Destination Pakistan Guide

Destination Pakistan Guide

British Cemetery Gilgit

Exploring the Historic British Cemetery in Gilgit: A Testament of Colonial Legacy

The British Cemetery Gilgit, also known as G.W. Hayward Cemetery is in the picturesque city of Gilgit. Gilgit is the capital of Pakistan’s mountainous region Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and holds immense historical and cultural significance. This serene burial ground stands as a testament to the British colonial presence in the British Raj’s Gilgit Agency during the 19th and 20th centuries.

A Commemoration of George W. Hayward

The monument, initially named “Hayward’s Garden,” was established in July 1870 in Gilgit to honor the memory of the late British explorer George W. Hayward. George W. Hayward met a tragic end near Darkot Pass in Ghizer, then part of a princely state, when he was assassinated by a son of Gohar Aman. His body was brought to Gilgit for burial, making him the first person to rest in the British Cemetery. The inscription on his tombstone pays tribute to a gallant officer and accomplished traveler who lost his life during his journey to explore the Pamir steppe. The Royal Geographical Society of London erected the monument in his honor.

Architectural Marvels

Enclosed within a stone wall and adorned with intricate wrought iron gates, the British Cemetery Gilgit boasts a unique architectural style that reflects the Victorian era. The grave markers, showcasing elegant craftsmanship and delicate engravings, are primarily made of stone.

A Window to History

The British Cemetery Gilgit serves as a poignant reminder of the British Empire’s presence in the region. Positioned along the legendary Silk Road during the colonial era, Gilgit played a crucial role as a strategic outpost for trade and administrative activities. The cemetery was established to be the final resting place for soldiers, travelers, British officials, and locals who worked closely with the British in Gilgit.

Prominent Figures at Rest

Within the British cemetery, there lie at least 18 graves of noteworthy individuals who played significant roles during the British colonial period. Some of the prominent figures include:

Captain G.W. Hayward:

The first person buried in the cemetery on July 18, 1870, was a famous 19th-century explorer.

Major William Brown:

A key figure in the Gilgit Agency, well-known for his contributions to the region’s development.

Maj. Arthur Francis Bruce:

The political agent of Gilgit from 1906 to 1908.

Lt. Henry Gordon Bell:

The political agent of Gilgit on July 25, 1912.

Capt. Harold S. Eldred:

Of Sikh Pioneers Kashmir Infantry, who tragically drowned in the Indus on Dec 01, 1929, at the age of 33.
The cemetery also holds the remains of tourists and travelers who lost their lives during their stay in the region, including those who died during expeditions:

Batura Muztagh Expedition in 1959 claimed the lives of:

Dr. Keith Warburton
Harry G. Stephenson
Richard S. Khnight
Martin Guennel
Albert Hirschbichler
Khunyang Chish during the Pakistan-British Army Karakoram Expedition marked the final resting place of Major Jimmy Mills.

Preserving History and Fostering Tourism

The British Cemetery Gilgit stands as a significant symbol of the British colonial era in the region. Its unique architectural features and notable graves make it a historical treasure. The graveyard attracts history enthusiasts, researchers, and conventional tourists keen on exploring the colonial past of Gilgit. The cemetery provides valuable insights into the cultural exchange between the British and the local communities during that period.

Efforts have been undertaken by local authorities, heritage organizations, and concerned individuals to conserve and restore the cemetery. These endeavors primarily focus on maintaining the cemetery’s architectural integrity, restoring damaged grave markers, and ensuring a peaceful ambiance for future generations.

The British Cemetery Gilgit is open to the public, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the historic grounds and pay their respects to those laid to rest there. While official guided tours may not be available, local experts are more than willing to provide historical information upon request. Photography is generally allowed within the cemetery. However, visitors are urged to exercise respect and sensitivity to the site and its surroundings.

Visiting the British Cemetery Gilgit is not only a journey into the past but also a chance to honor the individuals who shaped the history of Gilgit and experience the rich cultural heritage of the region. As this historical site continues to be preserved and cherished, it will undoubtedly remain a prominent attraction for travelers and history enthusiasts from around the world.

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