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Remembered Today:

Location of Guards Division near Laventie at Christmas 1915


Mark Hone
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I am trying to identify the exact location of the Guards Division's trenches near Laventie at the time of the 'mini' Christmas Truce of 1915 for a future battlefields tour. Can anyone assist, perhaps with a grid reference from a War Diary? Any help will be much appreciated, as always.

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Any regiment/battalion in particular ?

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The two officers who got into trouble about it, Captains Barne and Colquhoun, were from 1st Scots Guards. Also involved ( as per Brown and Seaton 'Christmas Truce' p 202) were 2nd Scots Guards, 1st Coldstream Guards, some men from 4th Coldstreams and 14th and 15th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, attached to the Guards Division for instruction.

Thanks again, Mike. I'd forgotten that Brown and Seaton include the site of the 1915 truce in the sketch map at the front of their book. It doesn't give any detail but the arrow indeed points to an area between Aubers and Fauquissart.

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i've looked at the grid references kindly provided. If my fairly rudimentary map reading skills are correct they indicate an area north east of Fauquissart in the direction of Fleurbaix. On the other hand Brown and Seaton's map identifies somewhere just south east of Fauquissart between Aubers and Neuve Chapelle. Their map is large scale and undetailed it has to be said. The main eyewitness quoted by Brown and Seaton for the 1915 Truce is 2/Lt Wilfred Ewart of 1st Scots Guards. He mentions that a British sergeant was accidentally shot dead while standing on the parapet at the start of the brief truce. A check of Geoff's search engine indicates a likely candidate for this unfortunate soldier is Serjeant J.A.L. Oliver of 2nd Scots Guards. He is now buried in Rue-David Cemetery near Fleurbaix but the concentration documentation included on the CWGC database shows that he was originally interred at Rue Du Bacquerot Old Military Cemetery (Wangerie Post) 36.M.17.d.30.65

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Given that the coldstream took casualties xmas 1914 I'm surprised they got involved 1915. Can you elaborated on the coldstreamers ?

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1st Btn Coldstream notes heavy shelling by both sides

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Mark. Have you got 14th RWF War Diary? It explains how the battalion was deployed to the various Guards battalions 18th to 26th Dec. No actual trenches.map references that I can see though. The 15th Bn War Diary does not contain much detail and in fact has nil for Christmas day even though they were in the line.

I'll email them to you if you haven't got them.

14th Bn for 25th Dec it says

" Attempts at fraternising by British and German troops on our side more especially on the part of the Coldstream Guards; severe measures were however taken to stop this state of affairs & disciplinary action taken. HQ of 2nd Bn Scot Guards was shelled by enemy to the discomfiture of it's occupants, who left their lunch hurriedly & took refuge in dugouts etc."

[ on the 24th they were shelled. 2 Killed, one wounded. The two killed were brothers. Been at the front less than a week.]

Hywyn

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Interesting bit about my lot - thanks for sharing

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From Naval and Military Press Archives GUARDS DIVISION Headquarters, Branches and Services General Staff : 01/09/1915 - 31/12/1915 (WO95/1190)

Summary of information from 24 & 25/12/1915 to 25 & 26/12/1915

Various German positions coordinates Searchlight at M.36.b.3.5. railway junction at M.30.d.8.8. Two stationary white lights at M.30.a.3.5. Communication trench at N.19.c.2.8. Communication trench at N.24.c.3.8. Machine-gun at N.13.d.4.6.

Various Guards positions and coordinates Signpost Lane. Ebeneezer Farm. The Willows. The Ducks Bill. Pont du Hem. Rue Tilleloy. Fauquissart. Chapigny/ Champigny. Rue d'Enfer A patrol went out from N.8.c.3.7. A patrol went out from M.24.b.5.5.

There is a map of the " Sign Post Lane " area here Click

Mike

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Sergeant Oliver is identified as the soldier killed at the start of the Truce by Peter T. Scott in his book 'Home For Christmas'. Scott gives a brief account of the 1915 truce with extracts from Wyn Griffith and Ewart amongst details of how the BEF marked Christmas that year. An interesting book with lots of illustrations of BEF Christmas cards which I had shamefully forgotten was residing on my bookshelves.

Two brothers serving with 14th RWF were killed on Christmas Eve 1915: Privates Robert Evan (20) and Hugh John Jones (22). One is buried at La Gorgue and one at Rue-Du-Bacquerot. I am a little surprised that steps weren't taken to bury them in the same cemetery in the circumstances.

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