Poperinge Part Four – Poperinghe New Military Cemetery

Poperinghe New Military Cemetery. 

As we continue our walk south east from Poperinghe Old Military Cemetery, after about five hundred yards the new one comes into view,…

…and peering over the gate,…

…I must say I was surprised to see French graves here.  But they are marked on the cemetery plan, which you can see here, courtesy of the CWGC.  Still, we won’t be entering the cemetery from this end,…

…not when there’s a proper, grand, cemetery entrance further down the road.

Poperinghe New Military Cemetery was opened in June 1915, soon after the old cemetery was closed down.  Nearly all the 677 British Great War burials here are identified.

Information board.  Spoiler alert.

The Cross of Sacrifice is incorporated into the cemetery entrance,…

…and immediately on entering, we find Plot I to our left,…

… and Plot II to our right – there are only two British plots – and it is in the row nearest the camera where we will find the name of the first man we are looking for in this cemetery.  Because this is a cemetery like no other in Flanders.

Eleven headstones down the row,…

…this is the grave of Second Lieutenant Eric Skeffington Poole, West Yorkshire Regiment.  Poole was born in Canada in 1885, the Poole family moving to England during the early years of the 20th Century, and settling in Guildford in Surrey.  Initially a driver with the Honourable Artillery Company, he was commissioned into the 14th Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment on 3rd May 1915, his previous experience in the Halifax Rifles between 1903 & 1905 probably doing his cause no harm.  In May 1916 he was sent to join 11th Bn. West Yorks, who were preparing for their part in the upcoming Somme battle, and a week into the battle, on 7th July near Contalmaison, Poole was hit in the head by debris from an exploding shell.  Hospitalised with shell shock, he rejoined the battalion in September 1916.  On 5th October, as his platoon was moving up to the front line trenches in the vicinity of Flers, Poole went missing.  His absence was not noticed until much later that night, and it would be two days before he was arrested, some distance to the west of Albert, and a long way from where he was supposed to be.

His court-martial took place on 24th November 1916 in Poperinge.  Despite evidence that he was suffering from mental problems, he was sentenced to death for desertion, and he was duly shot at 7.25 a.m. on 10th December 1916 in the courtyard of Poperinge town hall.  Haig had confirmed the sentence with the words, ‘Such a case is more serious in the case of an officer than a man, and it is also highly important that all ranks should realise the law is the same for an officer as a private.’  Poole, aged 31, was one of only three officers executed by the British during the war.  His Medal Index Card (above) gives no suggestion of his ultimate fate.

A second executed soldier lies in Row B, immediately behind.

The headstone in the centre is that of Private James Grampton, York & Lancaster Regiment.

James Grampton had served through the Gallipoli campaign before finding himself on the Somme at the start of the eponymous battle in July 1916.  In mid-August, Grampton, due to begin an attachment with the Royal Engineers, took the opportunity to desert; it would be another three months before he was apprehended in Armentières.  He was subsequently executed for desertion on 4th February 1917, aged 39.

Plot II contains eleven, mostly long, rows of headstones, this view looking south east, Row E on the left, and Row D on the right,…

…towards the Stone of Remembrance.

Panoramic view looking across Plot II from the eastern corner, the cemetery entrance now to the far left.

You would have thought that it would be relatively easy to research the numbers of British soldiers who were executed during the Great War, but it just isn’t that simple.  So, with slight reservations, here are the figures; the British executed 335 men for various reasons during the course of the war, beginning with Private Thomas Highgate on 8th September 1914, and ending with Privates Louis Harris & Ernest Jackson on 7th November 1918.  A further eight were executed, all for murder, in 1919, and three more (two for murder, one for mutiny) in 1920, making 346 in total.  Of these, 291 were British, 25 Canadian, five were New Zealanders, four were from the British West Indies Regiment, and 21 were civilians, mainly Chinese labourers, who were subject to military law.  The Australian Government refused to allow any of their men to be executed, whatever the offence, although, as someone once said, ‘Haig would have liked the Australians a lot more if he could have shot a few of them’.

