Delville Wood Cemetery, with a glimpse of the South African National Memorial in the right background; we shall visit the memorial next post (there you go, Steven).
Enlarge. Read. Digest. Saves me typing. We will be covering the early fighting in the wood next post.
It’s a large place, Delville Wood Cemetery, more than 5500 men now lying here in the shadow of the wood.
This is also a post-war cemetery,…
…composed of men originally buried on the nearby battlefields and quite a number of smaller cemeteries, including German ones, and now reburied here.
Cross of Sacrifice. Here’s the cemetery plan, courtesy of the CWGC.
As is often the case with post-war cemeteries, the majority of those buried here are unknown.
More than 3500 of these men are sadly unidentified.
I hadn’t mentioned it before, but actually I was here on a mission.
This is the grave of Private James Kurn, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), and Nicholas Kurn, one of his descendants, asked me to place the In Memorium message and cross at his grave if I got the chance on my travels.
I was only too happy to oblige (I seldom feature in these posts, but on this occasion I shall make an exception). James Kurn was born in Woking in 1894, enlisted in the Queen’s in 1914, and was killed here at Delville Wood on 1st September 1916.
Spotter-in-chief on this particular tour, Duncan came up with some interesting finds for me to photograph as we toured these Somme cemeteries. So thank you, my friend; you’ve earned your spotter’s badge.
Note the interesting inscription at the bottom of the nearest headstone. By far the majority of the men now buried here died during the months of July, August & September 1916.
At the time of the first British attacks on Delville Wood on 14th July, the German front line followed the line of the road in front of the houses just beyond the cemetery that you can see in this shot; standing in the cemetery, we are just behind the German lines as they were on that day.
Although many regiments fought in and around the wood, it will forever be the South Africans who are most associated with the fighting here.
Surprisingly though, considering the losses they suffered in the wood (next post), less than a hundred of the identified burials here are South African.
Stone of Remembrance.
Sergeant Albert Gill, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, one of four Victoria Crosses awarded during the fighting for Delville Wood, received his award posthumously for his selfless actions on 27th July. On 26th October 1916 the London Gazette published the following:
“For most conspicuous bravery (Delville Wood, France). The enemy made a very strong counter-attack on the right flank of the battalion, and rushed the bombing post after killing all the company bombers. Serjeant Gill at once rallied the remnants of his platoon, none of whom were skilled bombers, and reorganised his defences, a most difficult and dangerous task, the trench being very shallow and much damaged. Soon afterwards the enemy nearly surrounded his men by creeping up through the thick undergrowth, and commenced sniping at about twenty yards range. Although it was almost certain death, Serjeant Gill stood boldly up in order to direct the fire of his men. He was killed almost at once, but not before he had shown his men where the enemy were, and thus enabled them to hold up their advance. By his supreme devotion to duty and self-sacrifice he saved a very dangerous situation.”
Looking north towards the wood and the memorial (above & below)…
…and east, the trees on the horizon on the edge of the village of Ginchy, which would eventually fall to the British in the second week of September.
It seems only right that we pay our respects at two more graves of fallen South Africans…
…before we take our leave.
Just across the road, the wood, and the South African National Memorial, await us.