Waterloo, Battle of, soldiers' burial ground


By the time the Great Yarmouth Royal Naval Hospital was built in 1811, the war at sea with France was over, and it was not required for sick or wounded naval personnel. Therefore, on the 28th July 1814 the Royal Navy relinquished the hospital to the army and 600 victims from the Battle of Waterloo were sent in 1815 and they, as the records state: were very comfortably provided for. There is also a record dated 13th July 1815. Transported from Ostend, 300 sick and wounded soldiers removed in keels to the hospital on the Denes; that being the Royal Naval Hospital.

In 1979, during the excavations for a new ward (the Mountbatten Ward) in the southeast corner of the hospital site, two adult skeletons were discovered about three feet below ground level. They were thought to be about 150 years old. The possibility of a plague pit or cholera burial ground (the last major epidemic was in 1849) was discounted because of the siting of the graves in relation to the town wall and the orderly arrangement of the skeletons. A painted wooden board recorded burials recorded in the south-east corner of the hospital. This stated: in commemoration of one sergeant of the 55th Regiment, seven sailors and seventeen Waterloo soldiers who were interred in this burial ground during the years 1815 and 1816 and several children. Nomen et Arma Locum Tenent. The Latin translates as: their reputation and achievements are commemorated here. 

Archaeological studies suggested that this was probably the burial site for the hospital, because of variations in soil colour at regular intervals. The remains were both male and between 25 and 35 years of age. There was evidence that they had been buried in thin-walled coffins. Eleven days later, on the 29th November 1979, a further two skeletons were unearthed. There is no evidence in the hospital chapel’s archives that the southeast corner of the site was used as a burial ground. The skeletons were reburied on the site in a service conducted by the hospital chaplain and the other two were left in situ. The burial plot in the hospital grounds was used from 1811 to 1816. However, there was no evidence in the hospital chapel’s archives that the southeast corner of the hospital site was consecrated ground. 

Remains of one of the bodies found.