So perhaps the unique nature of this cemetery is now becoming clearer, as no less than seventeen of these unfortunate individuals lie here, more than in any other single CWGC cemetery.

What’s more, all are to be found here in Plot II.

Looking down the length of the cemetery from in front of the Stone of Remembrance,…

…and now to our left, back towards the entrance,…

…and right, the grave of the next of the seventeen executed men,…

…at the end of Row F, and currently sporting a large wreath.

Private Herbert Morris was one of the four men of the British West Indies Regiment executed during the Great War, and the only one on the Western Front.  He was born in Jamaica in 1900, making him still underage when he joined the regiment in late 1916 or early 1917, and he arrived in France on 17th April 1917 after an appalling journey which saw hundreds of men stricken by sickness and no small number of deaths.

Unwreathed.  Although not engaged in the actual fighting, many of the B.W.I.R. activities were carried out within the range not only of German artillery but sometimes German snipers too.  Morris had been fined for fighting in his billet on 3rd June 1917 and punished for being absent on 16th July, before he went missing once again on 20th August, military police arresting him the next day in Boulogne.  He was reported to have told the army doctor that he was ‘troubled with my head. I cannot stand the sound of the guns.’  At his court-martial, however, his previous offences counted against him, and despite accounts of his otherwise good behaviour and application to his work, he was duly executed on 20th September 1917, still only seventeen years old.

The insets show (top), recruitment – in Cardiff!; B.W.I.R. platoon (bottom left); and definitely not B.W.I.R. (bottom right), but proof that black soldiers served on both sides on the Western Front.

Wreathed once more.  Or rewreathed, perhaps.  We need to stay here a while longer, though,…

…because three of the following four headstones in the row also mark the graves of executed men, the exception being Driver W. E. Jackson, R.A.S.C., second from right.

Private George Everill, North Staffordshire Regiment, aged 30, executed for desertion on 14th September 1917.  Bearing in mind his previous record – sentences for insubordination, willful defiance, threatening an officer, defying an officer and in March 1917, in the midst of all these offences, being absent – when he once more absented himself having been warned for front line duty on 24th August 1917, and was arrested the following day without rifle or equipment, I suspect clemency was never part of the equation.

Serjeant John Thomas Wall, Worcestershire Regiment, had joined the army in 1912, arriving in France on 12th August 1914 as a lance corporal, and rising to the rank of sergeant before, just after midnight on 10th August 1917, on the way up to the front line to support an attack, he went missing.  Lost in the darkness, and caught on the exposed crest of the Bellewaerde Ridge near Hooge as a furious artillery duel raked the area, Wall and his company had taken cover in and around (there being not enough room inside) a nearby concrete bunker.  Gradually, as time passed, small groups of men were able to make their way forward until just three, including Wall, remained in the bunker.  Looking outside during a break in the shellfire, Wall could see no sign of the rest of his men, at which time the German artillery barrage intensified once more.  The three men remained in the bunker for the rest of the day and, according to one of them, who later testified against Wall at his court-martial, until early evening the following day, when the shelling finally ceased.  They then made their way back to their billets where, on 12th August, when the company returned from their stint in the trenches, Wall was questioned about his absence.

At his subsequent court-martial he did not put forward any defence, although he did explain the circumstances as he saw them, and despite his previous unblemished, indeed excellent, record, he was duly sentenced to death for cowardice, and executed at 5.25 a.m. on 6th September 1917, aged 22.  An officer of the Worcesters wrote, ‘6th September 1917. Dickebusch. Sergt. Wall ‘B’ Coy, shot by order of F.G.C.M. for cowardice in the face of the enemy. The sentence was carried out by a section found from all companies of this battalion; which is unusual, as hitherto firing parties have been found from another Battn. to that of the prisoner. To me, it seems a miscarriage of justice, as Wall had been out in France since August 1914, and had fought in many battles, and was probably quite mad at the time of his offence. One cannot go through three years of this inferno and keep sane in all circumstances.’

