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Remembered Today:

Mass Grave Inchy en Artois


brodie
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I have recently discovered new information on my husband's G Uncle Sergeant John MacKenzie, MM & Bar, Seaforth Highlanders No. 265217 who died 25th March 1918.

Information from the Red Cross records recently digitised shows that he was buried by the German authorities in Mass Grave 12 in a cemetery at Inchy en Artois. The page of the Red Cross record that shows the information has several other men also shown as buried in mass graves in the same place. CWGC has John with no know grave and he is commemorated on the memorial at Faubourg D'Amiens Cemetery Arras.

I don't think these mass graves can be where Triangle Cemetery, Inchy en Artois now stands as there are very few unidentified graves there. The neighbouring cemetery of Moeuvres sounds a much better bet as it has over 250 unidentified burials.

Does anyone know of any information that suggests these mass graves were found and the dead reburied in Moeuvres or elsewhere? I'd appreciate any help you can give as I feel I'm getting closer to John by the day.

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... Does anyone know of any information that suggests these mass graves were found and the dead reburied in Moeuvres or elsewhere? I'd appreciate any help you can give as I feel I'm getting closer to John by the day.

If you go to the CWGC page for Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension (which is the one you want, not Moeuvres British Cemetery) and select > see casualty records > then sort the data using the grave / memorial reference column > then work through the entries methodically looking for burials where the man has, in the "CWGC archive online" section, a "concentration" report > then search all of those concentration report lists looking for unidentified burials, and when you find them note the map reference for their exhumation --------------------- you will thus build up a database which will show you where any "mass" exhumations were made.

For an example of what you are looking for see the exhumation report for Pte HO Bolt of the 9th Battalion King's Liverpool at Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension.

That's how you do it.

Tom

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If you go to the CWGC page for Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension (which is the one you want, not Moeuvres British Cemetery) and select > see casualty records > then sort the data using the grave / memorial reference column > then work through the entries methodically looking for burials where the man has, in the "CWGC archive online" section, a "concentration" report > then search all of those concentration report lists looking for unidentified burials, and when you find them note the map reference for their exhumation --------------------- you will thus build up a database which will show you where any "mass" exhumations were made.

For an example of what you are looking for see the exhumation report for Pte HO Bolt of the 9th Battalion King's Liverpool at Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension.

That's how you do it.

Tom

Tom, I am not totally convinced that CWGC have digitised all the documentation they have on each individual and whether they intend to do so at a later date. The reason I say this is because a forum member, with whom I have corresponded with privately, was either sent a copy of German documentation or given details of German documentation regarding the burial of his relative after contacting CWGC. After the war, the British were unable to locate the grave(s) concerned. That said, he obtained the information a few years before CWGC digitised the burial and concentration documents. This particular case is a little more unusual in that the Germans exhumed graves of men already buried by the British and moved them. As I said, they gave the location of where they had been moved to and this documentation appears to have survived.

Might it not be worth Brodie contacting CWGC to see what other documentation exists? German documentation regarding graves must have existed and been passed to them, for the Graves Commision to have recovered and concentrated many of them but as I said earlier, I get the feeling they haven't digitised everything. Just a thought and I would be interested in your opinion on this one.

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Thanks a lot for your responses. I've taken up both of them. I've started working my way through the concentration reports but it isn't looking hopeful. However, there are several other possible cemeteries in the area, so there is a lot of ground to cover. I've also sent an enquiry to the CWGC to ask if they have details / knowledge of these mass graves - that will take months unfortunately as they are really busy at the moment. But John's been dead for nearly a hundred years - he can wait a little longer to be found!

I have a supplementary question for Tom Tulloch-Marshall. If I do come across instances of the same map reference occurring for several bodies, where do I then find the maps to which the references relate so that I can pinpoint the place?

Thanks again for your help.

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Tom, I am not totally convinced that CWGC have digitised all the documentation they have on each individual and whether they intend to do so at a later date.

