A Tour of Boesinghe Part Nineteen – Colne Valley Cemetery (Part Two)

It’s January 2017, and frost covers the ground as we return for a third time to Colne Valley Cemetery.  As you can imagine, I was very much looking forward to another visit to one of my favourite little cemeteries, as much as anything because of the state of the place last time we’d been there.

So, time to see what it looks like post-renovation.

The entire cemetery has now been raised,…

…and perhaps, although only time will tell, scenes like this are a thing of the past.

We’ve even got two little trees, and you have to admit things are looking so much better,…

…despite the build up of waste in the background.

Hang on a minute.  I feel another one of our ‘now you see him, now you don’t’ moments coming up.  I certainly hope so.

Better.  To continue, four of the six King’s Royal Rifle Corps burials in the cemetery are these four headstones of Row D, one of whom, you will notice, although we know he is a K.R.R.C. man, is one of the four unidentified burials here.

Rows C (foreground) & D.  Note the culprit in action in the background (above & below).

Last post I said the following, ‘all the burials in Rows C & D, bar four, are men of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment)’,…

…and here at the start of Row D in the background the first three burials are, from right, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, The Rifle Brigade, and King’s Royal Rifle Corps,…

…the latter the headstone of Corporal Eaton on the far right above (the fourth man, further down Row D, is the totally unidentified soldier, although most probably a Duke of Wellington’s man, briefly seen last post).  The three Duke of Wellington’s men in this shot are buried in a collective grave, although their dates of death are given as 8th (Private Cox), 9th (Lance Corporal Shaw) and 10th August 1915 (Private Buxton); presumably they were all buried at the same time.

A number of photographs had been left at various graves since our previous visit, a school project, I would think, and jolly good too,…

…these pictures of Private Norman Smith,…

…Private James Bell,…

…Lance Corporal J. M. Morphet (the photo says Morphet Middleton – I wonder why?),…

…and Private Joseph Stewart, all Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, all killed in August 1915, and all buried in the first part of Plot C (see cemetery plan).

We paid our respects at the graves of these two Rifle Brigade men, Corporals Morgan & Lloyd, both killed in January 1916 and buried in Row B, on our previous visit.  No reason not to do so again.

More men of The Rifle Brigade in Row B in the foreground, the two men buried together at the far end (also below) killed on 29th December 1915, the other two in January 1916,…

…and the view from the south western end of the cemetery, the same graves nearest the camera.  Not so eerie today.

On our left, the now much cleaner headstones at the ends of Rows C & D,…

…although I shall still be interested to see how they fare over the next few years.

Another cross, another photograph,…

…this one of Private Horace Marshall, buried in Row D.

The original French & Flemish ‘In Perpetuity’ tablets remain on the northern wall.

Cross of Sacrifice.

At which point we leave Colne Valley,…

…but only briefly.

Here’s our most recent visit.  It’s September 2017,…

…and all seems well.

The base of the Cross is still a bit grubby, mind.

But the grass is settling in, flowers are bloomin’ at the base of the headstones, and the pile of waste is a bigger pile of waste.

Otherwise we are looking spick and span.

The grave of Captain Maynard Percy Andrews in Row C, aged 44 when he was killed in August 1915.  The inscription at the base of his headstone, you will remember from last post, is written in French, and translates as, ‘Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends’.  At 4.45 on the afternoon of 14th August 1915, a German shell destroyed a dugout in a trench near here, killing three men outright and injuring at least two more.  Rushing to help, Captain Andrews and the stretcher bearers realised that one wounded man, Private Charles Lee, required immediate medical attention and, as the trenches were unnavigable, they decided to evacuate him over open ground, in sight of the Germans.  Andrews was heard to say, ‘This is a dangerous undertaking. I will go with you boys’.  And, under heavy fire, they nearly made it.  They had almost reached the nearest A.D.S. when Andrews was fatally hit in the throat by a bullet from a sniper, the battalion Medical Officer leaving the trenches to attend to him under fire, but finding him beyond help, assisting the stretcher bearers to bring Private Lee, hit a second time by now, to the A.D.S.  According to the battalion history, ‘So perished one of the most gallant gentlemen and conscientious officers who ever served with the battalion’.  You might think Captain Andrews deserved a medal for his heroic deed – I certainly do – but I suppose his selflessness was simply what was expected of him; his record shows he was Mentioned in Despatches, but for what brave deed I know not.

Captain Andrews’ funeral took place the following day here at Colne Valley Cemetery (I suppose that is why his headstone has 15th August, as opposed to 14th, inscribed on it).  Four other men killed on 14th August are buried further along Row C, the three men killed by the shell, Corporal Norman Hirst (furthest from camera of these five headstones), Lance Corporal Riach (centre headstone), and Private John Aked (nearest camera).  The other man, second from the front, is a certain Private Charles Edward Lee.

More Duke of Wellington’s burials in Row D (above & below),…

…this grave that of one of nearly 37,500 British officers who died during the Great War, by far the majority of them young subalterns like Arthur Lionel Gibson.  A total of about 234,000 British officers fought, giving a figure for officers killed of 15.6%.  Compare that with the 11.5% figure given for other ranks, the majority naturally privates, and you can see that you were undeniably more likely to get killed as an officer than as a private.

These subalterns, mainly, during the first half of the war, public school boys, are the men famously referred to as the ‘Six Weekers’, this being the average length of time a Second Lieutenant was likely to survive, at least during the war’s bloodiest periods.  Nonetheless, I always refer back to Alfred Burrage, who served as a private in the Artists Rifles and wrote a book, War is War, about his experiences (he fought near here during the Battle of Passchendaele, and was invalided out of the army in 1918 suffering from trench foot), which was published in 1930.  In it, Burrage, writing under the pseudonym of Ex-Private X, says the following, ‘I who was a private, and a bad one at that, freely own that it was the British subaltern who won the war.’  Subalterns like Arthur Lionel Gibson.

The northern end of Row C in the foreground, and on the wall in the left background,…

…a brand spanking new English ‘In Perpetuity’ tablet.

I still think they should have cleaned the base of the Cross a bit better, but nonetheless…

…everything is looking so much better than when we first visited,…

…and for that we have the CWGC to thank.

Excellent job chaps!

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2 Responses to A Tour of Boesinghe Part Nineteen – Colne Valley Cemetery (Part Two)

  1. Chris Wouters says:

    You’re right, they should have cleaned the base of the Cross a bit better, and do a better job on a couple of the headstones, but the difference is remarkable and fitting the remembrance of the men who are buried here.

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