Private Joseph Stedman, Machine Gun Corps, was aged 25 and the first man from a machine gun company to be executed.  He was found to be absent on parade prior to his company moving up to the front line trenches, was arrested on 16th August 1917, and executed for desertion on 5th September 1917.  He was the first man from 39th Division to be executed for desertion, although three men had previously been shot for cowardice.

There is no hiding his fate (the ‘forfeited’ refers to his medals) on his Medal Index Card.

We shall not, of course, be overlooking the other men buried in the cemetery; continuing along Row F, these three men are among just over a hundred buried here who died during the Third Battle of Ypres, between 31st July & 10th November 1917,…

…as are these three officers in Row G who were all killed on the first day of the battle.  Although we shall be returning to Row F later, and for good reason, right now we need to find a man in Row J, third row from the front (there is no Row I), and the headstone you can see clearly through the gap centre right.

The man concerned is Private Frederick Couts Gore, East Kent Regiment (The Buffs), who was just nineteen when he was executed on 16th October 1917, the last executed soldier to be buried in this cemetery.  For some reason – perhaps the white feather? – Gore had joined up in 1915, but he proved to be far from the model soldier.  Having already deserted twice and been charged with cowardice, it seems he was under a double suspended death sentence anyway when we went absent for the final time, at which point his execution became inevitable.

Further down Row J, we come to the grave of Major James Foord M.C., 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion. aged 33.  Foord, originally from Scotland, had received multiple shell wounds of the face, chest and left leg near Mouquet Farm on the Somme on 16th September 1916 in an action that gained him a Military Cross; his record calls the injuries ‘small and superficial’ even though ‘some shell fragments passed through and some lodged and were extracted’ and he was unfit for duty for nearly two months.  He was killed by a shell on the Passchendaele Ridge on 28th October 1917 during Third Ypres.

The Australian Army Medical Corps serjeant with a Military Medal buried here at the start of Row K is one of only 20 Australians buried here.  I say the start of Row K, as this is the only row in the plot that is numbered from this end.  Strange, but true.  The first three burials in the row are among the final burials made here in 1917, from late October and early November, the rest of the row containing burials from April & May 1918,…

…such as these three men killed on 8th May 1918,…

…and at the end of the row, six men of the Suffolk Regiment, all killed on 29th April 1918.  Unused between 4th November 1917 and 23rd April 1918, twenty nine men were buried here in April & May 1918, after which the cemetery was closed.

Behind Row K, Row L contains only nine graves, the first seven burials more men killed on 8th May 1918, and the final one, after the small gap, a R.F.C. captain who died of wounds on 12th August 1917.  The penultimate headstone, and oh, if only I had taken a close-up, is that of Gunner Joseph Benson, killed on 10th May 1918 and the final British burial in the cemetery.  Or at least that is the name he enlisted under.  Good job, really.  His real name was Joseph Bangs.  Which would have made him Gunner Bangs……

Hiding in the shadows in the background of the previous shot,…

…this is the grave of Yu Eu P’eng, according to his Grave Registration Report Form and the CWGC database,…

…although it originally said Tu Kivie Sing, and the cemetery index still does.  As the GRRF bears a latest date of April 1921, we can assume that the index was published by that time, otherwise surely his name would have been changed there too?  The moral of which is be careful with cemetery indexes; things might have changed since they were compiled.

He was killed on 31st July 1917, the first day of Third Ypres.

View across the cemetery from behind Row L,…

…which is now in the background in this shot,…

…Row J now in front of us,…

…before we rejoin Row F, as I said we would, about halfway along.

Continuing along Row F (I would very much doubt whether Alf is with us now either),…

…these casualties all from June 1917, as are those in Row G behind,…

…before, still in Row F, we find the graves of two more executed men.

Private Reginald Tite, Royal Sussex Regiment, joined up in October 1915 before arriving in France in July 1916.  On 21st October 1916, already under a four year suspended sentence, and with his battalion engaged in the fighting at Thiepval, Tite, who was 27, tried to flee the action but was soon apprehended and court-martialled for desertion.

