British Cemetery view to Forte de Graça
Graves and memorial stones in the British Cemetery
Aerial view of the British Cemetery from the castle
British Cemetery 1904
The British Cemetery is situated in the bastion of São João da Corujeira, high on the eastern wall and just below the castle, commanding a fine view over the plain to Badajoz in Spain. The bastion is named after the adjoining chapel, founded by the Friars of St. John’s Hospitallers in 1228, to mark the spot at which they broke into the Moorish defences. The British Cemetery was opened in 1811 to receive the body of Major General Daniel Hoghton, who fell at the head of his Brigade in the Battle of Albuera, on 16th May 1811.
Traditionally, British soldiers were not permitted to be buried in local Portuguese or Spanish cemeteries, as they were not Catholics. Elvas has had a military hospital since 1645, and it would have been full of both Portuguese and British wounded during 1811 and 1812. The disproportionate number of deaths meant that when General Hoghton’s body was brought to Elvas, Marshal Beresford petitioned General Leite, the Governor of Elvas, for permission for Hoghton to be buried within the fortifications, these being a military-controlled area, rather than a sacred church-controlled area.
The bastion of São João da Corujeira was ceded by the Portuguese Army, as it is located close to the ancient Chapel. Indeed, Beresford’s own nephew, John Theophilus Beresford, is buried at a bastion in Almeida, after dying from wounds received from storming the Main Breach at Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812.
During the sieges of Badajoz and the Battle of Albuera, the forces of Britain, Portugal, Spain and the German states lost some 11,000 men.
On 14th May 2000, in the presence of the British Ambassador, Sir John Holmes, and the Chief of the Portuguese Army Staff, General Martins Barento, plaques were unveiled in recognition of the British and Portuguese Regiments that fought in the battles of Albuera and Badajoz. The Portuguese Army carried out the restoration and landscaping of the cemetery and the installation of the plaques. Maintenance of the cemetery remains the responsibility of The Friends of the British Cemetery.
The Albuera Wall
The Badajoz Wall
On 14th May 2004 General Fulgencio Coll Bucher, Commander of Mechanised Brigade XI - Extremadura and Military Governor of Badajoz, unveiled a plaque in the presence of the British Ambassador to Portugal, Dame Glynne Evans, to the Spanish Regiments that fought at Albuera.
On 14th May 2011 Lady Jane Wellesley, Patron of the Friends of the British Cemetery, and Colonel Nick Lipscombe, Chairman of Peninsular War 200, unveiled a plaque in remembrance of the 60,000 officers and men of the British and Portuguese armies who died alongside their Spanish allies in the cause of freedom and independence in the Peninsular War of 1808-1814.
The area of the graves is surrounded by a cast iron railing which was installed on 20th August 1904 by the Military Governor, Brigadier João Carlos Rodrigues da Costa. This fact is recorded by a small stone carved "G.P.E - 20-8-1904" (Governador da Praça de Elvas). The cemetery was rededicated in 1997.