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Israel Photography by Yoav Cohen

The soldiers who never left the Mandate: The British Military Cemetery in Ramla

As you travel throughout Israel, it's easy to overlook landmarks that tell the stories of the empires that have occupied this land. Among these hidden landmarks is The British Military Cemetery in the outskirts of Lod—the largest of its kind built by the British during their occupation. Maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, this cemetery preserves the memories of thousands of soldiers who fought during World War I and World War II from throughout the Middle East.

Lod British Military Cemetery

Establishment

The cemetery was founded during the First World War, on November 1, 1917, when the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade occupied Ramla. Initially, the cemetery was established by the medical units posed in the area. As time went on, additional graves were brought in from battlefields and other burial sites.


Where Harry Potter is buried

Among the countless names engraved upon the tombstones, a few stands out. One is Harry Potter - killed in battle in Hebron in 1939 and made famous by the Ramla tourism office. The cemetery also houses the graves of Mervyn Paice and Clifford Martin, who were hanged by the Irgun in 1947 in retaliation for the execution of three Irgun members by British authorities.


In total, within its grounds lie 3,300 Commonwealth burials from the First World War, with 964 of them unidentified. The cemetery also holds 1,168 burials from the Second World War. In addition to these, there are 892 war graves of individuals from other nationalities, representing both world wars. The cemetery also encompasses 525 non-war burials, many of which are associated with the RAF and garrison stations that were present in Ramla during the interwar years and until the end of the British Mandate in Palestine in 1948.



The lasting presence of the Mandate

While the British Mandate period concluded in 1948, the remnants of the British Empire's presence are still scattered throughout Israel, the cemetery in Ramla being among the most solemn, impressive and vivid recollection of the presence of the Empire, as well as the price paid in just one arena of two world wars.


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