Found guilty and sentenced to death, his battalion had moved to the Ypres by the time his sentence was carried out, on 25th November 1916, hence his burial here.

It didn’t start well, when Private Albert Botfield, South Staffordshire Regiment, failed to turn up with the rest of his pioneer battalion in France in January 1916, and it went downhill from there.  He received ninety days Field Punishment No. 1, for what I know not but it can’t have been trivial, soon after, and when, on 21st September, his unit was engaged in trench repairs behind the lines at Pozières on the Somme and a German shell burst nearby, even his colleagues said that Botfield simply ran away.  When the working party, having completed the repairs without incident, returned to their billets, Botfield was found in his tent.  Charged with cowardice, with his previous record, and admitting that he made no attempt to rejoin the working party, Botfield was duly sentenced to death, and shot on 18th October 1916, aged 28.  The wreath is particularly poignant:

‘In grateful memory of the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the Judges and staff of Her Majesty’s Judiciary & Court Service’.

At which point we finally finish with Row F, and turn our attention to Rows H (right) and J (on the left),…

…and it is Row J we shall look at first, because three headstones from the far end of this shot, and pictured above,…

…lies Private John Bennett, a Londoner in the Hampshire Regiment, who was executed on 28th August 1916 aged just 19.  Although he had enlisted before war broke out, he was too young to be sent overseas until November 1915, when he arrived in France.  On 20th July 1916, three weeks into the Battle of the Somme, he received a suspended prison sentence of two years with hard labour for absenteeism, and just a few weeks later, on the night of 8th August, and now in Flanders, he was seen to flee from a German gas attack for which he was later charged with cowardice.  Despite a call for clemency from his brigadier, he was executed on 28th August 1916.

Two Royal Engineer pioneers who died on 3rd September 1916 buried together in Row J.

Back near the start of Row H, two executed Canadian infantrymen are buried next to each other, both of whom, although from different battalions, went missing during the same action.  During the German attack on Mount Sorrel in June 1917, and the desperate Canadian counterattacks that followed on 13th June, both men decided they wished to play no part, absenting themselves before their units moved into the attack.

Private James H. Wilson, 4th Bn. Canadian Infantry, aged 37, was born in Ireland and had served in the Connaught Rangers before emigrating to Canada, where he enlisted in 1914.  After deserting it was three days before he was caught, and with convictions for drunkenness, insubordination, resisting arrest & being absent already on his record, he was found guilty of desertion on 13th June and executed on 9th July 1916, his burial being the first of the seventeen executed men who now lie here.

Private Come LaLiberte (actually Josaphat Come Gatien LaLiberte, to be precise), 3rd Bn. Canadian Infantry, was the second soldier to absent himself on 13th June; caught, tried, and convicted of desertion, he was executed on 4th August 1916, aged 23.

His casualty form shows a couple of injuries during his service; concussion in October 1915, and a grenade injury to the face in December, which you will notice becomes a gunshot wound, left side, head, by the following day.  He rejoined his unit in January 1916 ‘as prisoner’,…

…the details of which are revealed on the reverse.  And then he was killed in action in August, except we know better.

A short distance along the row, another executed man’s grave; Private Richard Stevenson, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, had arrived in France in May 1915, and it was sometime in September 1916 that he was court-martialled for desertion, and executed on 25th October 1916, aged 26.

And still in Row H, the grave of Private James Michael, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), who went absent from his battalion at the start of Third Ypres.  Arrested soon after and court-martialled, he was executed for desertion on 24th August 1917.

Now in Plot II Row D, and next to two Scots Guardsman, Englishman Lieutenant Alexander Hewitt Bostock, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), attd. 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion (headstone right, photo left), Mentioned in Despatches, who was killed in action on 26th July 1916.

