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Archive for August, 2009


Bunker just off the N365,20 Aug 09

Bunker just off the N365,20 Aug 09

This bunker lies just off the road from Menen to Ploegsteert,near Strand Cemetery.

I do not know who constructed it;Allied or German or any story behind it.Perhaps you could help?

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Pte Percy Claude Jones,Strand Military Cemetery,20 Aug 09

Pte Percy Claude Jones,Strand Military Cemetery,20 Aug 09

Prior to the battle of Messines,the Australian 3rd Division were engaged in a series of trench raids.These were carried out to gain information on German positions and to capture prisoners.Captain PL Smith organised a raid on La Douve Farm by 4 officers and 130 men. Despite heavy shelling the enemy line was reached but no prisoners were taken.Losses to the Australians were 7 dead and 33 wounded.

Private Percy Claude Jones was a stretcher bearer with the attacking party.Caught by a shell-burst he suffered horrific wounds to his legs and feet and despite being taken to a Clearing Station he died soon afterwards.

Married with a son Percy Jones was a native of Collingwood,Melbourne.He now lies in Strand Military Cemetery.

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Strand Military Cemetery


Strand Military Cemetery,20 Aug 2009

Strand Military Cemetery,20 Aug 2009

‘Charing Cross’ was the name given by the troops to a point at the end of a trench called the Strand, which led into Ploegsteert Wood. In October 1914, two burials were made at this place, close to an Advanced Dressing Station, The cemetery was not used between October 1914 and April 1917, but in April-July 1917 Plots I to VI were completed. Plots VII to X were made after the Armistice, when graves were brought in from some small cemeteries and from the battlefields lying mainly between Wytschaete and Armentieres. The cemetery was in German hands for a few months in 1918, but was very little used by them. The following are some of the burial grounds concentrated into Strand Military Cemetery:- EPINETTE ROAD CEMETERY, HOUPLINES (Nord), on the Southern outskirts of Houplines village, contained the graves of 24 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in November, 1914-September, 1915. LA BASSE-VILLE GERMAN CEMETERY, WARNETON (West Flanders), on the road from La Basse-Ville to Warneton, contained the graves of 68 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from South Africa who died in German hands, April-August, 1918. LE BIZET CONVENT MILITARY CEMETERY, PLOEGSTEERT, was in the grounds of the Assumptionist Convent between Le Bizet and Motor Car Corner. It contained the graves of 88 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from Canada who fell in October, 1914-October, 1916. NACHTEGAAL No.1 GERMAN CEMETERY, MERCKEM (West Flanders), midway between Merckem and Houthulst, made in April, 1916, contained the graves of two R.F.C. officers who fell in June, 1917. It was closed in July, 1917. PLOEGSTEERT WOOD NEW CEMETERY, WARNETON, in the South-East corner of the wood, contained the graves of 19 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in the loss and recapture of Le Gheer, October, 1914. PROWSE POINT LOWER CEMETERY, WARNETON, was a little North of Ploegsteert Wood. It was made by the 1st Rifle Brigade, and it contained the graves of 13 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in 1915 and 1916. TOUQUET-BERTHE GERMAN CEMETERY, PLOEGSTEERT, on the road from Ploegsteert to Le Gheer, contained two unidentified R.A.F. graves of July, 1918. WARNETON CHURCHYARD was destroyed in the War. It contained the grave of one soldier from the United Kingdom, buried by the Germans in December, 1914. There are now 1,143 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 354 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to six casualties known or believed to be buried among them, and to 13 whose graves in four of the concentrated cemeteries were destroyed by shell fire. The eight Second World War burials (three of which are unidentified) all date from May 1940 and the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary force to Dunkirk ahead of the German advance. The cemetery was designed by Charles Holden.

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On the 22nd of January 1917 the Lancs took over the trenches at St Yves near Ploegsteert.That afternoon the Germans opened a heavy bombardment which caused great damage to the defences.The Germans then attacked with three groups of about 30 men.The first group were driven back by Lewis gun fire but the other two made it t the front line at BrokenTree House and began advancing in both direction down the trench.2nd Lt Nathan organised his men,despite being wounded by a bomb and held off the attackers on both flanks.Meanwhile 2nd Lt Rufus put together a bombing party and set off for the enemy.Captain Beswick,who had been in reserve,set up a platoon and a Lewis gun team.The three officers parties converged on the Germans who did not hang around for a fight.In this pointless action the enemy had gained nothing and the Fusiliers had lost 1 officer and 18 other ranks killed with another 29 wounded.

