Mouscron Communal Cemetery & War Memorial

I see no CWGC sign outside these cemetery gates, so it’s a good job I’d done my research. 

Evidentally there is one at the northern entrance.  Anyway, Mouscron (Moeskroen in Flemish) is approximately fifteen miles south east of Ypres, its communal cemetery marked in red on this October 1918 map, the site of the war memorial marked as an orange dot.

Less than a mile from the French border to the west (yes, west), we are in Wallonia here,…

…although curiously the nearest point in Flanders is actually a mile and a half to our east!  Work that one out.  Centre left,…

…this shattered headstone might be some sort of wrecked war memorial, or it may not (I am not convinced).  Anyway, as I happen to know that the burials we are after, five Great War and a single Second World War casualty, are all supposed to be at the far end of the cemetery somewhere (of course they are), let’s see what we can find.

The first British war burial, and the earliest, is that of Serjeant A. M. Giles, 70 Squadron R.F.C.,…

…killed on 3rd June 1917, and presumably buried here by the Germans or local citizens.

Mouscron was behind German lines for much of the Great War, and it is possible that this pilot spent time in the German hospital marked on the trench map just to the south of the cemetery before his death.  Pure conjecture, though.

And not so far away,…

…these four graves must be the other Great War burials we are looking for.

These men died in the final fortnight of the war,…

…the two men on the right, both privates, one from the Manchester Regiment and one from the Wiltshire Regiment, both dying on 29th October 1918.

The other two burials are a Durham Light Infantry private (right) killed on 3rd November, and a lance corporal from the Military Police Corps who died three days after the Armistice, on 14th November 1918.

Nearby, a smallish hedged area with several rows of grey headstones appears worth exploring, although these five stone slabs, on either side of the archway,…

…have a sinister feel about them.  And a close look at the wall beyond the right hand, lone slab,…

…reveals a young man, born in 1922, who died in 1943,…

…and who, along with the four men to the left of the archway,…

…was executed by the Germans during the Second World War.

Both men on the left of the central cross were executed in 1942,…

… the man on the right one Emmanuel de Neckere, actually the parish priest of Saint-Barthélemy in Mouscron, where he was curate from 1935 to 1942.  There’s a plaque on the church in Mouscron remembering him that we’ll take a look at later.

The man immediately to the right of the cross (below left) was also executed in 1942, the man on the right (below right) in 1945.

Meanwhile, Duncan had been exploring the headstones beyond the archway,…

…and what we apparently have here is a graveyard for the military sons of Mouscron,…

…many of whom died during the Second World War (previous two shots, above & following), although the two men pictured above were well over military age when they died,…

…as are two of the men pictured here.

Indeed the latest burial, yet to receive a permanent headstone, is the man buried closest to the camera in this picture, who died this year (2022 as I write).  Although I can spot no sign of an actual grave, which would surely still be evident if there was a very recent burial here?  Which in turn makes me wonder whether there are indeed any burials here at all, or is this whole hedged area a type of memorial garden?  I really don’t know, but I am coming round to the memorial garden theory.  The headstones in this row continue with a man who died in 2000, another who died in 1960, and then men from the 1930s, most, probably all, of whom would have fought in the Great War.

And then there is this one.  How extraordinary is that?

Except I can find no reference to an Edward Carrick VC anywhere at all.  So what is going on?  I’m serious!  Answers on a postcard please…no, answers in the comments section……

After which we set off to search for the single Second World War British burial in the cemetery, but despite having a picture of his grave, we couldn’t find him.  Pity.

To lift, or not to lift.

Bearing in mind that the latest burial of the four individuals once interred here was as recently as 1969, does that mean you get just fifty years and then they chuck you out?  Or is that only if there’s no one to pay the rent any longer?  All seems a bit pointless, really.  Save your money, go to a show……

Back in the centre of Mouscron, here we are at St. Bartholomew’s church,…

..and this is the war memorial that stands outside it.  Just before we take a closer look, however,…

…here’s the plaque to Emmanuel de Neckere, the local vicar that I mentioned earlier.  From early in the war, de Neckere had been arranging intelligence and organizing correspondence with the many Belgians stuck in France under the Nazi occupation who were not allowed to return home.