Still in Row D, Private Bernard McGeehan, The King’s Liverpool Regiment, had already fought in the first assaults on Guillemont village in July & August 1916 when, on 20th September, and his battalion due to attack once more, he went missing.  He was arrested five days later in Montreuil, where he had reappeared, claiming he was lost.  Escorted to Brandhoek, on the Ypres-Poperinge road, where his battalion was now resting, he was court-martialled and sentenced to death for desertion, his execution taking place on 2nd November 1916.  In the Row behind, Row E, you can just see, on the left, the headstone of Private Simmonds,…

…whose story appears to be very similar to that of McGeehan.  Private William Simmonds, Middlesex Regiment, had deserted at Longueval on the Somme, was apprehended some time later, arrested, tried and sentenced to death, and like McGeehan, his battalion had moved to the Ypres sector when his sentence was carried out.  Executed on 1st December 1917, he was twenty three, and following his burial, no more executed men would be buried here.

The grave on the right is that of Lieutenant Selwyn Goldstein, Royal Engineers, who died on 8th June 1917 aged 44.  Australian born and educated, Goldstein and his family had made England their home long before he answered the call for mining engineers for specialist tunnelling operations, receiving a commission with the R.E.  The accompanying newspaper extract mourns his death but fails to state its cause.  Hardly surprising, as his cause of death was self-inflicted, a gunshot wound behind the ear from his own revolver ending it all instantly.  Whether it is just coincidence that this occurred one day after the great Messines mine was blown, who knows.

There is one more executed soldier we have yet to visit, and he lies next to Selwyn Goldstein in Row D.  Private John Fryer, East Surrey Regiment, had volunteered for service (he was a Kitchener man) but was already under a two year suspended sentence when he deserted.  He was executed on 14th June 1917, aged 23.

Plan of Plot II with the graves of the seventeen executed men marked, should you ever visit.  Cemetery entrance also marked, top left, in blue.

Two Rifle Brigade captains, both killed on 12th July 1916, and buried side-by-side in Plot II Row E.  They were from different battalions and there is no evidence that they were killed together; Captain Harold Francis Thompson, aged 38, was killed by a German shell whilst walking ‘in a town behind the lines’ (according to Charterhouse School, Thompson being the first schoolmaster there to be killed), whereas Captain Charles Acland Keele (pictured right) was badly wounded during the Battle of Mount Sorrel between 2nd & 14th June 1916.  Too badly wounded to be moved any further than Poperinge, it would seem, where he would die a month later.

Also in Row E, Major Alfred Osborn Wraith, Royal Engineers, on the left, had participated in the German South West Africa campaign as second-in-command of a troop of engineers with Louis Botha’s Column, returning to England on the completion of that campaign, where he obtained a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in late October 1915, sailing for France shortly thereafter.  By September 1916 he was an acting-major, a pretty decent rise I would have thought, in charge of a Tunnelling Company, and was killed in action on 25th June 1917.  He had been Mentioned in Despatches in May 1917 for actions on 9th April, and was 33 when he died.  Major Edward Charles Randolph Kilkelly M.C., Royal Field Artillery (centre), was killed in action near Ypres on 26th June 1917, aged 21.  His letters were posthumously published; the bottom insets show the book cover and an example of one of the letters.  Second Lieutenant Guy Lennard Stokes (on the right, and a temporary captain at the time of his death), also R.F.A., aged 26, was killed instantly by a piece of shell near Ypres on 5th July 1917.

Two Canadian officers, both 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles (Quebec Regiment), both killed on 19th May 1916, buried in Row G.  Major Norman Campbell Pilcher (headstone left & pictured), aged 37, was another in the long list of officers who had seen action in South Africa.

All of which brings us towards the end of Plot II,…

…so with a final look back,…

…we move on to Plot I.

On the far side of the tree on the left,…

…these Coldstream Guardsmen in Plot I Row A were all killed on 11th May 1915.  And directly in front of the tree, in Row B behind,…

…the grave of Lieutenant Thomas Harold Fennell, 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, aged 27.  Fennell had served through the winter of 1915 on the Ploegsteert-Messines front, and then further north at Ypres.  He was killed instantly by a sniper while setting out a new machine gun emplacement.

