Tag Archives: Bouzincourt

The Remember Me Project, France & Belgium Spring 2018

SO Many Names. Pozieres. Rocking Dog

SO Many Names. Pozieres. Rocking Dog

Sometimes I have to try and remember why I started this project. One or two folk have exclaimed “what do you want to do that for?” Thankfully they have been in the minority. Overwhelmingly people have been supportive and interested in my desire to try and lay poppies on as many graves/memorials of those WW1 names commemorated on my local War Memorial. Frankly there have indeed been times when Andy and I have thought “what are we doing?”. These transient feelings are more often than not to do with the Sat’-nav’ which has inconsiderately taken us off piste! Hundreds of miles have been travelled between the cemeteries in France and Belgium and many frustrated sighs and much map crumpling done. Narrow muddy tracks have been navigated, many turns in the road have been taken and much incoherent schoolgirl French has been spoken. There has been rain, wind, biting cold (and indeed pleasant sunshine) to endure. We have never lost sight of the fact that soldiers stood sleeping in wet lice infested uniforms for nights upon end against wet and muddy trench walls. The noise of shells, machine guns, dying men, braying horses and the silent but palpable fear of their fellow soldiers. Inadequate rations, wet trench foot ravaged feet, rats, shell-shock, noxious gas, the fear of “going over the top” enter our minds. It is moments when I imagine the war torn French and Belgian landscape of 100 years ago that I know why I am committed to my pilgrimage to those fallen local men.

This trip saw us travelling to Calais via The Shuttle. We then drove to Dieppe where we spent the night before visiting our first cemetery. Pte Leonard George Player of the 3rd Base Remount Department, Army Service Corps is buried in the Janval Cemetery, Dieppe. The port of Dieppe was used by Commonwealth Forces as a minor base from Dec 1914 onwards for the passage of small arms ammunition, flour and forage. A hospital was stationed in the town from Jan 1915 until May 1919. The Commonwealth graves form part of the larger communal cemetery. Belgian and French military graves are also sited within the walls of Janval. High weathered brick walls, freshly dug earth, spring bulbs and sunshine greeted us. The noisy cry of seagulls reminded us that we were close to the port. Aged 23, Pte Player died on 19th January 1916. His father paid for the inscription “He Is Not Dead, But Sleeping”. As I left the cemetery I became aware of a large slate plaque on a brick building at the entrance. It commemorates the talented painter Gwen John. Up until fairly recently it was slightly hazy as to where she was buried. Ffion Hague has been instrumental in researching and commemorating John’s life and death.

Our next cemetery stop was an hours drive away, close to the beautiful city of Rouen. Through a rather macabre set of black French tombs we reached the Commonwealth graves. I was here to visit the grave of Pte Francis Henry Goodman, 21st Australian Infantry at Bois Guillaume Communal Cemetery. Francis was born in Winterbourne and it seems he went to Australia at the age of 25yrs with his older brother Frederick. In the 1901 Census 17 year old Francis is listed as a stone mason whilst 20 year old Frederick’s occupation is carpenter. Francis died of wounds in France on 20th October 1918 aged 35yrs. Most of the CW casualties buried in the cemetery came from No 8 General hospital quartered in a large country house in Bois Guillaume. Frederick paid for the inscription on his brothers grave “A Painful Shock A Blow Severe To Part With One We Loved So Dear”.

We then travelled for nearly two hours to the Somme. Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery saw us lay a poppy for Pte Herbert George Goodfield who served with the Somerset Light Infantry (7th Battalion). He died from wounds on 31st August 1916. It is very possible that Herbert was bought in from the battlefield to Bronfay Farm where there was a large dressing station. It was a very peaceful cemetery which had views of fields, clumps of woodland and farm buildings. The grass was studded with daisies and spring flowers were beginning to burgeon.

A few minutes drive later we were at Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension to lay a poppy for Bombadier William John Mauler. A soldier with D Battery, 59th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, William died aged 20 on 10th November 1916. In the Parish magazine it said the following ” On Friday November 17th the sad news reached Frenchay that Bombadier William Mauler of the RFA had been killed in France on the 10th of that month. A gas shell fell on the edge of his dug-out about 4am and filled it with gas before he could get his gas-helmet on etc…” The inscription on his grave reads ” He Died For Freedom And Honour”

After another momentary drive we found ourselves at Forceville. In a lovely cemetery accessed by a grassy path we came to pay our respects to 2nd Lieut Jack Kilby. His grave was to one side of the Cross of Sacrifice and was planted with lavender, pinks and thyme. Kilby was one of the original members of 12th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment (Bristol’s Own) volunteering in September 1914. He went onto gain his commission in the 3rd Worcesters in June 1915. When he was fatally wounded by a German shell he was with 10th Bn Gloucester Regt attached to 7th Trench Mortar Battery. Aged 27yrs he left a widow Minnie (nee Luton) and he requested that no one should wear black mourning clothes should he die. By all accounts he was a brilliant sportsman and was captain of the village cricket team. His inscription reads “For England And The Honour Of Bristol’s Name”

