Back in French Flanders, you may remember that we had embarked on a tour of the cemeteries to the south and south east of the border town of Armentières, an area referred to by the Australians in 1916 as the ‘Nursery’. Our tour goes from south to north, beginning at Y Farm Military Cemetery and visiting White City Cemetery and Bois-Grenier Communal Cemetery, should you wish to refresh your memory, before our next stop, which now finds us in the centre of Bois-Grenier itself. As we are here, it seems only right and proper that we pay our respects at the village war memorial before we visit the next cemetery on our itinerary.
Actually, the first time we visited not only was the weather threatening to turn ugly (more of that in forthcoming Nursery posts), but the memorial was undergoing renovation and was not at its finest, as you can see from the photo above and those following:
So we agreed that the next time we were in the area we would pay another visit.
And as you can see…
…we did, and found things were greatly improved.
Being so close to the front lines, the village unsurprisingly suffered the consequences over the months and years of war, and the church, like so many others, was totally destroyed.
Today the war memorial, which remembers the village dead, both military and civilian, of both World Wars, stands outside the rebuilt church.
During the Great War, Bois-Grenier remained in British hands from the early days of trench warfare in October 1914 right through to the German advance of April 1918, but, being this close to the front lines, it was never the safest place to loiter, even in a relatively quiet sector such as this. Our tour started down in the bottom left hand corner of the map (click to enlarge), where you will see Wye Farm annotated, we are now in Bois-Grenier, and our journey will continue north east, eventually reaching the river east of Armentières (top right).
However, we have another stop to make before we leave the village, so we need to be on our way.
I am from Bois-Grenier. My grand-parents (Maurice Dhellem- Rachel Leclerc) lived at 11 rue d’Armentieres and my parents (Guy Dhellem/Therese Gythiel) at 198 rue de Fleurbaix. I remember my grand-mother telling me the story about seeing Hitler during WWII passing their house while standing at her window. Grand-pa went to war and was presumed dead. He returned after the war, to the surprise of my father who was then 7 ! He had been arrested by the enemy and being a very strong man, had to work as a prisoner in a farm in Germany. I grew up in Bois-Grenier and I have been to the Cemeteries where soldiers Rest In Peace. I now live in Queensland, Australia and have my citizenship. But I do not forget where I’m from and how close France and Australia are, also through stories like yours. Thank you.
Hello Isabelle. Thank you very much for commenting. Your Grand-pa’s story is fascinating and it must have happened to quite a few families – can you imagine men thought dead for several years then returning home? That too must have been quite traumatic. And I am very pleased you enjoyed this post.