Thursday, 9 June 2011

Hong Kong Cemetery - Do not despair if your ancestor had no headstone !!

Less than 50% of the persons buried at the Hong Kong Cemetery, Happy Valley, had headstones erected to their memory. Even if they were a prominent and highly respected member of the community it did not mean that they would ever get a headstone. More often than not immediate family members were back in the UK and arranging for a stone was not a viable option in days long ago. Take the case of Mr. G.W. Avenell who died on 12th. February 1927 of Typhoid Fever.

Mr. Avenell had been born in Farnham, England on 9th. March 1880 and as a young man saw service in the South African Wars where he was awarded the DCM. He first arrived in Hong Kong in 1902 with the Sherwood Forresters and then went with his regiment to Singapore. On leaving the military he returned to Hong Kong as Armourer Staff Sergeant to the Police and Hong Kong Volunteers. In 1918 he joined Messrs. Lane Crawford as manager of the Ship Chandlery Department.

He was a member of the Kowloon Cricket Club and also took a keen interest in lawn tennis having at one time been a member of the Wigwam Tennis Club. He was an enthusiastic worker for the YMCA and the Philharmonic Society. Mr. Avenell was also a Freemason being a member of the Zetland Lodge.

He was survived by a widow and child who were At Home in the UK.

Mr. Avenell was accorded a funeral with full military honours – but no headstone was ever erected to his memory.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts on this Blog will know that large exhumation projects were carried out at the Hong Kong Cemetery in 1969 and 1975. As Mr. Avenell had no headstone his grave was first exhumed in 1969 and his remains moved to the Ossuary. In 1975 the Ossuary had to be removed to make way for the approach roads to the Aberdeen Tunnel. A new ossuary was built and eventually all the remains which had been held in the old ossuary were moved into the new. Although Mr. Avenell, like many others, has been moved around the cemetery perhaps it is all for the good because at least now he has a plaque within the cemetery which shows his name.

If you would like a search of my Hong Kong Cemetery Burial Index please contact me. More often than not I am also able to provide a synopsis of the persons life in Hong Kong as illustrated above with the case of Mr. Avenell.