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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : War Graves
A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
 
Mostly taken on a trip to France & Belgium, Summer 1998.

We have many relatives who lost their lives in the two World Wars, 'casualties of war'.

France

Belgium

France: Faubourg-D'Amiens Cemetery, Arras

Commonwealth War Graves: Faubourg-D'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, France


This is just one of the many cemeteries in Northern France and Belgium that commemorate the men who died in both WW1 and WW2. The cemeteries are all different and are beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. All the headstones show the name, rank and number of the men who died as well as the date of death where this is known. There is often a verse, chosen by the relatives.Otherwise individual headstones carry the simple inscription "A Soldier of the Great War" where the soldier's identity is unknown.

Andy's uncle, Francis George Exell, is buried at Arras; he served in the Royal West Kent Regiment and his grave and headstone is fifth from the left in the front row (above) which he shares with five comrades from the Regiment. He was 24 years old and had been awarded the Military Medal. A close up of his gravestone is shown on the right.

Although he was born in Reading, he enlisted at Tonbridge on 31st August 1914. He was the only son of Alfred Joseph and Elizabeth Jane (nee Darke) Exell. In civilian life he had worked as a printer.

The inscription on his gravestone reads:
529 Private
F. G. Exell. MM
Royal West Kent Regiment
4th May 1917. Age 24
He Lives For Ever.

For a long time we could not find out why Frank had been awarded his MM so we are grateful to Giles Guthrie, Collections Manager at Maidstone Borough Council for providing us with information from the Centre for Kentish Studies WKR/B6/A1 that identified the following source and citation.

 

Frank's Medal Citation:

"1917 6785 Private (L.Cpl) Edward William Reed and 529 Private Frank Exell

For conspicuous gallantry in front of Geudecourt on Oct 7th 1916 when the rest of their Lewis gun team had been wiped out these two men continued to fire their gun thereby preventing the Germans from bringing a machine gun into action which would have swept the sunken road which we were then holding. They continued to fire their gun until all the wounded had been brought in."

(Army Form W.3091 - Recommendations for Awards from 03/03/1916 - 17/10/17)


Following a different line of research Andy was able to transcribe a short section of the Royal West Kent's War Dairy/Intelligence Summary for both 1916, when Frank and E W Reed won the MM, and 1917, covering the few days either side of 4 May on which Frank was killed.
Transcript of extract from 6th Battalion Queens Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) War Diary, October 1916.
Transcript of extract from 6th Battalion Queens Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) War Diary, May 1917.

To view PDF files, you may need to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Also see : Our Genealogy | Shinfield | Research Queries | EXALL and EXELL Surnames


On the walls of the Arras memorial itself, seen behind the gravestones in the top image, are inscribed the names of about 23,000 men killed in the area for whom there is no known grave. They are listed by regiment.



Bay 5, just a few of the many names. These men were in the Manchester Regiment

France: Etaples




Both of Ann's grandfathers, John Clay and James Hardy Smithies, are buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery which is south of Boulogne and not far from Le Touquet. Etaples was known as "Eat Apples" to the men and women who were stationed nearby. Casualties were taken from the battlefield to the very large group of military hospitals in the town.


 

In April 1917 John Clay was one such casualty. He had served with the Prince of Wales Own 10th Royal Hussars since the war began, enlisting at Derby on 1st Sept 1914 (see photograph of Matlock National Reservists). He had been a member of the Matlock section of the Derbyshire Yeomanry before the war.

He was wounded at the Second Battle of Ypres (May 1915), returning home for treatment. He also took part in the Battle of Loos later that year. On 9 Apr 1917 (Easter Monday) the Hussars were moved to Arras. Two days later they were preparing to recapture Monchy-le-Preux when Jack was severely wounded. He was sent by train to 26 General Hospital Etaples, dying there two days later.

His headstone reads:
25376 Private
J. Clay
10th Hussars
13th April 913.
Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.