I have discussed this previously with CWGC and as far as concentration reports and the like are concerned my understanding is that what is available has been put on line. There are however "cemetery files" for individual cemeteries which are not on line, and my last understanding of those was that the exercise to "weed" them(*) was progressing. (* CWGC use the expression "weeding" to mean something different to what the War Office used to). Whether the parts of those files containing material more than fifty years old will be put on line - I don't know. Next time I'm in the Maidenhead office I'll ask (maybe next week).

... I've started working my way through the concentration reports but it isn't looking hopeful.

... If I do come across instances of the same map reference occurring for several bodies, where do I then find the maps to which the references relate so that I can pinpoint the place?

1 - You will find that the number of relevant exhumation reports at Moeuvres Com Cem Ext varies greatly from plot to plot. I did some random spot checks quite far into the list and saw several repetitions of the same exhumation locations. It will be a bit of a slog but will give you a feel for "research", rather than "look-ups".

2 - Given a map reference such as those noted in the exhumation reports and knowing at least the approximate location on the western front the relevant trench map can quite easily be determined. When you find relevant references just post them. If you get stuck then send me a mail.

Tom

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Brodie,

I have centred the first of the two links on the map reference for Moeuvres Communal Cemetery Extension, which is 57c.E.14.c.6.6. From there you can move around at will.

The second link which will not work if you use IE) you just type the coordinates into the box in the format above.

National Library of Scotland

Trench Map Convertor

Phil

Edit: On the NLS site you can change both the map (I chose September 1917 at randon, but January 1918 will be better) and also the transparency of the overlay, by using the slider.

Edited by Phil Evans
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Thank you Tom, the information, should you be able to get any, will be much appreciated by myself and others I'm sure.

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Thanks everyone for the help. I've done quite a bit of work over the past few days - none of it was very fruitful but then I noticed something which I should have noticed in the first minute of my search. The results I now have are astounding.

I suddenly realised that the record immediately above that of my man in the ICRC records, showed that the man (Duncan) died on the same day as our John and was also buried in Mass Grave 12 at Inchy-en-Artois. I searched for this man on the CWGC site - and found that he had a grave! The grave is in Anneux British Cemetery - just a few miles from Inchy-en-Artois. The Grave Registration document shows 5 casualties including Duncan buried in Plot 3 Row A Grave 32 - 4 of the 5 are named and the 5th is an unknown soldier.

So then I backtracked and looked for the other 3 in the ICRC records - I found 2 of the 3 and both showed they were also buried in Mass Grave 12 at Inchy. So what I think we have here are 5 men found in the same Mass Grave (but not necessarily individually identifiable when found - sadly probably a pile of bones and 4 dogtags) around 1924. They moved all five to the same large plot in Anneux and then erected gravestones for 4 of them plus one Known onto God over the collective grave. Unfortunately, there is no concentration report shown that would confirm the map reference.

So, I think I have sufficient proof here to say that the soldier Known onto God in Plot 3 Row A Grave 32 in Anneux British Cemetery is our man John MacKenzie. What do you all think? You won't believe how excited we have been by all of this. To actually potentially pin him down to one of 5 in a grave is unbelievable luck and begs the question how many more could perhaps be identified the same way. Tom - would it be possible for you to ask if they have anything else about Anneux if/when you go to the Maidenhead office? I would be eternally grateful for anything you could find out because written enquiries to CWCG just now are apparently taking ages.

Fast forwarding a bit - if all of you experts agree I've got a case here, do you think it is likely that we can get the stone changed to a named one, or at least get a plaque put at the cemetery to say he is believed to be there?

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Brodie,

Addictive isn't it?

You are going to have your work cut out convincing the CWGC, but you never know.

I don't know what happened to the concentration reports for Anneux. I checked two of the Canadians, Amelin in III.A.28 and Jackson in III.A.30. There is no report for them either. However, if you go to their Circumstances of Death cards, the original grave location is given for both.

I haven't had a chance to look at the ICRC records yet, but will as soon as I get a chance.

