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Remembered Today:

Researching cemetery photo


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Last night, I was looking at the postcard below (and following cropped portions attachments) of this wartime German cemetery and the thought passed my mind that an examination by the braintrust here on the Forum might be able to bring forth the identity at least one of the 4 English soldier burials shown (the 3 dark-colored crosses). I thought you Pals might be willing to tackle this "mystery to history." If not, I hope that we can at least take a moment to reflect on the scene of these enemies resting together.

posting continued below

Chris

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From what I can see, all of the crosses which are legible are dated May 1915. The English cross farthest left w/double burial is dated 10/5/1915. I searched the surname Grenman 1915 in CWGC and got NR. A search of the more probable surname Greenman 1915 found 2 hits, only one of whom died in Europe:

Name: GREENMAN

Initials: C

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Rifleman

Regiment: Monmouthshire Regiment

Unit Text: 1st Bn.

Date of Death: 10/05/1915

Service No: 3137

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: LXIII. C. 1.

Cemetery: TYNE COT CEMETERY

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Ernest Samuel Middleton, 2nd Scottish Rifles. DOW 11 May 1915. No known grave, Ploegsteert Memorial. He's the only Middleton listed at that date on SDGW.

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Possibles for John Weir.

6907 Sgt John Weir, 2nd Cheshires. 13 May 1915. Tyne Cot Cemetery.

3/3007 Pte John Weir, 1st Black Watch. 9 May 1915. Le Touret Memorial.

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In searching CWGC for the surname Middleton (1915), I found these 2 records for 10/5/15:

Name: MIDDLETON, ALFRED JAMES

Initials: A J

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Rifleman

Regiment: King's Royal Rifle Corps

Unit Text: 3rd Bn.

Age: 21

Date of Death: 10/05/1915

Service No: Y/1126

Additional information: Son of James and Martha Middleton, of 49, Brayburn Avenue, Clapham, London.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 51 and 53

Cemetery: YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL

Name: MIDDLETON, JOHN

Initials: J

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Private

Regiment: Durham Light Infantry

Unit Text: 8th Bn.

Age: 19

Date of Death: 10/05/1915

Service No: 2731

Additional information: Son of Thomas Middleton, of 38, South Burns, Chester-le-Street, Co. Durham.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: LXIII. C. 3.

Cemetery: TYNE COT CEMETERY

Would anybody know/speculate on the whether one of these guys would have been killed in the area where Greenman died? Unfortunately, Middleton is a much more common surname than Greenman and there were a others who died on other days in May, 1915. I'm probably chasing ghosts here, huh?

I also thought that the middle English grave: ...der John Weir could be "H'lander John Weir." It has no date, but I did find these 2 names in CWGC:

Name: WEIR, JOHN

Initials: J

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Private

Regiment: Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Unit Text: 2nd Bn.

Age: 22

Date of Death: 10/06/1915

Service No: 1225

Additional information: Grandson of Mrs. James Weir, of 34, North St., Dalry, Ayrshire.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: VI. L. 9.

Cemetery: RATION FARM MILITARY CEMETERY, LA CHAPELLE-D'ARMENTIERES

Name: WEIR

Initials: J

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Private

Regiment: Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)

Unit Text: 1st Bn.

Age: 33

Date of Death: 09/05/1915

Service No: 3/3007

Additional information: Brother of Joseph Weir, of 186, Blackness Rd., Dundee.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: Panels 24 to 26

Cemetery: LE TOURET MEMORIAL

Does anyone think there is anyway either of these 2 Highlanders would have been in a position to have been buried amongst these others?

Chris

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There is no German soldier by the name of Hornschuh who died on that date in the entire list of Foreign Nationals in CWGC Care.

That suggests that either this is in a German cemetery from which the UK men were later moved or a cemetery later totally cleared - or possibly destroyed.

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Guest michaelv

Hello Chris,

what a nice picture! I am allways interested in the German side.

Otto Hornschuh, member of the 9. Komp. / Reserve Infanterie Regiment Nr. 236 ist buried in Menen B / 1267.

