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Pune (Poonah) India in November 2000.

A few comments about Pune:

Pune -- a modern spelling created by a nationalistic desire to return things to pre-British times -- a little hard to fathom as the local alphabet is completely different!. The desire falls short of achievement and you will still find the name spelled 'Poonah' in such places as the airline waiting line. Most Indians are little interested in the attempt to rename things and still use the names that were in place during the British Raj.

Pune is located inland from the port of Bombay (now called Mumbai -- there was virtually nothing there before the British created a trading port) about 140 kilometers and with an increase in elevation of about a thousand meters. It is a twenty minute flight from Bombay or about four hours by road (the new motorway may speed that up). It is a fairly large city with a large university and highly educated population.

The city has a few good hotels and I can recommend Le Meridien or the Holiday Inn both of which cost about $100/day when you include meals. These hotels are within a few blocks of each other and about 20 minutes from the airport by taxi -- if you are staying at one of these hotels they will arrange to pick you up. As you probably know, in this part of the world, do not drink the water or eat uncooked food. Do not expect to eat beef. As near as I could tell you can eat almost anything else as long as it is chicken and rice in some variation or other.

The city is the capital city of the province of Maharashtra. It dates from about the 1400's making its founding comparable in time with Milan in Italy. On the outskirts of the old city is the area known as Kirkee. It was the site of a significant battle between the British and the Indians in 1817. The British had supported the Indian prince in his attempt to retain power about a decade earlier. By 1817 he felt he could be rid of the British. At that time the British had about 1,000 British troops and 2,000 Sepoys. The Indian army had about 30,000 troops. They met on the plains at Kirkee and the Indian army was defeated which finalized the control of this part of India by the British. Poonah became an important army town with many cantonments -- areas which still exist in some ways today. Pune is the site of the Indian Defense College and many other military installations.

The Commonwealth War Graves cemetery is a pleasant 20 minute drive from the hotels, going along the river and through several military garrisons.

The Cemetery:

The cemetery is located about a 20 minute drive from the airport. The memorial plaques and the role of honour are not generally available unless the groundskeeper in attendance -- if you are wanting to see these you should probably expect to spend a few hours waiting, unless you are lucky enough to arrive at a time when he is there. On one occasion I visited in the morning and he was not in attendance. On a second occasion, in the mid afternoon, he was there. He was most helpful in locating graves. I had indicated an interest in the Canadian graves and we were able to find seven of the eight that were indicated to be there. He was also concerned that I see the grave of the lone American buried in the cemetery.

I unfortunately have lost some of the photographs that I took -- I was having some difficulty with my camera and later had a computer stolen (not in India, in Holland) and between those two problems I have only three particular grave photographs remaining.

A Description of the Cemetery from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission plaque


Kirkee War Cemetery

Index Number Ind. 13

Kirkee, also known as Khadki, is a pleasant military cantonment adjoining the large town of Poona on the plateau above Bombay. It is reached by train from Bombay to Poona, a journey of about four hours, and from Poona station Kirkee is ten minutes by taxi.

The war cemetery occupies an attractive site on the banks of the Mula river. From the entrance gates in Mula road broad, shallow steps lead down into the cemetery, which is some five feet below the road level. The banks on either side of the steps are clothed with ornamental and flowering shrubs and the avenues leading to the Cross of Sacrifice are formed by Peltophorum trees which twice a year bear beautiful, sweetly scented yellow flowers. Across the site stretch pergolas covered with flowering climbers -- bignonia, alamanda and bougainvillea -- and the various seats in the cemetery are shaded by flamboyants or gold mohur trees. The headstone borders contain dwarf roses and hybrid tea roses, and the whole area, save for paths, is turfed.

At the opposite end of the cemetery, opposite the entrance, is a large memorial commemorating 193 East and West African soldiers of the 1939-1945 War and 1170 soldiers of the 1914-1918 War who are buried in many parts of India and Pakistan where there graves are either unlocated or so situated that  maintenance is not possible.

This cemetery is purely a concentration cemetery, and there are gathered together war graves from the western and  central parts of India where permanent maintenance could not be ensured. The total number of burials is 1,674 classified as shown opposite. In addition, special memorials commemorate two 1939-1945 War casualties of the merchant navy who are buried elsewhere.

The register of the 1939-1945 War casualties commemorated on Kirkee Memorial is included in this volume. The names of the 1914-1918 casualties are the subject of a separate register.


The Photographs.

The remaining photographs that I have are shown below with comments. Note that the thumbnails shown here are distorted. Each thumbnail has a hyperlink to a full size copy of the photograph.


A memorial to the war dead of World War I



Another memorial the World War I war dead



A view of part of the cemetery


A general view of the cemetery with a row of Air Force graves in the foreground.




This photograph shows the graves of several crew members and Indian passengers who were killed in a plane crash. The only discernable name is that of WO O'Brien. It may be that all crew members were British or it may have been that one was a Canadian. I took the photograph as an example of how one crash might kill many individuals, but may also have taken it because one was a Canadian crew member



A photograph of the groundskeeper employed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is holding the memorial role which, because of the way things are in India, is not left on site when he is not there.




A description of the Kirkee Cemetery


A page from the memorial plaques at the cemetery. This page is blown up in the following photographs



A statement on the role of Indian soldiers in the two world wars. Over 160,000 Indian soldiers lost their lives.



A partial view of the commemorative narrative



A partial view of the commemorative narrative



A summary of the war casualties honoured at the cemetery. It shows 8 Canadian personnel from World War II who are buried there. All of these were R.C.A.F. and one World War one Canadian who is commemorated on the tablet


A table which lists the numbers of war dead by nationality and service



The grave of

R.80922 Warrant Officer 1
R.G. McIntaggart, Pilot
Royal Canadian Air Force
who died 31st July, 1943



The grave of
Flight Lieutenant H.C. Morgan
Royal Canadian Air Force
who died 10 July, 1945

The inscription is not clearly recorded but appears to be:

"At the going down of the sun we shall remember them"

I believe F/L Morgan was from Toronto



The grave of

Flying Officer S.D. Woodman, pilot
Royal Canadian Air Force
who died 17 August 1945, age 22

The inscription reads:
"In Loving Memory
May God be with you . . ."