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The British World War I Memorial in Philadelphia

Event Details

The British World War I Memorial in Philadelphia

Time: June 1, 2019 all day
Location: Northwood Cemetery
Website or Map: http://philadelphiawwiyears.c…
Event Type: memorial, brits, britain, british, cross
Organized By: John Voris, Lead Coordinator
Latest Activity: Feb 22, 2019

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Event Description

Saturday June 1, 1929

It may seem a bit curious that a memorial to British soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the First World War is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The story begins in 1922 when the then British Consul in Philadelphia, Gerald Campbell, was transferred to San Francisco. His admirers wanted to provide him with a gift in appreciation for his service. Campbell wanted nothing for himself, but he did request that a plot of land be procured in a local cemetery as a last resting place for British citizens who had made Philadelphia their home. Land was found in Northwood Cemetery in the West Oak Lane section of the city for a memorial for Britons who had served in the war and had died in Philadelphia. Prior to the war, an estimated 10,000 British citizens lived in Philadelphia. Estimates are that about 60,000 Britons left America to fight for the mother country, 4,000 coming from Philadelphia. Some gave their lives on fields far away.

The Cross of Sacrifice is found in all British military cemeteries throughout the world. It is a freestanding Latin cross on an octagonal base with a bronze broadsword on its face. The Cross in Philadelphia made of Portland stone cut in England and shipped to the United States, was the first Cross of Sacrifice to be erected in the United States in memory of British servicemen [1].

The dedication was on June 1, 1929.

“I venture to express a hope that this hallowed spot will be henceforward doubly dear to all Britons, as it will serve to remind them of the homeland, while, as they gaze on the Cross of Sacrifice they will remember that Briton and American alike shared in that sacrifice and thank God for this solid rock on which Anglo-American friendship is securely founded. This Cross will therefore be not only a perpetual reminder of the supreme sacrifice nobly made by many, but also a bond of union between the living and the dead on both sides of the ocean.”

The inscription on the base of the monument reads:


Then 57 years after the ceremony of 1929, another burial took place under the Cross with full British military honors. In 1985 the body of a British soldier was uncovered during construction close to the site of the Battle of Germantown which occurred on October 4, 1777. The soldier was probably buried by his comrades close to where he died that day. He was laid to rest here on November 2, 1986.

When this British soldier lost his life on that October day long ago he was buried by his fellow soldiers in what was then still part of Great Britain. Because of the work of British and American citizens culminating in the dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice, 209 years later this unknown soldier once again rested in British ground.


[1] A Cross of Sacrifice was previously dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 1927. However, that Cross was dedicated to Americans who had lost their lives while serving with the Canadian and British military.

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