Mont Kemmel Part Sixteen – Locre No.10 Cemetery

Locre No.10 Cemetery can be found about six hundred yards north of our previous stop in Dranouter, and not much further south of the village of Loker, as it is now known. 

The cemetery consists of a single row of headstones beyond the Cross of Sacrifice, two rows on this side,…

…and various individual or mass German graves at this, the southern end.

Ostensibly, seventy five German soldiers lie in this cemetery, only three of whom are identified.  The headstone nearest the camera remembers one identified man killed on 21st August 1918, a date we will encounter throughout this visit,…

…as well as six unknown German soldiers, and the headstone nearest us along the wall on the left,…

…marks the grave of two identified Germans,…

…again both August 1918 casualties, one another man killed on 21st August.  Notice that Otto Mose, the name inscribed at the top of this headstone, who died on 24th August, was one of the Sturmabteilung (Storm Detachment); although perhaps more associated with World War II, the first stormtrooper units were formed in 1915, and by the German Spring Offensive in 1918 were both experienced and tactically honed, as their March 1918 successes proved.

Otherwise, all the remaining German headstones mark the graves of unknown men, here a single German soldier,…

…and here, continuing down the line, twenty,…

…three,…

…and another twenty unidentified men.  You will notice that some of the German headstones feature a pointed top, as above, and some the more normal flat top (below), although don’t ask me why both have been used here.  It happens sometimes, the German burials at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, where Noel Chavasse, VC & Bar, is also buried being, as far as I remember, the most recent examples we have seen.

In the south west corner of the cemetery, a third mass grave of twenty men on the left, and another single man on the right, again all nameless,…

…although a quick check on the relevant GRRF shows that the three largest mass German graves actually contain an ‘Unknown number of German soldiers (probably 20)’, hence my use of the word ‘ostensibly’ earlier.

There’s one more unidentified German soldier buried in a grave apart from the others,…

…seen here in the right background.  The easiest way to try to understand this end of the cemetery is to put yourselves in the minds of the French soldiers who brought these German corpses here for burial.  I think it is highly likely that their searching of the bodies was more loot-driven than identity-driven, and if they actually did bury them in groups, as the GRRF suggests, as opposed to a single pit, I would doubt that much care was taken.  My guess is that these mass graves are Germans killed earlier in the year who had either been hastily buried on the battlefield, or who had lain unburied for several months since the earlier fighting, and that the two identified burials of men killed in August 1918 buried beneath the single headstone on the left above, and the other single identified man buried along with six unidentified men we saw at the start of the post were made, most likely, after the others.

Although the cemetery now contains only British & German burials, it was started by the French in April 1918, the graves of 248 French soldiers later removed, quite possibly reinterred in the ossuary on Mont Kemmel, I would have thought.  The British graves now in the cemetery, like those of the Germans, were brought here from the Kemmel battlefields once the fighting had left this area some way behind the front lines, or maybe after the war had ended, and thus, with the French graves now gone, all the burials here are exhumations.  The GRRFs (above & below) show the blocks of French graves that were once here, now crossed out, and at the top of this form, the words ‘Certified this cemetery is wholly concentrations’; look carefully and you’ll spot that all three forms actually also have the word ‘Exhumations’ in faint pencil above the column headings.

Unusually, there are no Concentration of Graves forms (which would give us details of where they were originally buried) for any of the British soldiers reburied here, but the reason is straightforward enough – the British reburials, like those of the Germans, were also all made by the French.  The relatively large number of identified British soldiers, also unusual for reburials, is because these men’s original battlefield graves were in use for a much shorter time than those from earlier in the war, and were thus easier to identify, more care being taken as they were Allied troops; nor would any of the original British graves have been disturbed too much, if at all, the Germans retreating east within a short time of all of these men’s deaths.  So to be clear, here we have a French cemetery, with the British & German burials added later, after which the French burials were removed, and the cemetery was from then on administered by the British.  All of which explains the large gap to be seen at the front of the cemetery in the cemetery plan, which can be viewed, thanks to the CWGC, by clicking here, although the GRRFs suggest that some of the French graves were outside the current cemetery boundary, in the field immediately behind.

Map of a section of the Dranouter-Loker road dated 11th July 1918, the German trenches marked in blue, and the British line, just creeping on to this extract, in red at the top,…

…and an aerial shot of the same area taken on 31st July 1918, the German front line trench centre top of the photo, and Locre No.10 Cemetery, its position marked in red, just off the picture to the south.

Back in the cemetery, today there are fifty five British graves here, forty one of whom are identified, along with three special memorials, just visible to the top right of this shot,…

…and seen here in close-up.  Two of these men are ‘Believed to be buried in this cemetery’, the other ‘Known to be buried’ here.  Their dates of death are all 21st August 1918, and they are three of no less than thirty one identified British burials here of men killed on that date, and almost certainly quite a few of the fourteen unidentified men buried here died on that date too.  The headstone in the centre is quite unusual in that, unlike the other two that feature Kipling’s words ‘Their glory shall not be blotted out’, as do most special memorials, it has a personal epitaph instead.

