Burials to the rear of assembly trenches

In general, it may be anticipated, the majority of casualties for original graves (as opposed Concentration plots) located behind the assembly positions will have died of wounds, or prior to the beginning of the assault[1].   Evidence also indicates that fewer of these grave plots were lost to enemy artillery behind the original British lines.  There were many other men who died of wounds, although it is thought these men did not find their way back to Aid Posts behind the assembly line.

Burials to Rear

Grid 62C.A.21.a – Maricourt Military Cemetery No. 3 / Hill 122 / Peronne Road Cemetery.


Peronne Road Cemetery – Courtesy CWGC

We start reviewing the losses to the south of the battlefield, with an exceptional case where it seems clear where a man died.  We can be almost sure that Private 8206 Harold Knowlson of 17th Battalion,  from Ancoats, died of wounds on 3rd July.  He will have been in a medical facility on the southern edge of Maricourt next to the main road.  RAMC records show a Regimental Aid Post (RAP) was situated in the basement of Maricourt Brewery and other local buildings and there is every possibility Harold died there.   As his death is recorded on 3rd July, Harold was probably wounded on 2nd July and evacuated from the



battlefield to the Aid Post.  If he had been wounded earlier, one would have expected him to have been moved to a more distant Casualty Clearing Station by 3rd July.  By the time of Harold’s death, some men from the RAP will have been moved further forward, including the Medical Officers and men who treated the wounded in the Aid Post in the village of Montauban. See the WONDERFUL ORGANISATION OF THE RAMC

Harold is the only member of the 90th Brigade to remain commemorated in the grave where he was originally buried.  This was originally known as Hill 122 / Maricourt Military Cemetery No. 3  and is now maintained by CWGC as Peronne Road Cemetery.  Harold was eighteen years old and had only been sixteen when he enlisted in the 17th Manchesters in September 1914.

The graves at Peronne Road had been prepared prior to the battle. as witnessed by members of the Liverpool Pals, when they marched past on their approach to their assembly positions in front of Maricourt.  They were told they were passing reserve water tanks at the time[2].  Sadly, a number of Liverpool Pals were returned for burial in the Cemetery during the next few days[3].

There were 175 graves at Peronne Road, by the end of the War[4]. Peronne Road Cemetery was then considerably extended by concentration from surrounding battlefield plots frpm 1919 onwards.  It will be seen this includes many men from 90th Brigade.


Operating on a Slightly Wounded Man in a Regimental Aid Post Art. IWM ART 2766

Grid 62C.A 14.b – Talus Bois Cemetery

The next group of burials to be considered were also located in positions behind the British Lines.  These concern Private 10345 Ernest Birdsall, born Lower Broughton and Lance Corporal 10557 Hubert Henry McLow, from Ancoats (both 18th Battalion).

Concentration records suggest Ernest was killed on 2nd July; and Hubert, the day before.  They were initially buried in Talus Bois Cemetery, next to the track that still leads from Maricourt to Carnoy.   Their remains were concentrated to Peronne Road in 1920, along with numerous later casualties.

Talus Bois Cemetery was originally near a Dressing Station and assembly lines for the 7th Royal West Kents, of 55th Brigade.  Ernest was buried among a group of 1st July casualties from 30th Division[5] and Hubert is buried next to a member of 18th KLR.

Casualties of 21st Brigade will have been cleared from the battered ground, where they successfully advanced between Talus Bois and Machine Gun Wood, towards railway valley and Glatz Redoubt.  The largest numbers of 21st Brigade casualties at Talus Bois Cemetery were members of 18th KLR, assaulting the German lines on the west side of the front.   It will be seen there were large burial plots in more advanced positions in front of the British front line.  This suggests the 21st men fell in the early part of the assault, going over the top near their assembly tranches; otherwise one would expect they would have been buried further forward[6].  Ernest Birdsall and Hubert McLow were probably killed in the same area.

The 18th Manchesters provided carrying parties in the assault and it is anticipated both men were killed trekking backwards and forwards, delivering supplies to the Brigade defences in Montauban.  Regular German bombardments continued on the British positions, even after the enemy troops has been pushed back.  This was probably their cause of death.

