‘Mort pour la France’ – The Headstone of the Unknown Soldier Part Seven

A short post featuring a selection of headstones marking the graves of unidentified men of nations other than Britain and its Empire, the first few of which are to be found in CWGC cemeteries, the remainder in cemeteries of their own nations, but all to be found on the Western Front.

Unidentified French casualties, an officer on the left, in British cemeteries (above left & below), and at the Anglo-French cemetery at Thiepval (above right),…

…and unidentified French-Algerians, also in British cemeteries, on the Somme (left), and in Flanders (right), with other French casualties in the background of both shots.

You might even find the occasional French name on a CWGC headstone in a British cemetery,…

…and you’ll find the occasional Russian grave too – I can only assume that these men were either observers who observed too closely, or escaped or rescued prisoners of the Germans, who, I am pretty certain, used Russian prisoners of war for behind-the-lines work on the Western Front,…

…but I am not sure that any of the American casualties who were originally buried in British cemeteries in the latter days of the war remain there, these two unidentified Americans photographed at Somme American Cemetery.

Unknown Belgian casualties, two men buried beneath the headstone nearest the camera,…

…with a single soldier here on the left, and six unknown casualties on the right.  Note that the inscriptions on Belgian headstones are in both Flemish & French.  And although these graves are in a Belgian military cemetery,…

…you will find the occasional Belgian grave in a British cemetery to this day.

Unidentified Portuguese soldiers – note the date at the bottom of both headstones, 9th April 1918, the day the Germans swept the Portuguese aside as they broke through the Allied lines at the start of the Battle of the Lys.  We will be visiting this cemetery, the only Portuguese Great War burial ground on the Western Front, sometime next year, if I get round to writing about it.

As this is the final post in the series, however, and notwithstanding my introduction, there is one final group of unknown men, all British, that you are likely to come across among the Great War burials in British military cemeteries in Flanders.  These are the graves of casualties from another World War,…

…men killed during the Allied retreat to the channel ports during May 1940.  The corporal in the centre died on 31st May, a day when, thirty five miles to the north west of his grave, almost 70,000 men were evacuated to safety from the Dunkirk beaches.

Which brings us to the end of this series of posts about the headstone of the unknown soldier.  But not to the end of our look at headstones per se, because there will be a couple of additional posts for your pleasure, where I’ll show you some of the more unusual headstones or memorials  – a few of which might need a bit of an explanation – that you might also find in British military cemeteries on the Western Front.

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2 Responses to ‘Mort pour la France’ – The Headstone of the Unknown Soldier Part Seven

  1. nicholas Kilner says:

    A really enjoyable and informative series. It’s been a real education, thank you.
    I think you’re spot on with the Russians, particularly given the date and location of the one on the right. Erquinghem Lys extension if I’m not mistaken.

    • Magicfingers says:

      I have been meaning to do this series for years, and if it has been an education for you, I’m well chuffed. Cheers Nick. I reckon I am right about the Russians too, and no, you are not mistaken. I think you’ll enjoy the follow-ups too.

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