Although not marked as such on the two maps I have looked at, there is a possible cemetery at 57c.E.1.d.2.7. It is behind a church and the layout of the paths is very similar to some German cemeteries.

Phil

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Thanks everyone for the help. I've done quite a bit of work over the past few days - none of it was very fruitful but then I noticed something which I should have noticed in the first minute of my search. The results I now have are astounding.

I suddenly realised that the record immediately above that of my man in the ICRC records, showed that the man (Duncan) died on the same day as our John and was also buried in Mass Grave 12 at Inchy-en-Artois. I searched for this man on the CWGC site - and found that he had a grave! The grave is in Anneux British Cemetery - just a few miles from Inchy-en-Artois. The Grave Registration document shows 5 casualties including Duncan buried in Plot 3 Row A Grave 32 - 4 of the 5 are named and the 5th is an unknown soldier.

So then I backtracked and looked for the other 3 in the ICRC records - I found 2 of the 3 and both showed they were also buried in Mass Grave 12 at Inchy. So what I think we have here are 5 men found in the same Mass Grave (but not necessarily individually identifiable when found - sadly probably a pile of bones and 4 dogtags) around 1924. They moved all five to the same large plot in Anneux and then erected gravestones for 4 of them plus one Known onto God over the collective grave. Unfortunately, there is no concentration report shown that would confirm the map reference.

So, I think I have sufficient proof here to say that the soldier Known onto God in Plot 3 Row A Grave 32 in Anneux British Cemetery is our man John MacKenzie. What do you all think? You won't believe how excited we have been by all of this. To actually potentially pin him down to one of 5 in a grave is unbelievable luck and begs the question how many more could perhaps be identified the same way. Tom - would it be possible for you to ask if they have anything else about Anneux if/when you go to the Maidenhead office? I would be eternally grateful for anything you could find out because written enquiries to CWCG just now are apparently taking ages.

Fast forwarding a bit - if all of you experts agree I've got a case here, do you think it is likely that we can get the stone changed to a named one, or at least get a plaque put at the cemetery to say he is believed to be there?

Brodie - having spent an hour on typing a reply to you, a notification flagged up saying another reply had been posted. Stupidly I clicked on the link to read it (#9) - what I'd typed just disappeared. Contact me off forum and I'll repeat it all.

Tom

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Thanks Phil - that certainly looks like a possibility for the site of the mass graves. I'm hoping that the concentration reports for Anneux do exist but just missed the digitisation for some reason. They would be an enormous help (provided they give the correct map reference!).

Yes. - I know that CWGC will be difficult to impossible. I've been involved with them before on a different topic and it was like talking to a brick wall. But I think I've got a pretty strong case so far and hopefully will be able to find out more before I tackle them. Tonight, I checked back on the Register of Soldier's Effects where this all started and looked at the records there for the other 4 guys in the grave - 2 of them say place of death Inchy-en-Artois, the same as John. Not much, but just another layer to add to the dossier.

As you say - totally addictive. I've been doing amateur genealogy for over 30 years now but this is the first time I've delved so far beneath the surface of WW1 records. The ICRC records are an addition to online resources that will have many people doing the same.

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Brodie,

Addictive isn't it?

You are going to have your work cut out convincing the CWGC, but you never know.

I don't know what happened to the concentration reports for Anneux. I checked two of the Canadians, Amelin in III.A.28 and Jackson in III.A.30. There is no report for them either. However, if you go to their Circumstances of Death cards, the original grave location is given for both.

I haven't had a chance to look at the ICRC records yet, but will as soon as I get a chance.

Although not marked as such on the two maps I have looked at, there is a possible cemetery at 57c.E.1.d.2.7. It is behind a church and the layout of the paths is very similar to some German cemeteries.

Phil

Phil, I've not looked but guessing you got the map ref from the Canadian casualties? I was looking last night around the Inchy Mill area before fatigue claimed me, so seems I was way out.

