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 Theophulus 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 Germany 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.