The immaculate cemeteries in northern France and throughout the world are huge credit to the hard work of people in CWGC. Their website has also provided an excellent resource for finding information on military casualties and it’s now leaped forward with the digitisation of further records.
Information on headstones is now published, including the epitaphs written by family members. For example III Platoon’s Ernest Stelfox’s grave had a personal epitaph requested by his parents “Blessed are the pure in Heart” . The site is also more user friendly with tools including the ability to upload casualty lists to excel.
Perhaps more significantly ‘Concentration’ information is now available. Arthur Bell’s cousin’s death remains a mystery. Belgium research had indicated1095 L/Cpl. Alfred Ridge had originally been buried in Menen Wald German Cemetery before he was exhumed and re-interred in Harlebeke. CWGC now confirm the original grid reference of Alfred’s burial. It also describe’s the location as Ram’s Wood – presumably the name given to the wood when the allied troops had withdrawn back to the Ypres salient.
From the 17th Battalion perspective, the review of the new data set has only just started. This has revealed the original resting place of three 17th Battalion Officer casualties who were subsequently relocated to Dantzig Alley in Mametz. The walk through the fields from Maricourt will be even more poignant when I next pass Machine Gun Wood where Captain Vaudrey was originally buried. Close by was 27321 Private C R Felstead.
The track heading down to Talus Bois from Montauban is also significant as leading to the original battlefield graves of Captain Kenworthy and Arthur Bell’s OC Captain Ford from A Company. It is anticipated this area was previously:-
VERNON STREET CEMETERY, CARNOY, in the valley between Carnoy and Maricourt, at a place called “Squeak Forward Position”. 110 soldiers who died in July-October 1916 were buried here by the 21st Infantry Brigade and other units.(Courtesy CWGC)
Other 17th Battalion men whose remains were relocated to Dantzig Alley include 9005 G Blundell from D Coy,
Vernon Street Cemetery was later hit by shell fire and 55 (half) of the original graves were lost. These included six men from the Manchester Pals and the majority of others were from 30th Division, notably 21st Brigade and the Kings Liverpool Regiment. The men with lost graves are now commemorated with individual grave stones along the wall and the Vernon Street / Bottom Wood Cemetery Memorial at Dantzig Alley. Memorial at foot of Page
I’ve always known the importance of the land I’ve wandered across – perhaps the CWGC have helped frame a little more significance. Quoting the Memorial “Their Glory Shall not be Blotted Out”