Pte Thomas Hobson was one of those killed,he is buried in Berkshire Cemetery extension.

Pte Thomas Hobson,Berks Cemetery Extension

Pte Thomas Hobson,Berks Cemetery Extension

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Ploegsteert Memorial,20 Aug 09

Ploegsteert Memorial,20 Aug 09

The PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL commemorates more than 11,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector during the First World War and have no known grave. The memorial serves the area from the line Caestre-Dranoutre-Warneton to the north, to Haverskerque-Estaires-Fournes to the south, including the towns of Hazebrouck, Merville, Bailleul and Armentieres, the Forest of Nieppe, and Ploegsteert Wood. The original intention had been to erect the memorial in Lille. Those commemorated by the memorial did not die in major offensives, such as those which took place around Ypres to the north, or Loos to the south. Most were killed in the course of the day-to-day trench warfare which characterised this part of the line, or in small scale set engagements, usually carried out in support of the major attacks taking place elsewhere. BERKS CEMETERY EXTENSION, in which the memorial stands, was begun in June 1916 and used continuously until September 1917. At the Armistice, the extension comprised Plot I only, but Plots II and III were added in 1930 when graves were brought in from Rosenberg Chateau Military Cemetery and Extension, about 1 Km to the north-west, when it was established that these sites could not be acquired in perpetuity. Rosenberg Chateau Military Cemetery was used by fighting units from November 1914 to August 1916. The extension was begun in May 1916 and used until March 1918. Together, the Rosenberg Chateau cemetery and extension were sometimes referred to as ‘Red Lodge’. Berks Cemetery Extension now contains 876 First World War burials. HYDE PARK CORNER (ROYAL BERKS) CEMETERY is separated from Berks Cemetery Extension by a road. It was begun in April 1915 by the 1st/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment and was used at intervals until November 1917. Hyde Park Corner was a road junction to the north of Ploegsteert Wood. Hill 63 was to the north-west and nearby were the ‘Catacombs’, deep shelters capable of holding two battalions, which were used from November 1916 onwards. The cemetery contains 83 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and four German war graves The cemetery, cemetery extension and memorial were designed by Harold Chalton Bradshaw, with sculpture by Gilbert Ledward. The memorial was unveiled by the Duke of Brabant on 7 June 1931.

The following men are featured in the book “At The Going Down of The Sun” and are recorded on The Ploegsteert Memorial so I have included them on this blog under the main banner of The Ploegsteert Memorial:

Pte Harry Barlow,10th Bn The Cheshire Regt,KIA 17th February 1917

Harry was part of a 10th Cheshires attack in broad daylight on German lines near Ploegsteert Wood in Feb 1917.An artillery barrage ahead of the attack went wrong and as a result the German wire was not cut.When the Cheshires reached the unbroken wire the Germans wreaked havoc with machine gun fire.Of the 200 attackers 40 were killed and 60 wounded.Harry Barlow from Birkenhead was among them.

Pte Cecil Frederick Pettit,1st Bn The East Surrey Regiment,KIA 20 May 1918

On 20 May 1918 the East Surreys attacked the Germans in the Arrewage sector.During this C Company were held up by a machine gun behind a hedge until Sgt W Taylor grabbed the muzzle of the weapon and dragged it from its crew!!

B Company fought through a group of houses cellar by cellar and as a result a German company commander emerged to surrender but his adjutant threw a bomb,killing and wounding some of the Surreys.One of those was 19 year old Cecil Pettit who had returned from Durban,South Africa to fight for,and ultimatelu die for,King and Country

Sapper William Hackett VC,254th Tunnelling Company,Royal Engineers,KIA 27 June 1916

An extract from “The London Gazette,” dated 4th Aug., 1916, records the following:-“For most conspicuous bravery when entombed with four others in a gallery owing to the explosion of an enemy mine. After working for 20 hours, a hole was made through fallen earth and broken timber, and the outside party was met. Sapper Hackett helped three of the men through the hole and could easily have followed, but refused to leave the fourth, who had been seriously injured, saying,” I am a tunneller, I must look after the others first.” Meantime, the hole was getting smaller, yet he still refused to leave his injured comrade. Finally, the gallery collapsed, and though the rescue party worked desperately for four days the attempt to reach the two men failed. Sapper Hackett well knowing the nature of sliding earth, the chances against him, deliberately gave his life for his comrade

