A Tour of Boesinghe Part Twenty – Welsh Cemetery (Caesar’s Nose)

We’re nearing the end of our Boesinghe tour now, just three posts to go.

Some 350 yards across the fields to the north east of Colne Valley, as we saw last post, and reached by way of a zig-zag grass path that leads us across the muddy fields,…

…Welsh Cemetery (Caesar’s Nose) is another little cemetery that was opened and closed in just a few months during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

The cemetery sits in No Man’s Land, between the British front lines as they were in the days before the battle began, and the small German salient known, for obvious reasons (see trench map coming up), as Caesar’s Nose.

Cemetery entrance.  The German front line once crossed this field just to the right of the cemetery,…

…as you can see on this trench map, the cemetery marked in green, which also shows exactly why the name Caesar’s Nose was given to the protruding German trench system at this point.

This is another cemetery where quite a number of the men who lie within cannot possibly have been buried here on the day they died, ten graves bearing dates of death in the days immediately preceding the battle, and another eleven who were casualties of the opening day.

In fact you might say this is a cemetery of two halves; the men killed before or on 31st July, twenty one in all, all of whom would have been buried in the early days of August, and then the later burials. After the first burials only another nine men were buried here before 29th September, and then a further twenty one men before the final burial on 25th November.  Here’s the cemetery plan.

Even though this is a small cemetery, the rows are split into two plots, all the headstones apart from the single row in the background along the boundary wall designated as Plot I, and the single headstone of Private Cecil James, Welsh Regiment, in the foreground, as Plot I Row D.  The split row on the far left…

…is Plot I Row A, the headstones furthest from the camera…

…being those of four Royal Field Artillerymen, the second in line a Shoeing Smith, with one of the nine unidentified men buried in the cemetery at the far end of the row.

The other part of Row A contains men of the Welch Regiment & Royal Welch Fusiliers (above & below), including one of the first two burials in the cemetery, Private Owen Roberts (third from left), killed on 25th July (the other man killed on that date is buried in Row B).

Three others in the row were killed on 31st July, the remaining two at the far end killed on 27th July.  As we have seen elsewhere, these men would have lain dead on the battlefield, or in shallow temporary graves, until it was safe to give them a proper burial.

The single row of Plot II,…

…and from the other end.  All the burials in the row are men killed in September or October 1917.  Beyond the unidentified soldier three headstones in, you will notice that the next eight headstones all bear the emblem of the Royal Artillery (below),…

…and all bear a date of death of 29th September 1917.  You would perhaps automatically assume that their deaths occurred when their gun was hit, as we see in many cemeteries, but not these men.  They almost certainly died together as a result of a German shell, but all eight men are R.F.A. drivers, and one wonders what they were doing at the time.  Sadly, I picture them all sitting there chatting and drinking tea (which is not to say that drivers didn’t fight when called upon, but naturally it wasn’t their main job).

Plot I Rows B (nearest camera) and C, with the single headstone of Row D at the far end.  This view looks towards the German lines in the field beyond, the trees the same as those we saw earlier from Colne Valley Cemetery.

All the burials in Plot I Row B are from July 1917, except two who died on 1st & 2nd August,…

…although here we once again encounter the same problem that we found at Dragoon Camp Cemetery, in that the Graves Registration Report Forms for Plot I Rows A & B (above & below) show just a single man with a date of death prior to 31st July, whereas the CWGC database tells us that ten of these men died between 25th & 28th July.  Ironically Private Edwin Griffiths, in Row A, the one man on the above form with an earlier date of death, 27th July, is given a date of 28th July on the CWGC database.

Anyway, we’ll leave it there on this occasion.

The burials in Plot I Row C are from October & November 1917.  All of which allows you to trace the making of this little cemetery by following the rows, which is quite unusual really; Plot I Rows A & B are exclusively burials from July & August, Plot II Row A exclusively September & October, and Plot I Row C exclusively October & November.

Cross of Sacrifice.

Another chance find – I always tell you, should you visit any of these cemeteries, to take a look over the side of the cemetery wall – you never know what you might come across.  Remember we are right on the front lines here, and this is a roll of British barbed wire after an encounter with a plough.  And yes, a couple of strands now reside in my collection cabinet.

Sunset over Caesar’s Nose.  Click here for Part Twenty One.