Letter of condolence to wife from his friend, who was with him when he was wounded (extract).
About the Etaples Hospitals (external link, opening in a new window)
Official telegram announcing his death
Matlock & Matlock Bath War Memorials, where he is also commemorated.




Monchy-le-Preux from Orange Trench, where the Hussars had been fighting.


John (1889 - 1917) was Ann's paternal grandfather and lies in the central block not far away from her maternal grandfather James in the Cemetery whose grave is close to the trees. It is a poignant coincidence that these two men did not know each other and served in different regiments, yet they lie only some 30 yards apart.

The headstone, right, commemorates James Hardy Smithies (1892 - 1919) who had been in the Royal Army Service Corps and was mentioned in despatches. He was awarded the Oak Leaf Emblem and was to die in France, after the War had ended, of Influenza.

The inscription reads:
S/359660 Private
James Hardy Smithies
Royal Army Services Corps
9th February 1919.
The verse 'Blest are the pure in heart, for they shall see God' would have been chosen by his wife, Daisy.

James is listed on the Roll of Honour at The Church of St John the Evangelist, Broughton, and commemorated on the gravestone of his his parents, William Henry and Martha (nee Hardy) Smithies, in Manchester Northern Cemetery.

 
Commonwealth War Graves: memorial to James Hardy Smithies


The Lutyens obelisk is shown below, photographed from close to where James is buried. Following the desecration of the central obelisk, which was defaced with red painted anti British and American graffiti, Ann was contacted by "The Daily Express" newspaper. Her comments, and photographs of her two grandfathers, appeared in the newspaper on 2 April 2003.



More onsite info about John Clay and his family roots:
Our Genealogy | Matlock & Matlock Bath War Memorials | Empire Day (1914) (a pre-war parade in Matlock, DBY and has a little information on joining up and conscription)

More onsite info about James Hardy Smithies and his family:
Our Genealogy | Smithies Surname

France: Poppies in Flanders Field

Poppies in Flanders Field

Little wonder that poppies became the symbol for those who died. Visitors to France in the early summer will find them lining the roadsides and the edges of the fields. Poppies suddenly grew where the soil had been disturbed by shell fire. This photograph was taken close to the Belfast Tower (see below).


France: Belfast Tower, near Albert


The Belfast Tower, not far from Albert, 
was built to commemorate 6,000 Ulstermen
 
The striking Belfast Tower is not far from Albert and was built to commemorate 6,000 Ulstermen who were either injured or killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It is a replica of Helen's Tower in Northern Ireland. It is not far from the D73 and close to both Thiepval and the Beaumont Hamel Memorial Park, the site of a battle fought by the Newfoundland Division. At Beaumont Hamel you can walk in the trenches, which are preserved.


France: Honlon Cemetery nr St. Quentin



The small Chapelle British Cemetery is at Honlon, a village 6 km west of St. Quentin and south of the main road to Vermand and Amiens. The Cemetery is north of the village and is almost on the roadside behind a wall. It is easy to miss, unfortunately. Around the edge are memorials to soldiers whom they know were killed, but the plots in which they are buried are to "unknown" soldiers because they were unable to be identified.

Chapelle British Cemetery, Honlon nr St. Quentin
 

Ann's great uncle, John Vernon Townsend, is buried here and is one of the oldest commemorated at the age of 34. He was the brother-in-law of John Clay whose headstone is shown above.

He was born in Sheffield in 1884, the only son of John Edward (a director of the Sheffield firm of John Brown & Co.) and Clarissa Myra (nee Hazel) Townsend and educated at Uppingham School, Rutland. He had married Beatrice Millicent Clay (Millie) at St. Giles', Matlock earlier in 1918. He was killed in action.

His headstone (centre, bottom) reads:
Lieutenant J. V. Townsend
Yorkshire Regiment
24th September 1918, aged 34.
Peace Perfect Peace.