I have a question regarding your second picture. I am wondering about the German cross in the background on the left side, behind the "Middleton and Greeman - cross". What is written there? Is it "Res. Wilh. Koch R.I.R."?

Michael

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Thanks so much Terry. This is fascinating. It seems that the care given to the English graves by the Germans was high. Heck, in our American Civil War battles, the victors usually just threw the enemy dead in a hastily-dug mass grave trench with little or no ceremony, and these were (subconsciously at least) considered to be fellow countrymen.

In your experience, was it common for the Allied/German burials in wartime cemeteries to be intertwined like this? I guess the idea of segregating the burials wouldn't fly in a war zone.

Chris

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Michael:

From what I can see under a loupe, it is, ... Res Wilh.(Wilhelm?) Koch RIR (the remainder is obscured by another cross). It looks like the number on the lower stem could be 1835 and above it is Vater Land in 2 lines. Barely visible to the right of the cross piece on Hornschuh's cross (between the edge and the soldier's 2nsd button) appears to be "R 235" on the cross piece of another white cross to the rear. Perhaps that soldier belonged in RIR 235?

Thanks for the info about Hornschuh--it means a lot just to know his given name.

Chris

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Chris

This mixed burial was a common event. As you say, in the battle zone, they had more urgent thoughts on their mind than segregation.

The nationalities were separated more often, however, in rear areas - hospital cemeteries etc. Not for any other reason than we usually have the feeling that comrades would prefer to lie next to each other. No doubt some people who had time to consider such matters would not have wanted 'our boys' amongst the enemy!

If there had not been so much clearing and concentrating of cemeteries after the war, you would see today far more instances of mixed burials than you do - although they are not uncommon even now.

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Terry,

Thanks, I appreciate your sharing your thoughts/expertise. My faith in the Forum is well-placed--this is turning into a very interesting thread.

Chris

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Guest michaelv

Chris,

thank you for the information!

Are you able to read his date of death? Without reading glasses it seems to me, that it could be 19.5.1915. In this case, it is probably Unteroffizier der Reserve Wilhelm Koch - 6. Kompanie / Reserve Infanterie Regiment Nr. 247 (today Menen B / 1040).

Perhaps that soldier belonged in RIR 235?

The R.I.R. 235 is possible. Both regiments (R.I.R. 235 and 236) fought in the same area north of Ypres, just as the Reserve Ersatz Regiment 4 = R.E.R 4 (please have a look at the upper left).

The R.I.R. 247 fought in the Bellewaarde area in May 1915. So, just a guess, this might be a German cemetery next to a hospital and not close to the front lines. The soldier - a Gefreiter - has no shoulder straps, does he? Soldiers behind the front lines often had to cover or take off their shoulder straps for secret reasons. May be another indication for a cemetery near a hospital.

Michael

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Michael,

I don't see a death date on Koch's cross at all. The number on the lower stem of the cross which you might be referring to as a death date is apparently some sort of grave number "1835." The next lateral cross to the right in Koch's row is numbered "1836' on its lower stem (the first set of characters on the white cross directly above the surname Weir on the second dark cross).

Under the loupe, it does look as if the last letter of the word prior to Res. on Koch's cross is the letter "d", this probably won't help much though:

...d Res Wilh. Koch RIR

You are correct in that the soldier is w/o his shoulder straps. Regrettably, there is no inscription on the reverse of the photo. Too bad we will never know if his grief is that of a brother, cousin, friend, or comrade.

Thanks for all your help Michael.

Chris

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Guest michaelv

Chris,

thank you! Just a last thought from me.

I am quiet sure the German Volksbund Deutsche Krieggräberfürsorge has informations, where the grave of Otto Hornschuh (or Wilhelm Koch) was located before the body was moved to Menen. If you have this location, you also can find out about the cemetery on the photo, where "your" fallen men were buried.

I could try for and contact the VDK tomorrow, if this would help.

Michael

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Would anybody know/speculate on the whether one of these guys would have been killed in the area where Greenman died? Unfortunately, Middleton is a much more common surname than Greenman and there were a others who died on other days in May, 1915. I'm probably chasing ghosts here, huh?

