Wieltje – 50th Northumbrian Division Memorial

Maybe six hundred yards east, and a little north, of Wieltje Farm Cemetery, this impressive memorial remembers the men of the 50th Northumbrian Division.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I have driven past – correction, been driven past, thank you Baldrick – but I can tell you that on three occasions I have stopped to photograph it,…

…the first occasion being in 2008, with my little Fujipix camera.  Across the field from the memorial…


…this is Oxford Road Cemetery, one of only a handful of cemeteries to the immediate east of Ypres (Ieper) that we have yet to visit.

The next time I stopped was in 2013,…

…the view across to Oxford Road looking a bit different on this occasion.

And finally January 2017,…

…by which time we find a newly installed information board nearby.

The Northumbrian Division was one of the fourteen territorial divisions created during the army reforms of 1908.

At the outbreak of war the division was initially responsible for garrisoning the coastal defences, dockyards and railways of the Tyne,…

…but by 23rd April 1915 they were in Steenvoorde, in French Flanders, just across the border from Poperinghe, expecting several weeks of training before their first taste of the front line trenches.

Except for the fact that in the previous twenty four hours the Germans had unleashed the first gas attacks on the Western Front at Langemark,…

…and the ensuing chaos ensured that by the following day the first brigades of the division were already being rushed into the line and coming under fire for the first time.

Note that the memorial remembers the Division’s fallen in two World Wars.

The division would remain in France & Flanders for the rest of the war, taking part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Arras and Third Ypres in 1917, and numerous engagements in 1918 before, following the Battle of the Aisne in late May and early June, the decision was made to rest and rebuild what was by then an exhausted and heavily under strength division.

It would be October before it would return to the front, taking part in the final battles before the Armistice.

But as we circumnavigate the memorial,…

…let’s return to those first few days of combat in April 1915.  In the nine days between 24th April and the night of 2nd May, when they were withdrawn from the line, the division lost over 3,750 men killed, wounded & missing,…

…nearly all men who were experiencing their first taste of warfare, all men who had been back at home in England just days before, and many of whom, when they joined the territorials pre-war, would never have dreamt that they would so soon be fighting overseas – the territorials had been formed for home service only.

Looking across, once more, to Oxford Road Cemetery,…

…off to the south west, and having tantalised you three times now with views across this field,…

…I suppose we should visit it next.  And it’s a lot bigger than it appears from here.

So, a brisk walk down the road, leaving the memorial behind,…

…and next post we shall take a look around Oxford Road Cemetery.

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11 Responses to Wieltje – 50th Northumbrian Division Memorial

  1. Morag L Sutherland says:

    when you make it to the cemetery – he is not on our memorial but had village connections and I have paid my respects a long time ago …..or so it seems

    MacKAY, John
    Rank: Acting Lance Corporal
    Regimental Number: 257346
    Unit: 263rd Railway Construction Company, Royal Engineers
    Died: Killed in action 6.12.1917
    Age: 53
    Parents: George and Isabella Mackay of Strathy, Sutherland
    Spouse: Fanny Mackay of 14 Duncan Street, Thurso
    Home: Brora
    Enlisted: Golspie
    Notes: Formerly 979 Seaforth Highlanders.
    Medals awarded: War Medal, Victory Medal
    Buried: Oxford Road Cemetery, Belgium
    Memorials: Listed on the Strathy War Memorial
    Recorded in the Clan Mackay Society War Memorial Roll of Honour
    Recorded in the Royal Engineers Roll of Honour, The Scottish National War Memorial

    • Magicfingers says:

      No close-ups I’m afraid Morag, I’ve checked, although his headstone is of course visible in quite a few shots. Next post. 53 years old and killed in action, I notice. Must be among the oldest casualties k.i.a.

      • Morag Sutherland says:

        Good evening. I have a photo of the grave marker so that is not a request. I just thought you could stand and bow your head briefly xx

        • Magicfingers says:

          And a fine evening to you too. Had I not taken these photos last year, and were I not currently ensconced in Surrey, I would do so! You know I would. Actually, two weeks tomorrow I am off on my first trip of the year – all over the place for four days – Ypres, Arras, Somme, Peronne, Hindenburg Line, whew! And strangely, although we won’t be going to Oxford Road, we will be going to somewhere with a major link to the cemetery. All will be revealed. x

          • Morag Sutherland says:

            Oh I thought too were in Ieper at the moment or I would not have commented! Enjoy your next trip if you see any emotive epitaph on grave markers can you email thro ugh please 2018 commemmoration project I am working on x

  2. Magicfingers says:

    Will do – what exactly would you require (photo of whole headstone/inscription/text of inscription etc) – this is an organized trip (only my second ever!) so no idea how many cemeteries we might visit. Mind you, there are loads and loads of epitaphs already throughout this website. x

    • Magicfingers says:

      And anyway, had you not commented, then we wouldn’t have had this nice Sunday evening chat, would we. xx

      • Morag Sutherland says:

        See my comment below 1106… bedtime I think. I have someone coming tomorrow morning till we take stock of where we are . 80 casualties to be treated with care and respect. Thank you for my enjoyable evening’s chat. Have a good week

    • Morag Sutherland says:

      Here is your starter for 10. Do you have a folder of epitaph? Or will I have to trawl? I have a few already….just trying to match men’s background or place if death with something I consider suitable. This us for those with no.known grave. We have a lot of images of the fallen or their grave marker. So anything on the bottom of the stone. If you are at Dud Corner something from there would be great as I have 2 men died on consecutive days at Loos and on The panels….how I spend my time!! Enjoy the trip but I suspect you will miss the freedom of moving at your own pace…and visiting less common or less frequented places. I await your thoughts /reflectionbut enjoy your trip

      • Magicfingers says:

        You are absolutely right about the freedom bit, but I shall manage – luckily quite a few of the people on the coach know me from two years ago so they also know I shall be scurrying off to photograph stuff much of the time – and I shall be catching up with the family Baldrick at the Menin Gate Last Post on 14th May – I have bribed them with the promise of a post-ceremony meal in Ieper.
        No folder – trawl away – btw I am also doing a small project/large post on differing unknown soldier headstones, but I am looking at the inscriptions at the top – there are so many variations. x

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