|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: Faubourg-D'Amiens
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
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:
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
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
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
of extract from 6th Battalion Queens Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
War Diary, October 1916.
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
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
| 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
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
of Matlock National Reservists). He had been a member
of the Matlock section of the Derbyshire Yeomanry before
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:
13th April 913.
Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
of condolence to wife from his friend, who was with him when
he was wounded (extract).
the Etaples Hospitals (external link, opening in a new window)
announcing his death
& Matlock Bath War Memorials, where he is also commemorated.
Monchy-le-Preux from Orange Trench, where the Hussars had been
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:
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.
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
More onsite info about John Clay and his family roots:
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:
Genealogy | Smithies
| France: Poppies in Flanders
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,
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.
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
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
His headstone (centre, bottom) reads:
Lieutenant J. V. Townsend
24th September 1918, aged 34.
Peace Perfect Peace.
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:
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)..
Thiepval British Memorial, near Albert
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:
E. V. Darke
Royal Berkshire Regiment
6th August 1917
Peace Perfect Peace
| Belgium: Dickebusch New
Military Cemetery Extension, south of Ypres
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
War Graves Commission
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
Intended for personal use only.