Arras – Roclincourt Military Cemetery

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Two and a half miles due north of the centre of the city of Arras, Roclincourt Military Cemetery is one of four cemeteries in the environs of Roclincourt, although the only one actually in the village itself.

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Didn’t occur to me to move the cone!  Duh!  I suppose I could have perpetrated some cone cloning (one for the photoshoppers among you) but, frankly, it ain’t worth the bother.

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Cemetery entrance,…

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…within which you’ll find the cemetery register and ‘In Perpetuity’ tablet.

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On entering, we immediately encounter the Stone of Remembrance at the south eastern end of the cemetery,…

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…the long rows of headstones stretching to the Cross of Sacrifice at the far, north west, end.

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Stone of Remembrance.

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Roclincourt was just inside the British lines before the Battle of Arras, the 51st (Highland) and 34th Divisions advancing from the village on the morning of 9th April 1917.

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It was the men of these two divisions who began the cemetery in April 1917 at the start of the battle, and it continued in use from then until October 1918.

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There are now just over 900 burials here, all but 32 identified.

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In the days before the British took over this sector of the front in March 1916, the French had already begun a military cemetery immediately to the south west of the current British cemetery, although these French graves have long since been removed.

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The cemetery plan, courtesy of the CWGC, can be viewed here.

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According to the CWGC website, there was once a wooden memorial, perhaps somewhere at this end of the cemetery, erected by the 22nd Bn. Royal Fusiliers to a single officer and 27 other ranks who were killed in action at Oppy, about four miles away to the north west, in April & May 1917.

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In the western corner of the cemetery there are four German burials,…

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…two identified,…

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…and two unidentified.

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View looking east across the cemetery towards the village, from just in front of the German graves.  The row nearest the camera (actually Plot IV Row F) contains fifty one reinterments, the majority men who were originally buried on the battlefields to the north of Roclincourt, but who were exhumed and reburied here after the Armistice.

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Panning left from the same spot as the previous picture, now looking towards the Cross of Sacrifice with the village beyond.

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View down the length of the cemetery from in front of the Cross.

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As we begin our return journey…

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…one of the Canadian graves in Plot I struck a chord.  There are 130 Canadians, all victims of the fighting in the spring of 1918, who now lie here.

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On the far right of this picture…

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…Corporal A. Buckley, East Lancashire Regiment, killed on 27th February 1918, is not forgotten.  The wreath was left on his grave by the Old Bancroftian’s Association.

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Continuing back towards the cemetery entrance…

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…here’s Philip, our tour guide, at the grave of Londoner Rifleman Harry Williams, Queen Victoria’s Rifles.  Happy Christmas Harry.

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Harry Williams was executed for desertion on 28th December 1917.

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Four men of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (front row), all killed on 1st July.  That date again.  This time 1st July 1917.

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Three little crosses on the grave of ‘Great Uncle’ Private J. R. Naylor, Cameron Highlanders, killed in action on 1st February 1917 aged 21. Private Naylor presents something of a quandary, or at least the site of his grave does.  Unsurprisingly, in the month before the Battle of Arras, casualties began to rise, not least because more men concentrated in the immediate area of the planned attack equated to more targets for German artillery.  But if you look at the list of casualties buried here prior to March 1917, all are buried in Plot IV Row F (which, as we already know, contains only post-Armistice burials).  Except one.  I have no explanation as to why Private Naylor is buried here, in Plot II, nowhere near all the other post-war burials, among a row of men, all of whom were killed in April (one in early May).  It makes no sense whatsoever.

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Anyway, time to move on.

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This is the final Arras post, at least until I visit again.  From here we really, truly, are heading back north, to Flanders’ muddy fields.

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Final shot, only necessary to show you where I presume the original French cemetery was sited, in the field to the left of the current cemetery.

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