French Flanders: From Laventie to Neuve Chapelle Part Three – Laventie War Memorial

A brief stop in the centre of Laventie to pay our respects at the town war memorial. 

The rebuilt church behind the memorial…

…replaced this one, which, even by April 1915 (above), was looking rather the worse for wear,…

…a state of affairs that would only get worse…

…in subsequent years (above & below).

You can just see the original, inscribed, names behind the modern perspex panels.

As you know, if you read the previous post, a war memorial had already been placed in the communal cemetery in the 1920s, before this second memorial was inaugurated in front of the church in 1933.

The little square in which the memorial is sited is known as the ‘Place du 8 Mai’ (8th May 1945 being VE Day, of course), and the road crossing the picture in the background is the ‘Rue du 11 Novembre’.

Post-war, maybe very late-war, view of the church, in the background, with two recently built huts in front, one of which, having seen photos of such sites elsewhere, would certainly have been a temporary place of worship.

New Year 1918 map with the site of the war memorial marked in green.  Our route will take us east from here, towards Harlech Road & Harlech Castle and the communication trenches (and even a light railway) that all begin in square 12, bottom right.  Had we passed this way a hundred and a few years or so ago, we would have passed Laventie East Post, marked on the main map centre top, and shown in detail in the inset, which is interestingly dated late 1915, giving some idea of how early this post was established.  And presumably others too.

By June 1918, as this map shows, Laventie, now under German occupation, was virtually surrounded by belts of barbed wire and defensive posts, most of which must have originally been British structures – for all the good they did – taken over and ‘turned’ by the Germans.

Earlier British maps such as this March 1917 one, with Laventie a mile and a half behind the front lines, as it was for much of the war, sensibly, in case they were to fall into enemy hands, show no details of British defences whatsoever.  The inset photo is of a memorial tablet to the men of 61st Division, which I believe is to be found on the wall of Laventie town hall, and which I didn’t spot.  Thanks to whoever took the pic.

We’ll end with this shot, taken from the roof of a house in Laventie, and part of a larger panorama (below – click to enlarge) that I managed to stitch together, which shows the lie of the land looking towards the German lines and the Aubers Ridge sometime in 1915,…

…and it is across these fields, about a mile away, that the second of the six CWGC cemeteries we shall be visiting in this first half of our tour awaits us.

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