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17 Responses to A Tour of Boesinghe Part Twenty – Welsh Cemetery (Caesar’s Nose)

  1. Morag Sutherland says:

    Goodness I have been here. I have photo of the shoeing smith I do have a picture off showing smith Garvey fykm a different cemetery. I also remember the artillery burials perhaps because my late father in law was with RHA. thanks for bringing to the surface rather hidden memories xx

  2. Chris Wouters says:

    Any special reason for the single headstone of Private Cecil James?
    It looks rather odd…

    • Magicfingers says:

      It does look odd, and although I do not know why, nor can think of any reason – perhaps there wasn’t one, perhaps he was buried on a very dark night – honestly I have no idea. I have however added a third GRRF to the post which includes Private James, so you can now see what it says on the form with regard to him.

    • Michael Curnow says:

      Hi, Cecil James was my Great Uncle. We visited Caesars Nose in 2015 after a family tragedy which I won’t go into but suffice to say this is a great article and thanks for commenting on him. He was the eldest son of Thomas and Charity James of Reawla near Hayle in Cornwall, his younger Sister being my Grandmother, Annie Jane. Originally with the DCLI was transferred to 13th Battalion, Welsh Reg, often done in those days.
      We have correspondence from him, letters to his Mother & Father and to my Grandmother (Annie Jane) who was only 14 at the time, but curiously kept in touch with his Sergeant for years after, have some of that too. Much of the wartime stuff in Belgian lace postcards.
      Sergeant Will (who’s surname escapes me right now) kept in touch with the family, largely because he felt responsible as it was he who sent the lad as a runner to the Caesars Nose area on Sept 2nd 1917. Clearly no one blamed him, he had to send some one…
      Annie Jane went on to Marry Jack Willis, had twins ‘Cecil’ obviously, and Olive my Mother, both now sadly gone but we try and keep their memory alive but I really don’t know why the Cecil in Caesars Nose is away on his own, other than maybe he was a late comer? A single casualty away from his regiment who couldn’t be identified…..
      I’ll try and revert with Sergeant’s surname, thanks for reading anyway!

      • Michael Curnow says:

        Sergeant William Nash

        • Magicfingers says:

          Hello Michael and welcome, btw. Thanks ever so for your comments – very interesting. We shall never know why Cecil is buried apart from the rest, shall we? Interesting that he was originally misidentified, too. Hope you enjoy the forthcoming posts, and if you delve into past posts – all or any may get updated at any time – you’ll probably find other stuff of interest – there’s even a postcard section, for example (see contents list on the right). Have fun!

  3. Andrew sheers says:

    Went to Tyne cot last weekend and saw sign for this cemetery while watching a motorsport rally. Very emotional to stand and read all the names on the headstones . Cemetery’s are all very well looked after.

    • Magicfingers says:

      More of a track man myself, Andrew, (off to Spa in September for the GP) but a rally in Flanders sounds pretty good to me. Thanks for taking the trouble to comment. The cemeteries are generally beautifully looked after and of course the centenary has focused minds; plenty of new signage etc has appeared in the last few years. And it is always emotional. Always.

  4. Harold Crawley says:

    My Great uncle is buried in Welsh Cemetery, he was one of the Drivers killed on Sept 29, 2017 (Driver Robert Crawley). I have traveled from Canada to visit the cemetery, so I appreciated your detailed description, and your theory of how they all may have died on the same day. Thank you!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Harold. Fantastic to see your message this morning. It is just a theory, of course, but it makes sense to me. Than you so much for commenting – it’s comments like yours that makes this all worthwhile.

  5. Rob James says:

    Cecil James was my Great Uncle. He was a bricklayer/labourer before the war. His parents, my Great Grandparents had 9 children, 3 of which died in infancy. His brother, my Grandfather worked in a dynamite factory making cordite for the Royal Navy. The factory was in the middle of the sand dunes behind Gwithian beach near Hayle, Cornwall

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Rob. Thank you for commenting – I guess we will never know why his grave is on its own. Coincidentally, you may have noticed that there is a Cornwall section of this site; one of the few Cornish war memorials I have visited but have yet to upload happens to be Hayle.

    • Michael Curnow says:

      Small world Rob, please see my comment above re Cecil James!
      All ties in, didn’t know Thomas and Charity had so many children.
      Family trivia is that Thomas was a drayman at the Dynamite works, who regularly had his leg pulled for making sure his horse was fed before starting work. I do keep up an annual tradition of visiting Tom and Charity’s grave each year at Christmas time with a wreath.

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