When you are in an alien city a lot can go wrong but thanks to smartphones with GPS enabled maps it’s sometimes rather easy to track and locate offbeat tourist locations. During one of my trips to the capital I decided to visit the Delhi War Cemetery. It was important for me to visit the site for two reason one being that fact that it had to do something with World War which interests me a lot and on this subject I had written two blogs Japanese Air Raids on Kolkata during WWII and Balloon Squadron That Protected Calcutta Against Japanese. Secondly it was important for me to keep a promise. While researching about the Balloon Squadron during WWII I had come in contact with some friends from UK who helped me with lots of facts about this regiment and one of the member of this regiment who was killed during an air raid by the incoming Imperial Japanese Airforce was supposed to be buried here.
Since Delhi is quite a big city and also the capital its best either to take the metro or to take an app cab if you are not so sure about its location from the metro station. Thus without wasting any time I just typed in the location on my mobile and the cab was booked. Within five minutes the cab was at the location and my journey started. As per the map, the journey would take around 20 – 25 minutes so I just relaxed and watched my cab move slowly across the digital map on my smartphone.
With about 200 hundred meters remaining to the site the cab takes a right turn and then the cab just stops. The driver who was hardly twenty-one spoke to me in heavy Haryanvi accent to tell me that there is a military check post ahead. I rechecked and the Delhi War Cemetery was showing right ahead but what the app did not take into consideration was the fact that the Delhi War Cemetery was part of the Delhi Cantonment and only registered or military vehicles were allowed inside.
I tried to explain the reason why I wanted to visit Delhi War Cemetery but the guard at the security check post was of no help. First of all, he was not aware of the Delhi War Cemetery secondly without approval from his seniors he was not allowed to let guest or visitors inside. Luckily for me, the app cab driver being a young lad agreed to re-look at the map on the phone and decided to go around the cantonment area thus bypassing the security check post. This would have meant additional time on the app cab but he did not mind.
We drove for around fifteen minutes more crossing underpasses and a railway crossing we finally reached the gates of the Delhi War Cemetery. It was around 3 P.M. and as I was about to enter the gates I found them locked from inside. I was aware that the official time for the closure is 5 P.M. and I could see workers doing maintenance work inside. After waiting for around 10-15 minutes no one came to unlock the gates. The workers could see me but ignored my presence. I stood there for another 10 minutes and then started climbing over the small gate to reach inside. On seeing this one of the employees at the cemetery came to inform me that the cemetery was closed for visitors. I knew the truth thus challenged him to show me the notice as I was aware of the visiting time. Then he changed his reason to the fact that it was evening and the cemetery remains open only in the morning. This was also challenged and this time I was stern and with a very loud voice, I told him to either open the gates or I will have this incident officially reported to CWGC. By then the workers knew what exactly I was wanting and opened the gates for me.
I explained to them politely that I was searching for someone as requested by the family of the person who was buried there. They understood my requirements and got the official log book which has the map of the cemetery along with the names of the people buried and their exact location.
The search continued for nearly half an hour but could not be located amongst the headstones with name and regiment details. Then someone from the staff asked me to check the name log book at the entrance which contains the names of all the casualties.
Overall this section of the cemetery is very well maintained since its maintenance is done by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and forms a part of the original Cantonment Cemetery which still exists and can be seen located behind the cemetery wall.
History of the Cemetery
The cemetery was built in the year 1951 by the architect H. J. Brown and there is an identical war cemetery in Karachi having similar design styles. This cemetery is quite interesting since many cemeteries around India which had graves of WWI & WWII soldiers were removed and brought to this cemetery so that it can be maintained well. Thus this cemetery contains graves from Allahabad Cantonment Cemetery, Kanpur Cantonment Cemetery, Dehradun Cantonment Cemetery, Lucknow Cantonment Cemetery, Meerut Cantonment Cemetery and Nicholson Cemetery – Kashmir Gate – Delhi (WWI).
A total of 1022 memorials are present in this cemetery either in the form of a headstone or at the list of casualties which is in a form of a register and can be seen on the left side of the entrance. This log book in kept in a glass box and can be accessed visitors.
How to Reach
Do not make the mistake that I did, just do not blindly follow the maps that you see on your screen. You are only allowed to access the cemetery from the Mahatma Gandhi Marg (Delhi Cant Metro Station). You can use public transport like the Bus which has a stoppage here and the nearest Metro is the Delhi Cant which lies in the Pink Line. From here there is no local transport and one needs to walk a little more than a kilometre to reach the Delhi War Cemetery. If you book an App Can then make sure the route that is shown follows this path and not through the Army Cantonment area.
If you are coming by an App Cab then try to ask him for a return trip as it would be difficult to find a cab back and you have to walk back all the way to the main road.
The cemetery remains open to visitors from 7.45 A.M. to 5.00 P.M. (Monday to Friday). Since the location of the cemetery is very isolated thus would recommend not to come in the early evening hours, try to come during the daytime.
Location of the Cemetery on Map