September 1915 casualties further along Row A.  On the far right, the grave of Second Lieutenant Almeric Watkins Wood, whose leg was shattered by shellfire in an unsuccessful attack near Hooge, Wood dying from loss of blood on 26th September 1915, aged 23.  And these headstones are a bit odd, too, or at least three of them are.  The same applied to most of the Coldstream Guards headstones a few pictures back, but you will only have noticed had you enlarged the photo.  Nothing serious, mind,…

…but they sport a number of gratuitous full stops, do they not?  Details, details.

Row C.  On the left, Lieutenant George Henderson Campbell, Canadian Pioneers, killed in action at Ypres on 16th May 1916 aged 23, and on the right, Captain Arthur Edward Sanders, York & Lancaster Regiment, who died of wounds in Poperinge, aged 25, on 19th May 1916.

Plot I Row C31.  ‘Our Kenneth’.

On 22nd August 1914, the first five hundred recruits left the Durham Light Infantry Depot in Newcastle for Woking in Surrey, where they became the 10th (Service) Battalion, the D.L.I.’s first service battalion, part of Kitchener’s New Army.  Among the experienced men whose task it was to mould them into an effective fighting unit was Regimental Serjeant Major Arthur Noble, veteran and D.C.M. holder from the Boer War.  He would be killed in action on 12th February 1916, and on briefly researching him I noticed that the CWGC database awards him a Bar to his D.C.M..  A quick look through ‘Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medal’ (five volumes, 2372 pages, every home should have one) shows that he did indeed receive a Bar to his award during the Great War, ‘For conspicuous courage and coolness at all times, and particularly on one occasion in searching for the wounded under heavy fire. His devotion to duty was most marked.’

Excellent poem left by Charles at the base of Gunner Stephen Henry Teague’s headstone (close-up below).

These two Australian headstones in Row E tell the tale of tragedy, not that that isn’t the case with every grave we visit, but you will see what I mean.  On 25th April 1917, whilst engaged in mining operations beneath Hill 60, Captain Wilfred Avery, aged 31, Australian Tunnelling Corps (centre, pictured in 1915), was killed as he was inserting electrical detonators into a fifty pound box of guncotton, to be used as a primer for one of the explosive charges.  Standard practice was to test the electrical continuity of the detonators before insertion; Avery chose not to (some say forgot), intending to test the detonators once in the primer, and, by sheer chance, one of the detonators happened to be faulty, ‘supersensitive’, as they called it, the resulting explosion destroying the dugout in which they were working, killing Avery, two lieutenants and eight sappers, and a proto-man was killed attempting to rescue them.  Proto-men, although sounding like something from Doctor Who, were so-called because of the proto-set they used, a self-contained breathing apparatus designed specifically for mine rescue work.  One of the two lieutenants, Arthur Elton Tandy, aged 25, is buried next to Avery and pictured left.  The other, Second Lieutenant Glyndwr David Evans, is buried in Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm).  The headstone on the far right is that of Second Lieutenant John Buckham Barnes, who must have joined up at a very young age as he served with the Natal Mounted Rifles in German East Africa in 1915, and was still only nineteen when he was killed in action on 9th May 1917.

Left at Lieutenant Tandy’s grave – click to enlarge.

Lieutenant Joseph Prestwich (pictured above his headstone) had seen service with the East Lancashire Regiment before joining the Royal Flying Corps on his return from Gallipoli.  I do not know the details, but he would die on 7th February 1916 of wounds received in combat, aged 23.

Plot I Row G from one end,…

…and from the other end, Row F on the right.

Two final views of Plot I,…

…before it’s time to turn our attention to the French graves at the end of the cemetery.  These are all post-war reinterments, 273 in total, and you may remember that I mentioned last post that there were once hundreds of Belgian & French military burials in Poperinghe Old Military Cemetery.  Well, now you know where the French contingent ended up; about five hundred yards down the road from where they were.

The earliest French burials are the men at the start of these two rows, killed in November 1914, casualties of First Ypres,…

…and by the end of the rows,…

…the date of death on the final crosses in both rows, 30th April 1915, places them firmly in Second Ypres.