© IWM (Q 4004)

© IWM (Q 4004) A member of the Army Chaplains’ Department (AChD) tending a soldier’s grave in Carnoy Valley, July 1916.

Grid 62C.A 15.d – Maricourt West




Harry Hayes Photo Credit http://zerohourzday.com/index.php

Private 8606 Harry Hayes of B Company, from Worsley and Private 9515 Levi Kenyon (both 17th Battalion) were also buried behind the British lines, in a plot among gardens located in the western edge of the village of Maricourt. These burials were also relocated to Peronne Road in 1919.

Concentration records show a group of 30th Division graves[7] in the area and it is anticipated they were collected by a burial party clearing the area between 21st and 89th Brigade, possibly near the Cambridge Copse assembly positions. It is possible the burial plot was known as La Cote Cemetery  (not De La Cote).

Levi Kenyon was reported to have been instantly shot through the neck as he climbed the parapet on July 1st (see MEN 18/7/1916).  While reasonably well protected in a shallow valley, Levi may have been killed (as 2nd Lieutenant Clesham) from enfilade machine gun fire, when leaving assembly trenches near  Cambridge Copse at 08.30.  Harry Hayes was originally recorded as an Unknown Soldier and he may have been identified when he was relocated with Levi Kenyon to Peronne Road in 1919.

Grid 62C.A.22.b – Caudron Farm / Maricourt Military Cemetery


IWM Q78627 . Maricourt Military Cemetery was concentrated to Cerisy-Gailly in 1924. The French started the burial plot and named it after Caudron Farm. Photo 8th November 1917

The final 90th Brigade burial in Maricourt, from the Montauban assault, is Private 9505 James Henry Weilding (17th MR), a colliery hewer from Astley.  Some records indicate James was killed in action on 1st July.  His original burial records suggest he died a day later; before he was interred at Maricourt Military Cemetery.

This Cemetery was long established, north east of the crossroads of the Albert to Peronne and Suzanne roads.  It was originally started by the French Infantry (named Ferme de Caudron) when they constructed and held the Maricourt defences. The British took over Maricourt in summer 1915.  There were then a group of 2nd Manchesters buried in the cemetery and many Manchester Pals during the first six months of 1916.

Burials in surrounding graves include members of 89th Brigade[8], but there are no other representatives of 90th or 21st Brigade.  89th Brigade advanced north from Maricourt immediately to the east of the line of the 19th Manchesters.  They occupied trenches east of Glatz Redoubt, by the time James and his comrades passed by, prior to their final advance on Montauban.  The 17th Manchesters will have returned to assembly trenches, near the 89th Brigade line on 2nd July.  It is expected that James must have been wounded and had someone assisted him, moving east, rather than directly south, to his own Battalion’s Aid Post.  In common with other men interred in the Cemetery, the burials were concentrated to Cerisy-Gailly in 1925.

[1] Three men from 19th KLR died on 30th June 1916 and were buried in Maricourt Military Cemetery, prior to their concentration to Cerisey-Gailly Military Cemetery.  Other July casualties may have actually have been wounded prior to the Montauban assault.

[2] Graham Maddocks – Montauban  p154

[3] One member from each Bttn of 17th KLR, 18th KLR,  and 20th KLE; with three members of 19th KLR. One member of 2nd Beds was also originally buried at Peronne Road. All casualties 1st to 3rd July 1916.

[4] Martin & Mary Middlebrook – Guide to the Somme Battlefields Pen & Sword 1988.  Pp155

[5] 21st Brigade concentration graves from Talus Bois include  men from 19th Manchesters (1), 2nd Wilts (3), 18th King’s Liverpool’s (7) and 2nd Yorks (5)

[6] Some 21st Brigade men may have died of wounds in the dressing station near to Talus Bois Cemetery.

[7] 19th MR (1), 2nd Yorks (1), 17th KLR (1) 20th KLR (1)

[8] 2nd Beds (3), 19th KLR (2), 20th KLR (1)