Travels on the Somme Part Eight – Hamel Village & Ancre British Cemetery

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Our next stop takes us to the valley of the River Ancre and Ancre British Cemetery, where more than 2500 British soldiers are buried.

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On our way we pass through the village of Hamel, which was just behind the British front lines on 1st July 1916.

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This plaque on the side of the rebuilt church remembers the men of the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment killed near here on the first day of the battle, and the other Essex battalions who fought on the Somme in 1916.

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The village war  memorial…

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…snapped out of the car window as we were leaving.

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Ancre British Cemetery is sited in what was once No Man’s Land just north east of Hamel, and a mile south east of Beaumont-Hamel, as you can see on the trench map below.

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Before we go in, just a reminder, as I said at the start of these Somme posts, that these aren’t full tours of the Somme cemeteries we visited on our trip – as you know this is primarily a Flanders website – just brief stops so that you can see what these places look like.

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Begun in the spring of 1917 as the battlefield was cleared following the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, the majority of men who now lie in this cemetery were killed on just three dates; 1st July, 3rd September (when an attack had been made on the German line between Hamel and Beaumont-Hamel) & 13th November 1916.

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The cemetery was originally known as Ancre River No.1 British Cemetery, V Corps Cemetery No.26, and a little over 500 men were buried here during the war.  The cemetery plan, courtesy of the CWGC, can be viewed here.

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This number was substantially increased to more than 2500 post-Armistice; many of the burials were brought here from smaller cemeteries including, as we saw last post, Y Ravine Cemetery No. 2.

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There are special memorials, such as the one pictured above & below, just inside the cemetery entrance, to sixteen men originally buried elsewhere whose graves were lost due to shellfire.

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1335 of the graves here are unidentified…

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…and there are special memorial headstones to nearly fifty men ‘known’ or ‘believed’ to be buried in the cemetery.

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Cross of Sacrifice.

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Looking east towards the cemetery entrance, the valley of the River Ancre crossing the picture beyond, the German front line once weaving its way across the fields in the background.

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Special memorials to men of the Newfoundland Regiment, killed on 1st July and all ‘believed’ to be buried among the unidentified graves in this cemetery…

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…and to men of the Royal Naval Division, all killed on 13th November.

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Stone of Remembrance, back at the cemetery entrance.

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A year later, and a return visit to Ancre British Cemetery.

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Casualties (above & below) of 1st July.

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Remember those three dates from earlier?  Plenty of examples coming up, I’m afraid.

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Royal Naval Division burials, all inscribed with date 13th November 1916, all killed during the final capture of Beaumont-Hamel.

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On 1st July 1916, the British front line was just behind us, and that of the Germans up there beyond the rise.  By 13th November, not much had changed.

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Graves from later in November 1916 in Plot VI…

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…and early 1917, in Plot VII.

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Above & next two photos: More Royal Naval Division men, again all killed on 13th November.

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Only eighteen.

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The Newfoundland special memorials we visited earlier.

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These men were killed on 3rd September, the third of the three dates, during the German attack mentioned previously.

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Two more Newfoundlanders, one unidentified, both casualties of 1st July.

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“A Daily Prayer, A Loving Thought. R.I.P.”  Mother Brothers Sisters.

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Now, earlier, I showed you these special memorial headstones inside the cemetery entrance,…

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…and although I mentioned in my text that there are sixteen,…

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…you doubtless spotted that there are only eight headstones and eight soldiers mentioned on the Duhallow Block pictured.

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What I neglected to show you was that the other eight are remembered along the wall on the other side of the entrance.

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That’s better.

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Travels on the Somme Part Nine can be found here.

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