The single grave you may have spotted between the British and French cemeteries…

…belongs to Euphrasie Vanneste, who,…

…despite being buried beneath a French cross, was a Belgian nun known as Sister Juliana, who worked as a nurse in one of the Poperinge hospitals.  Some sources give her date of death as 14th July 1917, the same date of death as the second civilian listed on the form, Martha DeClercq.

Ten Belgian soldiers once buried here were later removed to Westvleteren Belgian Cemetery.

Casualties from late May 1918 (left), and late April 1915 (right) in the front row,…

…and two rows further back, two more French-Algerian graves, the one on the left unidentified, both men killed on 28th April 1915.  Second Ypres.  Were these men (and their colleague in the previous picture) casualties of the first German gas attack on 22nd April who had survived long enough to reach hospital in Poperinge, but who were too badly affected to be moved further west, and who died after a week or more of agony in a Poperinge hospital?  Highly likely, I would have thought.

And here is the grave of Martha Declercq, also a nun, and also a sister working in one of the hospitals in Poperinge.  In her case, we know that she was hit by fragments from a German shell, and one cannot help but wonder whether both women were killed by the same projectile and that their dates of death are indeed the same.  I think that Martha was probably French; the rusted disc appears to have once been a photograph, not a Belgian emblem as on Euphrasia Vanneste’s cross, and hence she is buried in the French plot along with the other French burials.

Looking west, Martha’s grave nearest the camera.

Interspersed burials from May 1915 & May 1918 (above & below),…

…and more May 1918 burials,…

…before this row end with the graves of three Zouaves, and although their names are identified, only one has a known date of death.

At the very end of the longest row,…

…the grave of a German leutnant who died on 20th May 1918, presumably in captivity.

Final view looking up the cemetery,…

…before we shut the gate behind us,…

…and briefly turn our attention to a brick memorial that actually featured in the second photo, way back at the start of the post.

It would seem that at some point in 1965 this street was renamed Toc H-Straat,…

…which will mean something to some of you, perhaps nothing to others, but will all be explained later in our Poperinge tour.  Which continues back in the centre of town.

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13 Responses to Poperinge Part Four – Poperinghe New Military Cemetery

  1. Steve Monk says:

    Thanks for yet another interesting read Magicfingers.
    Reading this I find it difficult to understand why we shot our own, in particular someone suffering from shell shock. I know it was “the law” but thank goodness we’ve hopefully moved on.
    I had a great uncle who was severely shell shocked in WW1 who was sent back to the UK and then back to Canada (that’s a whole different story I can tell you if interested) then back to the UK and he spend the last 40+ years in the local asylum until his death in 1966. Which does beg the question which was the fairest?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Steve. I agree, of course. Have you read A Brass Hat in No Man’s Land? Because Brigadier General Frank Crozier talks a bit about it. I seem to remember that somewhere he talks about not wanting to lead a large body of men without having the death penalty to fall back on (my words – I haven’t read it for a long long time). Read with an open mind. Crozier was a military man (he was on Spion Kop as an infantryman), very brave, very gung ho, referred to executions he ordered as ‘it is war’, later a Black & Tan – not looking good so far – and then a fervent peace campaigner for the rest of his life. Some newspapers refused to print his obituary, I believe. Very interesting.
      Now you obviously don’t know, bearing in mind what you say about your great uncle, that I have a great interest in the men who survived, and in particular those who were physically or mentally damaged by the war but who survived for years, even decades after. I have a lot of info on the 20s, 30s & 40s but after that, not so much. I think it certain that men were still alive in asylums in the 1990s – maybe later. Whatever, I would love to hear the story.