After 15 minutes in the car we arrived at the imposing Thiepval Memorial.The memorial commemorates more than 72,000 men of British and South African Forces who died in the same sector before 20th March 1918 and who have no known grave. The majority of those commemorated died during the Somme Offensive of 1916. It is the largest Commonwealth Memorial to the missing in the world. High up on one of the panels I found Sgt Bert Knapp’s name. He died aged 22 on the 1st July 1916 whilst serving with 7th Bn Bedfordshire Regt. On two sides the memorial is bordered by mature Beech trees. Beneath their canopy drifts of snowdrops and daffodils were coming into bloom. Perched on a hill the memorial commanded views over beautiful French countryside.

Another short drive brought us to Pozieres. A cemetery and memorial, it is completely enclosed on three sides and somehow seemed to contain the sky. The fourth wall is pillared and looks out onto the road and fields beyond. The memorial stands in a cemetery of largely Australian graves. However, no Australian names appear on the memorial. The Australian officers and soldiers with no known grave are commemorated at Villers Bretonneux. I was here to see three of the 14,000 + names on the memorial. Gunner Herbert Clifford (Royal Horse & RFA), Cpl Alfred Flux (RFA) and Rifleman Benjamin Smith (7th Bn Rifle Brigade) all died on 21st March 1918. Three poppy crosses were carefully placed.

Further down the road we visited Warlencourt Cemetery. The cemetery was made late in 1919 when graves were brought in from small cemeteries and the battlefields of Warlencourt and le Sars. Pte Tom Biggs and Pte George Ernest Lloyd both of 6th Bn Gloucester Regt were killed on 5th November 1916. One grave separates their resting places. The cemetery is within view of the town of Warlencourt and has open views of fields and farms. The cemetery is planted with ornamental cherry trees.

There were still more cemeteries to go! We travelled for 15 minutes along the road to Queens Cemetery Bucquoy. Able Seaman Percy C Thompsons grave appears to have recently been replaced. It is white, its inscription and badge crisp. Percy had been serving with the Royal Naval Division Lewis gun section (Anson Battalion). He was killed in fighting on the Ancre, France on February 17th 1917. The cemetery had views of the town of Bucquoy, together with fields, wind farm, water tower and woodland.

As light was fading we dashed from Queens the 38 minute drive to Ribecourt British Cemetery. Able Seaman Thomas Adams of the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve was killed in action on 7th March 1918 and was subsequently buried in the little cemetery at Ribecourt. Unfortunately, the cemetery was later shelled and a special memorial “grave” states- T. Adams RNVR, Hood Battn, RND. 17th March 1918. Known to be buried in this cemetery. “Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out”. The cemetery is set up high on a country road just outside the little town. Across the road was a little orchard, farm buildings and a very noisy cockerel!

Our final port of call was a visit to Pte Herbert John Greens grave in Unicorn Cemetery Vendhuile. He was serving with 8th Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 17th September 1918. Aged 22yrs he left behind a widow Agnes (nee Amos). His inscription read “Death Cannot Divide”. The cemetery is situated down from a motorway. It is planted with espalier trees to provide a screen and there was underplanting of beautiful clumps of tete de tete.

Day one completed…..but wait we’ve missed a cemetery out. That’s a story for another day!

Poignant Poppies,Rocking Dog

Poignant Poppies

Sunny Plot, Dieppe, Rocking Dog

Sunny Plot, Dieppe

Chance Find,Rocking Dog

Chance Find

Side By Side,Rocking Dog

Side By Side

A Grave Between,Rocking Dog

A Grave Between

One Of Brothers,Rocking Dog

One Of Brothers

Thiepval,Rocking Dog

Thiepval

One Of Thousands,Rocking Dog

One Of Thousands

Striking Entrance,Rocking Dog

Striking Entrance

Heavy Sacrifice, Forceville,Rocking Dog

Heavy Sacrifice, Forceville

Fresh Stone,Rocking Dog

Fresh Stone

Replacement Stone,Rocking Dog

Replacement Stone

Snow, Cake, Siena & Unexpected DNA!

Gilded Siena,Rocking Dog

Gilded Siena

Sorry it’s been so long since Rocking Dog signed on. A week of coughing and the lack of sleep that came with that didn’t really make me feel much like talking either verbally or in the form of written words. At one point I looked across at Real Live Rocking Dog and thought “boy, your breathing’s a bit laboured” however after a while I realised it was indeed me that was the one breathing heavily!

Before Cough (BC) Andyman together with youngest daughter headed out to Umbria for a very cheeky little break. Though cold, the valley was embellished with the dazzling spectacle that is Mimosa. Birds were busily enjoying the olives that had escaped the olive oil bottle and the countryside as ever looked verdantly beautiful. The following morning Liv’ and I planned to head to Rome. We awoke to snow and the hills looked as if they had been magically dusted with icing sugar. It really was quite surreal seeing olive trees with a cloak of snow, especially with robins in residence!