In 1942 his luck ran out.  ‘On the morning of November 10, 1942, he was taken with others to the woods of Tilleghem. It was barely in the territory of Lophem, it was almost still Bruges. In the misty clearing, the Germans made preparations. They had nothing more to say to each other, the condemned. Everything had been said during the trip. The order was given to tie the victims to the poles, or more exactly to the beeches. Father Meirsman asked not to be tied up. The vicar De Neckere expressed the desire to be bound. ‘Nobody’, he says, ‘can fix his reflexes in such moments’. No bravado, no scandal… Before letting himself be tied up, he shook hands with all the men who were part of the platoon that was to kill them. He simply said to them, ‘I forgive you… Do your duty.’ All the moved soldiers shook his hand. Only one, an officer, refused the outstretched hand. They were blindfolded. A brief command, and the air ripped with a single bang. And that was it. He had expiated his crime against the aggressor of his country, his crime of having loved his country too much. He had paid with his companions.’

Back to the war memorial,…

…which features a typical French sculpture,…

…with Marianne, the personification of the French Republic and champion of freedom & democracy, apparently placing a wreath on the helmet of a stoic Poilu, while the French family, I presume,…

…depict his reasons for fighting.

Beneath the sculpture,…

…there’s a rather utilitarian aluminium plaque remembering the Great War dead,…

…flanked by two columns,…

…containing thirty six names of men of the city who died during the Second World War, with two, at the bottom of the right-hand panel, who died in Korea.  Five men named here (Baert, Nottebaere, Raepsaet, Vanneste & Verschoore) are among the headstones that I photographed earlier in the communal cemetery.

Of Great War names, there was no sign,…

…although these two pictures of the memorial taken in earlier times suggest that the names were never a feature.

This entry was posted in Belgian Military Cemeteries, Belgian War Memorials. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Mouscron Communal Cemetery & War Memorial

  1. Theo Ydens says:

    Wellicht is de begrafenis van 2022 de bijzetting van een urne na crematie

  2. Alan Bond says:

    Thank you for another interesting post. Bit of a mystery there but is it a rabbit hole I have time to visit.

  3. Morag Lindsay Sutherland says:

    interesting as always and more uplifting than la Coupole- not many E Carrick on CWGC base – I checked – although 1969 suggests a British man who married a local girl and stayed on? just a thought even if you cannot find VC anywhere – maybe they thought he deserved it> was nominated for one?

  4. Patrick De Backer says:

    I was really touched to receive the photos of Mouscron cemetery. I haven’t been back since 2018, but my grandfather Achille De Backer is buried there, shot by firing squad as a spy for the Allies in Ghent 19.03.1918. He also has a street named after him in Mouscron and was, I believe, decorated with both British and Belgian honours. He worked locally on the railways.

  5. Mark DeBacker says:

    As my father above, a particularly enjoyable and poignant post for me given my grandparents and great grandparents rest in this cemetery. However, what brought back memories was the memorial to De Neckere at the church. When visiting family we would attend Mass there, always sitting in proximity
    to that plaque. As a rather bored child, sitting there, who certainly couldn’t follow the service but who had enough French sufficient to read this, it often caught my gaze with curiosity. As for the Belgian war memorials in the communal cemetery, I may be wrong but I have a feeling they are recent additions, perhaps linked to the 100th anniversary, so probably serve more as memorials.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Mark. Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed your reminiscence. I remember we talked about Achille last year, too. And thanks for your thoughts on the Belgian headstones. I tend to agree, although it does still pose the question ‘What was in the space where they are now before the 100th Anniversary?’.

  6. nicholas Kilner says:

    Interesting! Theres definitely no one with that name listed as a recipient of the VC. A couple of possibilities sprung to mind. The first being that he had actually been awarded the MC and someone made a mistake, but having now checked he’s not listed there either. It’s also possible, dare I say it, that he told a porky pie, as people sometimes did about such things, and it stuck. I have a friend who’s father use to tell everyone he was a retired spitfire pilot and had fought in the battle of Britain, and with no reason why anyone should question it, continued the same story for years. He even had a set of RAF wings that he would show people, apparently they were bought from an old junk shop. He had never flown a plane in his life.
    One final possibility, given the lack of punctuation between the V and the C, is that it stood for something else, but I can’t think what.

  7. Magicfingers says:

    Good tale, mate! I bet there were a few like that. Thanks for checking the MC list, btw. Maybe a mail to Mourscron cemetery or the local council dept might uncover something?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

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