French Flanders: Fromelles Part Three – Rue-du-Bois Military Cemetery

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A short distance to the west of Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery we find our next stop, Rue-du-Bois Military Cemetery.

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Cemetery entrance.

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Looking directly ahead on entering.  Plot I, the largest plot, consists of all the headstones on this side of the Stone of Remembrance, and already you can see that there are a large number of Australian graves in this cemetery.

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View from the eastern corner of the cemetery looking west.  Note the special memorial headstones against the wall on the right (see below).

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The thirteen men commemorated here are all known or believed to be buried among the unidentified burials in this cemetery,…

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…the majority casualties of the spring of 1915, although, as we shall see later, not all.

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Plot I Row G (above & below).

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These men were killed in late March 1918, during the early days of the German offensive.

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View of part of Plot I looking south, Row D on the right, Rows E to G on the left.  We shall begin our tour over in the far (southern) corner of the cemetery.  And for that, here’s the cemetery plan.

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View from the southern corner looking north west,…

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…and panning right from the same position.  The cemetery was begun in November 1914 after the end of the Race to the Sea and the beginnings of trench warfare, and was used until December 1916, after which it was closed, remaining so until early 1918 when burials began to be made once more.  Captured by the Germans in April 1918, it was again used by the British during the final weeks of the war.  At the time of the Armistice there were a little over 400 burials here, and the cemetery was practically doubled in size after the war as 423 bodies were brought in from the nearby battlefields, including Fromelles, and a number of smaller cemeteries in the area.

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Looking north east across part of Plot I, Row D nearest the camera.  The original wartime graves are all in Plot I and Rows A & B of Plot II, the majority of them Australian.  The remainder of Plot II, Plot III, and a number of graves in Plot I comprise the post-war burials.

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Nine double graves, with a tenth headstone in the centre inscribed with only a cross, in Plot I Row B, all designated as Grave No 1.  Eighteen Australians, all but four of whom who died on 20th July 1916 at Fromelles (the others died the day before or after), all buried under the same plot number…

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…and moving along the row, more Australian Fromelles casualties, all designated as Grave No 2.  In total 51 identified Australians who were killed on 19th July, and 25 who died the following day, are buried in this cemetery.

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Australian burials in Plot II, Row A nearest the camera…

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…the first four headstones in the previous shot here in close-up…

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…and continuing along Plot II Row A, another headstone inscribed with just a cross in the centre,…

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…and again more of the headstones in close-up; all the headstones in this row are inscribed with the names of two men, and all are casualties of the fighting at Fromelles.

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At the far end of the row…

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…the final two headstones are most unusual:

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The wording on both headstones is somewhat misleading; it is believed that 52 (several?) unidentified men are buried here, all brought from the battlefield of Fromelles after the war.  Two identified men of the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry who were killed on 19th July 1916 at Fromelles are buried in Plot III.

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Beneath the final Australian headstone in Row A, it is thought that 22 unknown men are buried, also all casualties from the Fromelles battlefield.

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Looking west from the Stone of Remembrance at Plot II,…

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…then panning north west…

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…and then north (above) and north east (below) at Plot III.  Note how many of the burials in Plot III are unidentified.

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Eight identified men of the Gloucester Regiment, and, as I mentioned earlier, two men of the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, all 61st Division men killed during the attack at Fromelles, are buried in Plot III Row B (centre row above)…

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…although why the grave of a ninth man of the Gloucester Regiment killed on 19th July, Lance Sergeant Charles Pearce, is only ‘believed’ to be buried in this cemetery, as his headstone among the special memorials we saw near the start of this post is inscribed (second from right above), I am unsure.  Eleven of these special memorials are to men killed in 1915 who would have been buried here at the time of their deaths, and one, that of Private J. Elcoat, East Lancashire Regiment (far left above), was buried here along with two of his colleagues in Plot II on 27th September 1918; sadly, but not unusually, the graves of these twelve men were all later lost, but why a grave that, as far as we know, was made here at the end of, or after, the war, that of Sergeant Pearce, should subsequently be lost, I know not.

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Back in Plot II, Row F in the foreground, Plot III in the distance.

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Looking east across Plot II from the western corner of the cemetery,…

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…and then north east across Plot II.  The short row in the middle distance…

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…is Plot II Row K.  The grave nearest the camera is that of Captain Lachlan Gordon-Duff of the 3rd Bn. Gordon Highlanders, killed in action on 24th October 1914.  Gordon-Duff had previously served with distinction in the Boer War and held both the Queen’s South Africa Medal with five clasps, and the King’s South Africa Medal with two clasps.  A county councillor in civilian life (one of his aunts was married to the Prime Minister of the time, Herbert Asquith), he rejoined the Gordon Highlanders on the outbreak of war, leaving for the front at the beginning of October.  His war would not last long.

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This view looks back towards the Cross of Sacrifice and the cemetery entrance from the same position,…

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…and this is Plot III Row K.  395 of the casualties in the cemetery are unknown, but quite a large proportion are not entirely unidentified; the percentage of these unknown soldiers whose regiments are known is surprisingly high.  There follows a selection from the unknown burials in Plot III:

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The two Royal Berkshire Regiment burials (above right & below) are almost certainly men found on the battlefield of Fromelles.

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Rows…

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…and rows…

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…and rows of unknown soldiers, many of whom were killed at Fromelles and lay, or were buried, on the battlefield until after the war, when they were found and brought here.

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Above & following four photos: Panning across the cemetery from the northern cemetery boundary…

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…Plot III nearest the camera in all these shots.

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More unknown burials, two men of the Black Watch and one of the Sussex Regiment, probably one of the Sussex men who, on 9th April 1918, defended the village of Fleurbaix so bravely before the Germans overran them.

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Men of the Middlesex Regiment (centre) and West Yorkshire Regiment in Plot I Row A (front right, and in Plot II Row A behind), all killed in August 1915.

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Last view looking south west across Plot I…

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…before we leave, passing the In Perpetuity inscription on the entrance wall as we go.

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By the way, according to the CWGC website there is a single German soldier, Johann Amberger, buried in this cemetery, but he is not marked on the cemetery plan, and for the life of me I cannot spot a CWGC German headstone anywhere in these photos.  Another mystery.

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Next stop, as we get nearer to Fromelles: Le Trou Aid Post Cemetery.

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5 Responses to French Flanders: Fromelles Part Three – Rue-du-Bois Military Cemetery

  1. Morag says:

    So informative as always thank you

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks Morag. It’s a very interesting area of the Western Front, and little visited compared to Ieper and the Somme for example.

  2. John says:

    In this and the last post, and correct me please if I’m wrong …. I’m seeing planted foliage that is more obscuring of the grave makers than in the past ?

    • Magicfingers says:

      I’m not sure. It’s not something I had considered, but don’t forget that most of my trips are taken in the winter months so there is generally less foliage. And conversely, comparing cemetery photos taken today with only a few years ago, I am sure that an awful lot of trees that once grew in the military cemeteries have been removed in recent years. That is something I am looking into.

    • Magicfingers says:

      I tell you one thing I’ve noticed since your comment. I was just watching some truly wonderful videos on You Tube of elderly Newfoundlanders returning to Beaumont Hamel (late sixties/early seventies footage I reckon) and many of the headstones appear to be awash with foliage. Just thought I’d mention it!

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