France: Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille, near Wimereux and Boulogne



Although this cemetery is described as being in the northern outskirts of Boulogne it is also very close to the south of the town of Wimereux, Pas de Calais. There were a number of hospitals in both Boulogne and Wimereux during the First World War. The photograph above shows some of the gravestones. The inscriptions on the headstones in the front row read (from left to right): "Nine Soldiers of the Great War"," A Soldier of the Great War" and "Nine Soldiers of the Great War". Below the cross on all three graves are the works "Known Unto God". As far as we know, these two graves are for the most soldiers buried in a single plot.


The memorial on the right is for:
6608 Sapper
Frederick Darke
Royal Engineers
26th November 1918.
Dear One Sadly Missed.

We were looking for another relative in this cemetery in 2006, and at first thought this was the person we were looking for. However, we now know that Sapper Darke, who was 40 years old when he died in one of the hospitals of Influenza, is not the person we were seeking. Frederick Darke was born at St. Peters, Plymouth. He was employed as a Sorting Clerk and Telegraphist before the War and had been in the 2nd Vol Battalion Devon Regiment at one time. He enlisted at Plymouth on 21 Jan 1915. He had married Emily Ethel May Rice at St. Columb Minor on 21 Nov 1902. The couple had two children. They lived in Plymouth but by 1920 his widow and children had moved to Bittern Park, Southampton (Burnt Documents, TNA, WO 363)..

 
France: Thiepval British Memorial, near Albert


Thiepval British Memorial, near Albert.
73,367 men are commemorated here and the memorial is massive


This memorial commemorates some 73,367 British soldiers and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918. They were listed as 'missing' and they have no known grave so their names are recorded here, on panels all round the memorial (the parts that look grey in the photograph). The Thiepval British Memorial is a massive brick built structure, as you can see if you compare its size with the surrounding mature trees. It can be seen from miles away. The visual impact on the visitor is extremely moving.

France: Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais


We visited the Communal Cemetery, which is on the hill above the town and overlooking the sea, in December 2006. As we arrived the heavens opened and it was difficult to take photographs, to say the least.

The Commonwealth War Graves are mostly in the south-eastern section, though a few casualties lie amongst the civilian gravestones. Unusually, the headstones are flat on the ground.

Amongst the casualties is Ernest Victor Darke, one of the sons of Thomas Rolle and Susan (nee Courtney) Darke of Maidenhead who were the brother and sister in law of Andy's grandmother (see Frank Exell above). Ernest Victor was born in Landkey, Devon in 1892. He enlisted at Reading and served in the 2nd Battalion Princess Charlotte of Wales's (Royal Berkshire Regiment). He had formerly been in the Berkshire Yeomanry (as No.2460) and was to die of wounds.

His memorial stone reads:
37275 Private
E. V. Darke
Royal Berkshire Regiment
6th August 1917
Peace Perfect Peace

 


Belgium: Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension, south of Ypres


Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension Belgium, south of Ypres or Ieper


Andy's grandmother's brother, Stafford William Franklin, is buried at Dickebusch. It is a small cemetery, one of many outside Ypres - or Ieper - in Belgium and is near the church on a small side street close to the centre of the village. Ypres was virtually flattened in the first war and there was an enormous loss of life. The Menin Gate or Menenpoort commemorates 54,896 Britons and at Tyne Cot there are a further 11,856 headstones plus nearly 35,000 who were never found.

Stafford William Franklin was born in Swindon in 1886, the youngest child of of Henry and Harriett Franklin. He enlisted in Cardiff although he was then living at Didcot. He joined the 9th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment as Private 14291 and was killed in action on 10 Jul 1917, aged 30 (from "Soldiers Died").


Also recommended:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
www.appeva.org This site is in French but If you can't read French click on the English version and then look at the history to learn about the "Petit train de la Haute Somme", built in WW1.


Photographs © Andy Andrews.
Information researched, written and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.



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