The Trafalgar Cemetery, noted as an attraction for tourists to visit, was purportedly the cemetery in Gibraltar that was used to bury the dead for those who were killed in the battle of Trafalgar, however the reality is that there are curiously only a few buried here who were killed in the battle of Trafalgar.
Trafalgar Cemetery was used between 1798 and 1814 for burials of those who died in Gibraltar. Consecrated for use in 1798 it began being used seven years prior to the battle of Trafalgar, which was fought on 21 October 1805.
At that time known as the Southport Ditch Cemetery, the majority of those it contained would die of several severe epidemics of Yellow Fever, which took place in Gibraltar in the years 1804, 1813, and 1814.
At the time, called, as previously mentioned, the Southport Ditch Cemetery, it was also sometimes viewed as part and parcel of the older, more noteworthy St. Jago’s Cemetery, which was sitting on the opposite side of Charles V Wall.
Just outside of the Southport Gate, Southport Ditch made what was part of the natural defenses of the town, as far back as the time of the Spaniards in Gibraltar.
Southport Ditch shows up on maps of Gibraltar that were made in 1627 (as a “Fosso” just south of “Puerta de Africa” or Southport Gate) by Luis Bravo which maps reside now in the British Museum.
The western part of the ditch, which had been always been used as a market garden for most of the nineteenth century was backfilled when the Referendum arch opened in 1967.
It appears that the association of the cemetery with the battle of Trafalgar didn’t take place until a score of years after the actual event, and it is even conjectured that the two victims of the Battle of Trafalgar buried there may have been the reason for the renaming.
Of those buried in the Trafalgar Cemetery, only two known graves belong to victims of the Trafalgar battle, most of the others who perished in that hard fought battle would be buried at sea.
The British Navy, after the battle, would later transport Lord Nelson’s body to London for a state funeral, leaving just two heroes of the conflict to be buried in the Cemetery that earned the name of the battle so many years after the event.
Those graves, numbered 121 and 101, contain the remains of the Lieut. William Forster of the Royal Marine Corps, serving on the H.M.S. Mars and Lieut. Thomas Norman, who served on the H.M.S. Columbus.
The remainder of the seamen who took wounds in the battle were brought to Gibraltar, and if they later died of wounds received there, were buried north of the Charles V Wall, which lies on the opposite side of the Trafalgar Cemetery. Recently it is reported that a plaque was placed there to commemorate the site for visitors to the area.
There are however, buried within the confines of Trafalgar Cemetery, victims of multiple other sea battles in the area, such as the battle of Algeciras, which took place in 1801 and similar actions around Cádiz and Málaga that occurred in 1810 and 1812.
The Napoleonic Wars offered up a share of their victims to the Trafalgar cemetery, even if they were not of the Battle of Trafalgar.
After 1814, when the majority of the burials took place, the cemetery fell into disarray and was no longer used, save for one single exception, a burial which took place in 1838.
There are multiple interesting stones, which commemorate those buried there, and some which remind us of the perils of the past, commemorate the dead in the terrible epidemics of the past years. Among the most interesting and unique attractions of Gibraltar, those things you write down to see while you visit the Rock, don’t forget to add Trafalgar Cemetery.