Alas our train to Rome was cancelled so we decided to take the next available bus or train to destination unknown. We ended up on a bus heading to the beautiful city of Siena. The warm bus wiggled through snow covered medieval hilltop towns and past vineyards, ploughed fields and olive groves. In just over an hour we arrived at the bottom of the city. In years gone by these Italian hilltop towns would have needed an arduous and lengthy walk to reach their summits. Recently most cities have become inventive with their transport plans and there are lifts, escalators, funiculars and the like. On this occasion we used a series of steep escalators to reach the architectural delights of Siena. We had a really gorgeous time simply wandering. The Palio where the famous bareback horse races takes place annually (July 2nd and Aug 16th 2018) was joyfully devoid of the throb of summer tourists. If you are in Siena at any point the Complex of Santa Maria della Scala is worth a visit. It houses several museums and is the site of one of Europe’s first hospitals. The frescoes were wonderful and I loved the thought that patients had such amazing art to gaze at from their beds.  I particularly loved the starry ceiling in the First Aid Room.

Cake, delicious wine, pasta, wood fired pizza and friendly folk made this whistle-stop trip to Umbria and Tuscany very pleasurable.

After Cough (AC)- it’s been difficult trying to shake off this irritable ailment. Real Live Rocking Dog has not been loving the snow so like me has been enjoying curling up beside the wood-burner. Trying to do something slightly constructive I baked a cake using new season Rhubarb from the garden, delicious! There have been bathroom planning decisions to be made, and cupboards to de-hoard. I have been contemplating cutting the fabric for my new summer coat… maybe this week. Pattern matching, I can’t decide whether it’s a pleasurable challenge or acutely sadistically stressful!

There have also been soldiers to research ready for our return to the Commonwealth War Cemeteries in France later this month. This week there will be poppy crosses to collect and route planning to organise. Eighteen soldiers graves/memorials will be visited in fifteen different cemeteries over the course of two days. Our travels will take us to Dieppe and Rouen before heading up to a cluster of cemeteries on the Somme. There is a solitary cemetery to visit just East of Paris where we will pay our respects to a soldier whose family lived in a house where really good friends of ours now live. On our route home we will head to the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres where we will lay our last poppy cross in France. Together with the cemeteries we are hoping to visit some manmade caves under a church at Bouzincourt. During a Time Team episode in 2010 some WW1 graffiti was discovered. One name belongs to a soldier, Alfred Flux who lived in our village. Alfred wrote his name and details onto into the stone in 1916. Serving with the Royal Field Artillery he was to later die in March 1918. Having no known grave he is commemorated at Pozieres. On our return home there will be the lengthy job of collating all the information and archiving photographs.

Now for the DNA news. As you may already know my girls thoughtfully bought me an Ancestry DNA kit for Christmas. In January I sent off my phial of spit and waited patiently. I received an e.mail whilst in the supermarket on Wednesday telling me my results were in. Mother in Law promptly posted home with her bags of cakes, drive home done, bags dropped on the kitchen table, computer turned on…let the show begin!  The results were given in the form of a wheel of cheese and imagine my surprise that the largest percentage of my DNA is Scandinavian! Not a whiff of the French Huegenots that I expected. Roughly a quarter of the cheese wheel was Northern English and another quarter paid homage to my Celtic roots (Irish/Welsh Scottish). I always suspected I had red and white gingham running through my veins! The only slightly sad bit of this is that because my Mum and Dad are both dead I can’t ascertain easily who was the Viking in the family. Was it my Dad who was Scottish or my Mums long line Yorkshire family? Anyway I am loving being Scandi’ and there’s even an 8% wedge of Iberian Peninsula in there for good measure!

Anyway I must away now I have got to put the Elk Casserole on and get fitted for my Scandinavian traditional costume!

Have a great week and I hope the big thaw is well underway wherever you are. Stay cosy!

Liz aka Rocking Dog x

Before The Snow,Rocking Dog

Before The Snow

First Aid Room,Rocking Dog

First Aid Room

Coffee & Cake,Rocking Dog

Coffee & Cake

Snow & Metal,Rocking Dog

Snow & Metal

Snow Patrol,Rocking Dog

Snow Patrol

Monochrome Morning,Rocking Dog

Monochrome Morning

Stockholm,Rocking Dog

Stockholm

Penchant For Gingham!, Rocking Dog

Penchant For Gingham!

Scandi' Inspired Creativity,Rocking Dog

Scandi’ Inspired Creativity

Bake A Cake,Rocking Dog

Bake A Cake

Sew A New Coat,Rocking Dog

Sew A New Coat

Next Trip,Rocking Dog

Next Trip