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Remembered Today:

Collective Grave in Hamel Cemetery


Peter Woodger
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Hi

In Hamel cemetery in Plot 1 Row B Grave 7 is a collective grave for 11 men. 1 is a Rifleman from the 16th Royal Irish Rifles the other 10 are all from 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. All men were killed on 1st July 1916.

I know the many and varied reasons for collective graves but in this case I have the feeling that these men were not buried here at the time of their death but were concentrated in post Armistice.

One reason for this is that Hamel was not used on 1st July. The 36th Division, on both sides of the Ancre, was instructed to use Aveluy Wood.

The second reason is as simple as I cannot make the figures work if these men were original wartime burials.

Can any of the 36th Div researchers cast any light. I post the men’s name, rank and number below.

BROWN, W. Rifleman 7905 36 P 16 Royal Irish Rifles

CHAMBERS, THOMAS Private 21676 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

FOSTER, F.. Serjeant 14175 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

GORDON, WILLIAM Serjeant 14221 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

HAMILTON, J Corporal 14288 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

LONG, JAMES Private 19888 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

LUNN, W.... Private 14405 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

McWHIRTER, SAMUEL Private 14543 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

ROBB, W... Corporal 14626 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

WATSON, J Private 21403 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

WILSON, R. L Corporal 14778 36 108 9 Royal Irish Fusiliers

Glad of any help.

Peter

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Peter

Have you asked CWGC if they have the original burial places of these men or where they were concentrated from? They do say it was enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of 48 graves from the immediate neighbourhood.

Mick

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BROWN, William, 7905, Rfn. 16 R. Irish Rifles, KIA July 1, 1916. Buried Hamel Military Cemetery, Somme. Born Portglenone, enlisted Ballymena. Wife and daughter at Culnafay.

Rfn. William Brown

Rfn. William Brown (pioneer) Newferry whose wife and young daughter reside at Culnafay has been killed in action on July 1. He was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. William Brown of Newferry. He had emigrated to America three years ago and returned in Christmas 1914, joining the army in the early spring of 1915 and went to the front with the Ulster Division (16th Btn R.I.Rifles).

Rfn. Brown is the only recorded fatal OR's casualty of the 16th (Pioneer) Battalion on July 1. However, the unit was to remain in action well after the remainder of the Division were relieved on July 3.

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Peter,

Sjt Foster was killed by shell fire before the attack began; indeed, just after the Battalion moved back into the line in the early hours of 1 July. The 9th Irish Fusiliers launched its attack from Hamel and remained there until relieved and moved to Martinsart at noon on 2 July. It seems very reasonable that some of the casualties recoved would be buried somewhere in Hamel. Unless CWGC records show otherwise, I would not assume that those of the Irish Fusiliers were moved there later.

Nick

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Thank you all for your replies.

Mick I am very reluctant to approach CWGC with the million questions I would want to ask.

Nick. Careful study of the burial place of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers who died on 1st July contributes to my suggestion that these men could be concentrations.

Of the 27 RIF buried in Hamel 10 have dates before 1st July, during the period when the nearby ADS was operative. The other 17 died on 1st July.

There are a total of 225 9th RIF buried or commemorated on the Somme with date of death of 1st July.

154 of these are commemorated on Thiepval.

30 are buried in Ancre Plot 8 Row A where 37th Division buried them in late November 1916.

10 were concentrated into Ancre in 1919.

3 were concentrated into Serre Road 1 in the 1920s.

1 died in the CCS at Puchevillers

1 made it back as far as Forceville.

1 is buried in Plot 1 in Mill Road

1 was concentrated into Mill Road in 1919.

1 was concentrated to Connaught in 1919.

2 were concentrated to AIF Flers in the 1920s.

1 was concentrated to Bouzincourt Ridge in the 1920s.

2 were concentrated to Mesnil Com Ext in 1919.

1 is buried in Martinsart

The remaining 17 lie in Hamel. I am studying this cemetery and trying to sort out which burials are the pot war concentrations. My research, which at first must be speculative, leads me to the following.

1 of the 17 is commemorated on a special Memorial

2 buried in Plot 1 Row A are concentrations

2 buried in Plot 1 Row D are concentrations.

1 in Plot Row C is a concentration.

This leaves Chambers J in 1 E 12 as an original burial and our 10 men in 1 B 7 as under discussion.

Despite the nearness of Hamel cemetery to the fighting we must not assume that it was the automatic burial site.

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Despite the nearness of Hamel cemetery to the fighting we must not assume that it was the automatic burial site.

The nearness might be a good enough reason for them not to have been.

Hamel cemetery isn't the most sheltered spot.

Mick

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Mick

You are correct. The ADS at Hamel was closed for the 1st July and another was to be used at Lancashire Dump in Aveluy woods.

The position at Hamel was too near the front line and the increased activity of setting up a larger ADS could have given the Germans warning of the start of the battle.

Peter

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Peter,

I agree with all that you say. Your figures and analysis are spot on. I was not clear in my post. I know that men of the 9th were buried in Hamel on 1/2 July. They may not have been buried in their present location but they were definately buried in Hamel. I had assumed that they were buried on the site of the present cemetery. I would be very interested in your final conclusions. I note that you don't include the unknowns, for example, the 42 Irish Fusiliers in the Ancre cemetery, who are almost certainly all 9th Battalion. Do any of the un-named add to your conclusions?

Nick

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Nick

According to my records there are 56 unknown Royal Irish Fusiliers buried in Ancre. 51 of these are in 8 A where 37th Div buried them and the other 5 are 1919 concentrations.

I agree that many of the bodies would have been buried in the locality and this would have been recorded as Hamel but they meant the district not the cemetery.

For the 11 men to be in a collective grave I suspect that their original burial was together in a shellhole which was found post war but the individual bodies could not be identified.

I must photograph the layout of the headstones in Hamel next time I am there. There is often evidence in the pattern of the stones.

Peter

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My maths are really off this week! Thanks. I agree with the 'shellhole' or simililar idea - the key to that is Sjt Foster who was killed by shellfire sometime between about midnight and 3.00 am on 1 July.

Nick

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