Cpl Thomas Sawyers DCM,11th Bn The East Yorkshire Regt,KIA 8th September 1918

The 11th East Yorks were fighting near Soyer Farm in the Lys area on 8th September 1918 and finding it extremely difficult to take this moated position.By the end of the day they had lost more than 100 men and were still no closer to taking the farm.Tom Sawyers was reported missing believed killed on 8th September 1918,probably having fallen at Soyer Farm.

Pte Arthur William Taylor,3rd Bn The Worcestershire Regiment,KIA 27 November 1916

Some parts of the Salient were described as “quiet”,where it was possible to move around atop the trenches and reliefs could be conducted in broad daylight.However despite this “quiet” death was never far away and while the 3rd Worcesters were in the Ploegsteert Wood area Pte Arthur Taylor failed to return from patrol and was posted “missing in action”. He is now commemorated on The Ploegsteert Memorial.

Company Quartermaster Sergeant Charles Ricketts,1st Bn The Somerset Light Infantry,KIA 6th December 1914

From the Battalion Diary of the 1st Somersets:

“Quite a fine morning.Bright sun.Got cloudy in the afternoon and by 5 pm was raining hard again.Sent an urgent message this evening for a force pum for our right trench which is knee deep in water.This pump came up during the night and was carried up with great labour.Very dark night.CQMS Ricketts was killed after taking out rations to H Company in the left trench…”

Captain Henry Adam Askew,2nd Bn The Border Regiment,KIA 18th December 1914

On the evening of 18th December 1914,two companies of the 2nd Borders attacked German positions at La Cordonnniere Farm.The attack was successful but no-one had informed the British artillery who continued their barrage on what they believed to be enemy ground.The Borders were forced to withdraw to No Man’s Land and then attack again.This attack subsequently failed as did another by a reserve platoon. The Borders had lost 4 officers and 110 men.

One of those was Captain Askew and though the circumstances of his death are unknown he must have impressed his German opposition.Later that night a German patrol crawled to the British line and tossed his cap and badge into the Borders’ trench along with a note saying they had erected a cross “to the memory of a very brave British officer”

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These pics were taken to a visit to the grave of my Great,Great Uncle Walter Arbuckle on 20th August 2009.

Wreath on Walter's grave provided by my friend Mr Gerald Lowthin.

Wreath on Walter's grave provided by my friend Mr Gerald Lowthin.

Close-up of wreath on Walter's grave.

Close-up of wreath on Walter's grave.

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Captain Thomas Tannatt Pryce VC,MM and Bar,Ploegsteert Memorial

Captain Thomas Tannatt Pryce VC,MM and Bar,Ploegsteert Memorial

An extract from “The London Gazette,” dated 21st May, 1918, records the following-“For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty, and self-sacrifice when in command of a flank on the left of the Grenadier Guards. Having been ordered to attack a village he personally led forward two platoons, working from house to house, killing some thirty of the enemy, seven of whom he killed himself. The next day he was occupying a position with some thirty to forty men, the remainder of his company having become casualties. As early as 8.15 a.m., his left flank was surrounded and the enemy was enfilading him. He was attacked no less than four times during the day, and each time beat off the hostile attack, killing many of the enemy. Meanwhile the enemy brought three field guns to within 300 yards of his line, and were firing over open sights and knocking his trench in. At 6.15 p.m., the enemy had worked to within sixty yards of his trench. He then called on his men, telling them to cheer and charge the enemy and fight to the last. Led by Captain Pryce, they left their trench and drove back the enemy with the bayonet some 100 yards. Half an hour later the enemy had again approached in stronger force. By this time Captain Pryce had only 17 men left, and every round of his ammunition had been fired. Determined that there should be no surrender, he once again led his men forward in a bayonet charge, and was last seen engaged in a fierce hand-to-hand struggle with overwhelming numbers of the enemy. With some forty men he had held back at least one enemy battalion for over ten hours. His company undoubtedly stopped the advance through the British line, and thus had great influence on the battle.”

Thomas Pryce has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

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