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Aftermath


Guest Ben Jones
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Guest Ben Jones

I am looking for information about the clearing of the Western front after 1919. Can anybody help as there appear to be no websites and very few publications about this time.

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Dear Benn,

I wrote a thesis for my masters degree about the British colony in Ypres between the two world wars. Most Britons who lived there worked for the war graves Commission. However, the war graves commission constructed the war cemeteries. The actual clearing was done by Army Labour corps, who searched the front in parties of 4-5 men. I talked to lots of relatives of these men for my research.

I can tell you a lot about it, please e-mail me on bertheyvaert@hotmail.com

Also, check the aftermath WW1 website ( but I guess you allready did) and try to get get hold of LONGWORTH, Ph. The unending vigil. This is the official history of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and as far as I know ( and I am quite sure I am right), the only work which tells something about the battlefield clearance after the war. This was done by a variety of men. Some of them were simply not demobed and forced into the labour corps, but most of them escaped from unemployment joining the' labour corps. There were also several men who couldn't settle after the war and returned to burry their comrads. These cases are quite exeptional, but they existed, and I can easily bring you in contact with relatives of them who are eager to tell their stories. In Ypres, the IWGC took over entirely in the beginning of 1920, so the battlefield clearing was done by then.

But... It is never really finished. Read more about it on www. diggers.be

very best,

Bert (Leuven, Belgium)

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A paperback book, similar in size to Pen & Sword's Battlefield Europe, entitled "For King and Empire" "The Canadians on the Somme : September - November 1916" By Norm Christie and published in Canada is very highly recommended in your endeavour to find material regarding the aftermath of the Great War. Mr Christie, I have been told, used to work for the CWGC in France. There is one chapter in the book called "Clearing the Battlefields" and covers burying the dead, clearing the battlefields, exhumation companies and the work of the Graves Registration Units.

I have done some research myself into the plotting (not exactly but to within a 50 by 50 yard square) where bodies were exhumed in and around High Wood (0ver 2,000) during 1922/3 and reburied in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.

Hope this helps

Regards

Terry

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To add a little to Bert's excellent answer.

In 1919 the Army asked men to enlist into the Labour Corps to go back to help clear the battlefields and rebury the dead.

For the privilege of taking part in this task they were paid 2s 6d a day (3s for Warrqnt Officers & NCOs) additional pay on the days they were actually employed on exhumation duties.

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  • 1 year later...

Although not after teh war I thought the book, The Old Front Line by John Masefield added an interesting aspect to what the Somme battlefield looked like in 1917. I thought the premise that it was to aid next of kin in walking thier loved ones last steps was very interesting.

Andy

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Thirteen Years After by the superb Will R Bird will tell you a lot, CEF Books has it reprint inexpensive paperback, available from them on line.

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