  2. Nick Kilner says:

    Well now that really is quite something, isn’t it. Superb research, as ever. One can’t help feeling that Second Lieutenant Poole was made an example of, and had he been a mere Private would likely have been spared. Another really great post.
    The death of tunnellers always draws my attention. The mental strain for those using geophones to listen for enemy activity was so extreme that they could only work for a hour at a time. Any longer and they would frequently suffer a mental breakdown. Imagine arriving for your shift at the end of a tunnel measuring two feet wide by three feet high, in almost complete darkness. You place the headset on your head and hold the two sensors to the tunnel wall. If you can hear the chip, chip chip of a pick working away you know you are safe, but if you can’t hear anything then there’s a good chance the enemy is about to blow a charge which will entomb you forever. And so there you sit, alone and in absolute silence until your shift ends, one way or another… extraordinary men. Suicides were probably not uncommon.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Nick. Very interesting researching it all. Tunnellers. I have no idea how they did it, and I ain’t claustrophobic. And I feel the same about balloonists. Up there, under a very big bag of gas, with a pair of binoculars, a writing pad, maybe a telephone, admittedly probably a proto-parachute (and good luck with that), and enemy scouts liable to appear from nowhere, or anywhere, at any split second.

      Is Eugene wearing a proto-set in that photo? Can’t find a copy of it.

      • Nick kilner says:

        He is indeed, in fact he is in full proto gear in all three photographs I have of him. Which is rather unfortunate, as it means I have only a vague idea of what he looked like. I checked with his great Aunt, and whilst she has family photographs of several of his brothers it seems there are none of him. A real pity.
        Ah Balloonists, yes indeed. I imagine they were told that if the balloon was hit, the gas would escape slowly and they would descend at an acceptable rate. I’m sure you are aware of the famous duel between two Frenchmen, who proved this would not be the case!

  3. Sid from Down Under says:

    This is perhaps the saddest post I’ve read MJS. Running away from a gas attack called cowardice with a penalty of execution. Jumping from frying pan into the fire.

    You commented the Australian Government refused to allow executions – this was because our men volunteered to fight in a cause not primarily their own albeit Australians being of British stock individually felt compelled to fight to preserve the Empire.

    According to Section 98 of the Commonwealth Defence Act 1903, no member of the Defence Force shall be sentenced to death by any court martial except for four offences as follows:

    Mutiny – Desertion to the enemy – Traitorously delivering up to the enemy any garrison, fortress, post, guard, or ship, vessel, or boat, or aircraft – Traitorous correspondence with the enemy. This sentence could not be carried out until confirmed by the Governor-General.

    The Australian War Memorial website describes: After the dreadful bombardments of Pozieres in 1916, absence without leave increased alarmingly and some senior Australian officers argued that Australian soldiers should face the same penalties that applied in the British Army. However, the general feeling, both at home in Australia as well as of those serving, was against inflicting the death penalty on men who had volunteered to fight in a cause not primarily their own.

    I also wonder what influence against Field executions the 1902 execution of Boer War Somerset born Australian Folk Hero Breaker Morant aka Lieutenant Henry (Harry) Harboard. That’s another interesting story described on the Australian War Memorial website.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Indeed Sid. And even if you did flee from a gas attack, what exactly decided that your cowardice deserved a death penalty and Joe Bloggs over there gets a prison sentence (suspended – we need men in the front line) for the same thing? There are some stats coming in a later post that show what your likelihood of getting, and receiving, the death penalty for some of the fourteen or however many – can’t remember – offences that could result in death.
      As far as volunteers go, you could argue that, particularly if you volunteer, you (should) know the rules to the game for which you volunteered – that was the British viewpoint, I think. But Breaker Morant was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Australia was concerned.

  4. Sid from Down Under says:

    While I appreciate your suggestion volunteers should know the rules I really think that would be secondary to the era’s Australia’s patriotism to King and Country and “home” and “the old country”. I’ve read that many thought it would be a short free overseas adventure and a “gung-ho” attitude was prevalent along with a general dislike of “authority” but a fierce fighting determination.

    During my National Service I was fortunate to have in my Platoon some wild anti-authority types from the remote mining area of Western Australia. However some were born leaders and all the type one would want alongside in a firefight – loyal to a fault. I rather suspect similar types existed in WW1 (and WW2). “Mateship”.

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