Brodie, have you tried the archives of his local paper(s)? Sometimes short articles and biographies turn up there or, something placed in th paper by the family. I don't know where he hailed from but a lot of places produced and published local/county Rolls of Honour and again, it might throw up some information as to where he was originally buried because they would have been publiished just after his death or, in the case of the latter, just after the war and before grave concentrations. Just a few thoughts...

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Tom

Sorry about making you lose your reply. Is there any chance of posting the drift of it here? I would be most interested in what you had to say.

Marjorie

The Canadians were found in F4 and F11, so weren't the lead I thought they were going to be. It was purely instinct based on the layout of the paths and the fact that a lot of hospitals were in churches, schools etc.

Brodie

Fingers crossed that there is a Concentration Report file somewhere. Yes I know what you mean about the CWGC. They can be difficult at times. They sat on something of mine for years and it wasn't until I was doing something for them that I got a bit of action - still not concluded though.

Phil

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Brodie - having spent an hour on typing a reply to you, a notification flagged up saying another reply had been posted. Stupidly I clicked on the link to read it (#9) - what I'd typed just disappeared. Contact me off forum and I'll repeat it all.

Tom

Tom, also sorry about you losing your quote. If you have done something like that it is best to highlight and copy your text first before doing anything. You can always then re-open your reply box and paste it. I have done it myself and it is very infuriating but I found a copy/paste seems to save the day. I would be very interested in your reply.

Tom

Sorry about making you lose your reply. Is there any chance of posting the drift of it here? I would be most interested in what you had to say.

Marjorie

The Canadians were found in F4 and F11, so weren't the lead I thought they were going to be. It was purely instinct based on the layout of the paths and the fact that a lot of hospitals were in churches, schools etc.

Brodie

Fingers crossed that there is a Concentration Report file somewhere. Yes I know what you mean about the CWGC. They can be difficult at times. They sat on something of mine for years and it wasn't until I was doing something for them that I got a bit of action - still not concluded though.

Phil

Phil have you looked at the ICRC? He was buried by the German sanitary section, I couldn't see any mention of wounding or lazarett but it was a case of tired eyes (again). I will look again in a few minutes when I can get onto a PC. I am wondering, given the 51st Highland Div. were in the area in the previous November... I was looking at their position in the lines in November 1917 and March 1918. It is possible that he/they might have been taken in the November, kept in the area as an unregistered POW etc. and killed by their own shellfire. The alternative being, he/they were all taken in wounded but died before reaching a lazarett. It's a bit of a strange ICRC entry he (I haven't yet looked at the others) seemed to be registered as a death but not at a Lazarette. I could be putting 2 and 2 together and getting 5 here. It is close to area (exiting the village of Cantaing) as the case I mentioned previously whereby the Germans exhumed and moved some graves of a few men from that Div., from November and reburied them, then informed the British.

Brodie, do you have any documentation or the newspaper casualty report that states when he went missing? You can get free access to The Scotsman newspaper archive if you have a library card and live in Scotland. The electronic search may find him but it doesn't always and I generally have to resort to manually trawling through them.

Meanwhile, I'm off to find my British Red Cross books and laptop! I'm hoping he might have a 1918 entry which would rule out anything from November.

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All

Just to remove any confusion, I have newspaper reports, war diaries and various other pieces of information about John. The German records show that his date of death was 25th March 1918. They also clearly show his POW status. Newspaper reports at the time show that he was first reported missing on 25th March. I know from the history of the 6th Seaforths that John's company was in the support trenches to the front line between Beaumetz and Morchies on 21st March when the German offensive began. That line was overrun by Germans by the 23rd March. Whether John actually landed up behind the new German line on the 21st or later, it is impossible to tell. Such was the difficulty that the British Army was under in those few days, that someone could have been missing for several days before a roll call confirmed it.

I think the fact that he was officially designated as a POW means the Germans found him alive, albeit for a very short time. Sorry, but there is absolutely no way he died the previous November because he was busy winning the Bar to his MM in that engagement.

