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Remembered Today:

Graffiti left by Great War soldiers in Arras


Colin W Taylor
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During a recent trip to France a friend (who's a tour guide based in Ypres) took me to a local dwelling he knew about near the main road out of Arras to the east. This house was used by members of the 1st Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry as a hair dressing salon as faded paintwork attested. The building surprisingly had survived intact the bombardments of 1917 and 1918 due to it's sturdy structure. The area around the doorway was covered in what seemed like Great War graffiti left by soldiers waiting for a hair cut. These included a variety of names, regiments, addresses, army numbers and statements of regimental pride. Some were illegible with age or had been struck out for some reason; others have stopped writing halfway through having either been forced to take cover or having waited their turn.

With levels of literacy among the UK population of the time being often low it would seem that some soldiers got their friends to write their names up as some of the writing is similar in style. One entry for the 18th LF mentioning Richebourg etc was either written upside-down or the walls were rebuilt. It is also interesting to see at least one name added during the liberation of Arras in 1944 where a British soldier must have left his name during the celebrations.

I've written up what names I could make out and looked up what names I could on the CWGC. I would be very interesting if anyone had any further information on any of the soldiers mentioned below. It's unfortunate to see that at least one soldier was dead within two weeks of leaving this mark on the walls. I'll try and track down more information when I next go to the PRO. Italics are my interpretation of what is present - sadly the photos are large files and have proved slow to upload - give me time!

AJ Abellett, 18 Albert Grove, Morpeth Road, South Hackney, London (Morpeth road is still on the London street maps but I could not find an Albert Grove)

1 ES Hackney

Pte F Shine or F S Hine E S Regt 1916 (F Hine 9th E Sur KIA 3/9/16)

John W

12 Gloster Pte ELL/GU Bray/Brag (???? R I Brayley 12th Glos KIA 4/10/17)

BJM King 16579 D Coy 12 Gloster Regt

(JBM King 16579 Serving with 2/4th KIA Louveral 3/12/17 – it would seem someone wrote his initials incorrectly on either the CWGC or on the wall as the coincidence of there being two 'Private Kings' with the same regimental number in the Glosters is astronomical. I would assume Pte King was wounded with the 12th Bn and then once recovered was sent on to the 2/4th Bn)

A Bellett

Sgt Booth, 2001 4 D Coy 12 Glos Regt of Hackney London

Pte Hargreaves

18th Lancs Fus Festubert Richebourg Neuve Chappelle Fle… Caves ….

More to follow!

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Funny enough, I passed this today with a group and pointed it out to them. It never ceases to amaze me that a building east of Arras survived WW1.

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"A. Bellett" may be 9291 Private Albert Bellett, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He arrived in France 19/12/1914, and was killed in action on 15/02/1915. I'll post his MIC in a couple of hours when I get in from work and can resize it on my home PC.

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_detail...casualty=927405

EDIT: Disregard. This was the wrong man. See my next post.

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AJ Abellett, 18 Albert Grove, Morpeth Road, South Hackney, London (Morpeth road is still on the London street maps but I could not find an Albert Grove)

Looking through service records and MICs, there is no one named "AJ Abellett". However, while searching by "Bellett" while looking for the man in my previous post, I found a man with the South Hackney address: 20064 Private Albert Edward Bellett, 12th Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment. He was entitled to the BWM/VM pair and a Silver War Badge. He may also be the "A. Bellett" from further down your list. It seems he liked the place so much that he signed his name twice :)

There are about 12 pages of service records availabe for this man if you need them.

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Im the chap Colin refers to in his post above. The house is a little gem. I have known about it for the last 2 years. The house is located on Rue Temple, Arras.

If you leave Arras Center on the road to Cambrai, you go over the green metal railway bridge. You then come to a small roundabout over which you continue on the way to Cambrai. About 400m after the roundabout is a set of T-lights. Turn right here and you are on Rue Temple. As you turn right the house in question is the first red bricked house on your left.

Clearly visiblle on the front of the house left of the bottom left window in black painted words is "Hair Cutting Salon". To the right of the Bottom right window in big black letters is "1st DCLI"

Engraved in bricks all around the front door of the house are soldiers details as described by Colin in his post above. most of the graffitti is WW1, but there is a piece from WW2. The house is certainly a must see. I have met the owner of the house twice. He is interested in military history and is aware of what he has. Alain Jacques, Arras' well known Archaeologist is also aware of the house. There was a small piece about the house in the book "Killing Time" by Nicholas Saunders.

Worth a look if you are in Arras.

Regards

Iain

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Looking through service records and MICs, there is no one named "AJ Abellett". However, while searching by "Bellett" while looking for the man in my previous post, I found a man with the South Hackney address: 20064 Private Albert Edward Bellett, 12th Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment. He was entitled to the BWM/VM pair and a Silver War Badge. He may also be the "A. Bellett" from further down your list. It seems he liked the place so much that he signed his name twice :)

There are about 12 pages of service records availabe for this man if you need them.

Item

The above sounds right with a Hackney address and being of the 12th Glosters

The confusion lies with me not breaking the massive pictures I took down and posting them. I couldn't find an AJ Abellett on the CWGC. However the scrawl shows an AJ beforehand - I've added an attachment to let people judge it themselves - your man above would fit nicely

When I'm next down the PRO I'll have a dig for service records for the others and grab a copy of Albert's

Col

post-47743-1254340449.jpg

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Here's the rest of the graffiti

The nickname for the 13th Northumberland Fusiliers is rather unusual!

I'll try and post some more pictures

Pte A B Jord ?… Black

R Stamp 13th NF Aug 10/18/19th 1916

Pt 17010 LCpl E, A/Altha, 18 Batt Lancs Fus 6/9/16 BEF (LCpl 17010 Ernest Altham Died 15/04/17 18th LF, Aged 22)

E Taylor 67th D

W Searl/I N Searl

Pte J/F Ben..

F/E Wide, 15 Platoon, D Company, 1 or 12 Glosters

1/9 A/SH?

WGB

Thomas C/O?……… C Coy 11 Platoon 1st DCLI BEF France

GE Mustill 323 S Battery 23/8/18 (167250 Gunner KIA 01/09/18)

13th NF, the ‘Never Dies’, Remember Mametz Wood, Fricourt the Somme

RD Oliver 26 MGC

13/12/16 Stebe/Stedd….

Raymond 120331 1/9/44 Englais Vive la France

A Newsom 223825 Vive la France

post-47743-1254341571.jpg

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Another picture!

post-47743-1254342735.jpg

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