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Remembered Today:

brigade burial officer


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Hi All

Over the past six months I,ve taken a increasing interest in the action of the 34th Division between

Gheluwe and Menin on the 14th of October 1918.

This grew from one interesting partially identified grave to a desire to know where all of those

who gave their lives that day now rest.

Although the fatalities were relatively low I was surprised at the percentage of those that don,t have

a known grave considering the phase of the war.

Between the the 102nd and the 103rd brigades I,ve located seventy six fatalities,of these twenty two

don,t have a known grave.

Taking into account the large area of territory occupied that day what degree of control did the burial

officer have over the internment of these men and what man power did he have at his disposal?

All the best Mick

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Hello Mick

In all my work on War Establishments I have never come across a "Brigade Burial Officer." Most men killed in action would be buried under unit arrangements, no doubt under brigade or divisional directions and arranged through the AG's Branch of the Staff, and probably with advice from the division's Asst Director of Medical Services.

Men dying in field ambulances or other medical units were buried under RAMC arrangements.

Do bear in mind that some parts of the front were fought over many times and the absence of a known grave does not necessarily mean that the soldier's body was never found. The grave may have been destroyed in later shelling, especially during the German offensives of spring 1918 or the Allies' responses in the summer and autumn.

Other graves were lost because of the incorrect recording of their map references. Rudyard Kipling's son Jack's grave was lost in this way.


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There was a Divisional Burial Officer who is usually refered to in operational orders as the responsible officer for burials. In a recent post in another thread I referenced a document 'Burial of the Dead - Revised Instructions' issued by Canadian Corps on 1st January 1918. An on-line copy is available here , here , and here . This is probably pretty typical of the arrangements throughout the army in France and Flanders at that time.

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Micks, I have a copy of an almost identical order to thos posted by jhill. It is included in the war diary for the 8th Royal Sussex and was issued by 18(Eastern) Division during the German offensive of March 1918. The divisional burial officer was a 2nd Lt A.E.Dowley MC. of the 8th East Surreys. The divisional party consisted of 15 NCOs and 100 men. It even goes on to list the number of picks and shovels and stretchers to be issued. I must be honest, this is the first occasion I have studied this section of the diaries, and in view of the fact that my wife's Great Grandfather died of wounds during this period makes it even more poignant. Out of interest I will include the last part of the order.

7. Divisional burial tallies and pegs have been demanded from Corps and will be delivered at Franvillers cemetry when received.

8. Stationary and labels required by Divisional Burial Party are available at 'Q' Office.

9. attention is called to AG. 3212 (o) of 22/2/1918 issued to formations under my No.129/107 'A' of 30/2/1918.

10. Burials will take place as far as possible in authorised cemetries, but when this is impossible, fresh sites will be selected and location reported to this office.

Everey effort will be made to avoid isolated burials.

S.C.Fs. Will be responsible for detailing Chaplains to work with burial parties.

11. According to the situation, the divisional burial party may be employed under the orders of the Division or one or more sections may be attched to a Brigade

in the line to assist in the clearance of the area.

This report was include in the appendix to the 8th Royal Sussex war diary for March 1918. The next page lists 6 Officers and 11 ORs KIA or died of wounds between 21st and 23rd March 1918. Hope this info helps.

Tony P

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Thanks all


This action is interesting as the area was not fought over before nor after ,not even by 4th Corps in 1914

so only p.o.w cemeteries along the Menin Road would add any confusion.


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Would it be correct to suggest as a summary that:

When the local situation allowed, burials would be a unit responsibility with details - number, rank, name & location being reported to brigade and thereafter being consolidated by 'A' staff.

Brigade, division or even corps ad hoc arrangements would be made to deal with casualties after an operation when units had advanced or been relieved before they could bury their own men.

Old Tom

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Based upon the input from the chaps last night and infomation from the war diaries its a

appropriate conclusion.


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I have come across this man while researching Woking War Memorial, and thought to offer him as an example.

Captain John Doran MacDonald, aged 49, Special List, attached to the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries. Died 18 March 1916 and buried at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.

I am assuming that he was serving behind the lines rather than as a front line burial officer.



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  • 2 weeks later...


The next of Kin of Captain McDonald added "Killed by shellfire whilst erecting crosses on the Ypres Menin road"


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