Hello Chris

Alfred Middleton, 3/KRRC, John Greenman, 1/Mons, and John Middleton, 8/DLI.

On the 10th May the 3/KRRC (80th Bde, 27th Div) repulsed an attack covered by gas either side of the Menin Road. They fell back to just West of Bellewaarde Wood and held the subsidiary line (I.12.d.10.2 to I.18.6.7.6).

The 1/Mons were located on the left of the 84th Brigade, 28th Div holding the line from Frezenberg towards Wieltje. By the 11th May and after 2 days of heroic defence they had fallen back to the GHQ line.

The 8/DLI, 151st Brigade, Northumbrian Div. on the 9th May marched from Watou to Brandhoek and placed at the disposal of GOC 28th Div. It was initially moved up to the GHQ 2nd line and then on the 11th was instrumental in defending the GHQ line south of POTIJZE.

As you can see it is likely that all these men died in the same action and possibly within a short distance of each other.

Andy

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Combing through all the above posts it would appear that three of the four are

C. Greenman, 1st Monmouths

J. Middleton, 8th D.L.I

J. Weir, 2nd Cheshires

They are buried in adjacent graves in Tyne Cot. The fourth soldier is possibly now buried in Plot LXIII. C. 4.

Andy.

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Five minutes with the CWGC database brought forth the possible fourth man if he is buried in Tyne Cot.

There are only two men buried in Tyne Cot who died in 1915 and with the letters 'worth' in their name.

Pte J.J.WORTHINGTON 1647 1/3 Bn, Monmouthshire Regt

Died 02.05.15 Grave: XXXIII.G.21

Pte M.NESSWORTHY 10134 1 Bn, East Lancs

Died 17.05.15 Grave: LXII.C.10

I would guess the second name is the one IF he is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery.

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Andy, Andy, & Terry:

Thanks, thanks, thanks! Per Andy, the burial of these 3 men--

C. Greenman, 1st Monmouths

J. Middleton, 8th D.L.I

J. Weir, 2nd Cheshires

in adjacent graves in Tyne Cot seems pretty strong evidence that these are the men in the 2 left English graves in the photo. It seems that the odds that it could be anyone else are pretty prohibitive. Any thoughts?

Terry,

Thanks for pursuing the man in the third grave. I had thought the name might be Molesworth or Holesworth, but couldn't find anything in CWGC 1915. I didn't realize you can search CWGC names using a root word which may occur in the middle of the name, i.e., "worth" for Nessworthy. I thought the name had to begin with the root word i.e., "Worthy", "Worthman", etc.

Chris

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Chris

You certainly can search on only part of the name and it doesn't have to the the initial part of the word.

In this case I searched on Surname = *worth

This brings up all names with 'worth' in them in any position.

I added the filters of Year = 1915, Force = Army and Nationality = UK to reduce the results to a manageable size. Then it was just the simple job of running through them to find the likely candidates.

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J. Weir, 2nd Cheshires

Does anyone know whether Serjeant Weir died of wounds on the 13th May or was KiA?

I ask because the 84th Brigade of which the 2nd Cheshires was part was relieved on the afternoon of the 12th May 1915 and moved into billets South West of POPERINGHE. On the 13th the remnants of the Battalion was formed into a composite battalion with 2/5th Fusiliers and 1/Suffolks. The other composite battalion consisted 1/Welch R. , 1/Mons., 12th London.

Andy

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There are 4 German soldiers named Wilhelm Koch who died in May 1915.

wehrmann Wilhelm Koch : died 15/5/1915 - buried in Neuville-St.Vaas, France block 4 grave 1111.

Jager Wilhelm Koch : died 03/5/1915 - buried in Langemark - Block A grave 7425

Unteroffizier Wilhelm Koch : died 19/5/1915 - buried in Menen - Block B grave 1040

Vizefeldwebel Wilhelm Koch : died 23/5/1915 - buried in Vladslo - Block 8 grave 2443

So unless we can check records with the number on the cross it could be any of this ones, that is if I read correctly and he died in may 1915 otherwise the list goes on...

Herr

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