Row A contains sixteen burials, six of whom died on 21st August 1918, three in the days immediately after, four nearly a month earlier in late July,…

…and three others are unidentified,…

…two buried at the northern end of the row,…

 

…the other (third from left) nearer the Cross of Sacrifice (below).

Row C, in the foreground here, also contains ten identified men who died on 21st August 1918, with again a few casualties from the following days,…

…and Row B, in the background here, contains only men killed on that date, and one can reasonably assume that the five unidentified men in the row were killed that day too.  The Allies final drive to Armistice – I struggle to say Victory, bearing in mind the consequences two decades later – had begun on 8th August down in France with the battle of Amiens, but it was not until the very end of August that similar advances would be made in Flanders.  So as I had no idea what might have occurred hereabouts on 21st August 1918 to cause these casualties, I thought we’d better find out.  All of the British soldiers buried in the cemetery who died on 21st August 1918 served with either 2/14th Bn. London Regiment (London Scottish), 2nd Bn. South Lancashire Regiment, or 6th Bn. South Wales Borderers, so maybe their war diaries will tell us more (click any of the pages to enlarge):

The 2/14th Bn. London Scottish war diary for 21st & 22nd August simply refers us to Appendix I, and then we have to hope that someone has digitised the appendices, which, on this occasion,…

London Scottish

…with great good fortune, they had.  The objective of the attack is outlined at the start of these pages, and you will notice that Locrehof Farm gets several mentions, and if you refer back to the earlier map extract, you’ll see exactly where the farm was.

London Scottish

Of the two London Scottish junior officers listed as killed, Second Lieutenant Duncan’s name appears on the Tyne Cot Memorial, while Second Lieutenant Fuller was originally buried on the battlefield before later being reburied in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension Nord, his remains identified by the name tag on his kilt.

These extracts from the war diary of the 2nd Bn. South Lancashire Regiment begin during the days immediately preceding the attack, the second line from the top noting ‘Orders received to attack Locrehof TM Ridge on night 20/21 Aug.’,…

…before covering the attack itself.

Seeing that Locre Chateau gets a mention in the war diary,…

…you might like to see where it was in relation to the cemetery (in pink) and the front lines (British in red, German in blue) in the summer of 1918, the map dated July, the overlaid aerial photographs from earlier in the war, and the chateau building and grounds beneath the green circle.

Interestingly, the 6th Bn. South Wales Borderers war diary (above) skips directly from 20th to 23rd August,…

…details of the battalion’s duties during the missing days outlined in these three attached reports (above & below).

Near the centre of Row C, these crosses have been left at the headstone of Serjeant Daniel Considine, South Lancashire Regiment, killed on 23rd August 1918, aged 24.

Looking east past the cemetery entrance towards Mont Kemmel, the ‘In Perpetuity’ tablets inlaid on the pillars on either side.  Our journey now continues north (to the left), towards Loker itself,…

…the road surface somewhat better today than in this shot taken in 1915 (compare with the earlier aerial shot from 1918 – you can see the shadows of many of these trees along the road still standing even then, although doubtless more battered), although the road itself was equally deserted on the day of our visit.

This entry was posted in Kemmel, Loker. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Mont Kemmel Part Sixteen – Locre No.10 Cemetery

  1. ALAN BOND says:

    Thank you very interesting and comprehensive post. One thing I noticed was that the last entry on Grave registration forms for row A grave 16 changed from 53597 Bell J to being an Unknown soldier and that J Bell is shown in grave 1 of row B. Was this a transcription error or an oh dear we cocked up lets just swap these 2 round fix. We will never know but at least he is remembered as a corporal.

    REST IN PEACE Cpl. J Bell South Wales Borderers

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Alan. The unfathomable vagaries of the GRRF will ever remain just that – unfathomable. Don’t get me started on what percentage – in my opinion – of bodies may or may not rest beneath the correct headstone, because I am not so sure any of us would appreciate the answer. Your suggestion is as good as any. The good thing is that both you and I have remembered Corporal Bell, all these years later.

  2. Alan Seah says:

    2Lt David Cyril Duncan, London Scottish, KIA on 21 August 1918 and commemorated at Tyne Cot, is also on the memorial to the WW1 dead in Singapore, where I live. Quite an unexpected place and a long way from where he died.
    He was working as a rubber planter in Penang (Malaya) at the outbreak of the war and returned home to volunteer. The names on the memorial are those who were either born in Singapore and Malaya or were working here at the outbreak. Many, like Duncan, were planters or were working in the colonial civil service.

    • Magicfingers says:

      How very interesting Alan. Particularly as I need not have mentioned the two second lieutenants – they have nothing to do with this cemetery, after all. But I did, and I get this comment from your good self for my troubles. Excellent stuff and something I would never have known otherwise. Thanks ever so. Hope all is well on the other side of the world!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.