By the way, the abbreviation 'Sanit' doesn't only mean sanitary - it also is an abbreviation for sanitater which is a medical orderly or first-aider and santiatswagen which is a field ambulance. So is Bay. Sanit. Kemp definitely some sort of sanitary unit? I thought it looked more akin to a first aid post or something.

Edited by brodie
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Brodie - having spent an hour on typing a reply to you, a notification flagged up saying another reply had been posted. Stupidly I clicked on the link to read it (#9) - what I'd typed just disappeared. Contact me off forum and I'll repeat it all.

Tom

Tom - so sorry you wasted all of that time - and I'll bet it would have been great info too. I'm not quite sure how I actually contact you off forum as I can't see an email address anywhere and the message system doesn't seem to work. I will contact you through your website.

Edited by brodie
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Brodie,

At the bottom of Tom's post there is a website address. You should land on the home page for Famous Raider 2. There is a btinternet email address at the bottom.

I would not suggest leaving a live link to yours on here, in case of spammers.

Phil

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Thanks Phil - it is a disposable email address anyway, but I will take it off. I didn't notice his website address - I'll head there.

For information of all, I've been researching the abbreviation Bay.Sanit.Komp. this afternoon. It actually stands for Bayer Sanitiats Kompanie - which translates as Bavarian Medic Regiment/Company - or the German equivalent of the RAMC.

Edited by brodie
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Thanks for the clarification. I was trying to help. I did not know how much you already had. Unregistered POWs captured earlier were being used as forced labour in the area. I was just trying to eliminate that. People come to the forum for help with different amounts of material already in their possession but don’t always state at the outset what they already know.

I have concentrated on 1918 until I heard differently. I take your point on the Sanit. As you probably already know all of the following but may be of some help to Phil if he is still onto this.

The line was overrun on the morning of 21st March. 6th Seaforth arrived from O'Shea camp and were in their position at 7a.m. but from 9am (according to many) the seemed to go into a state of withdrawal. An entire Field Ambulance Advanced dressing station of 2/1 FA, 51st HD., were captured at Beetroot factory (sheet 57C J.9.b.4.1), along with around 70 personnel of RAMC/ASC. RAMC/ASC personnel at Doignies were also captured (J.16.a.5.2) in all from both locations, 8 officers named including the Padre. 1/3 FA between 5 am and 2pm report that the ADS are all cut off from HQs and they themselves withdraw before 2 pm to establish another MDS at H.30 (sheet 57c).The FA diaries accounts ties in with a battle report that states by 11.00am Doignies was in enemy hands which in turn pushed the 5th Seaforth & 6th Gordon back where they made contact with 6th Seaforth who were then on their left at Hermes Switch. Also noted 11.00 am. Two MGC of 25th & 51st Div. positioned at Bruno Mill, without infantry support, held up the Germans causing great casualties. At 10.00pm the 5th Seaforth were ordered to support the 6th Seaforth at a position in a sunken road south of Beaumetz.

22nd March was a day of intense activity for the 6th Seaforth, repelling attacks in this part of the line under Major CE Johnston and involving B & C companies under Capts. W Stewart & L Fraser. The enemy got a footing in to this part of the line and at 5pm. Capt. Fraser led a counter attack inflicting heavy losses on the enemy and capturing 17 prisoners. Nightfall left the 6th Seaforth still holding this position with the 5th Seaforth in Support. Their positions on the following map the diary records them being at J.8.c.9.0 through J.14 and J.21.( See map) A conference was held at 11pm and it was decided to abandon this position.

6THSEA%201_zpsafudfb2g.jpg

The bigger picture can be seen on this map FA (beetroot) position at capture, I have marked the movements that follow can also be read on this map:

6THSEA%202_zpsugoji7hy.jpg

both maps courtesy TNA

23rd March at 1.30am. the 5th Seaforth, 6th Seaforth, 2 platoons of 6th Gordon and a Company of Worcesters, left this position and fell back to take covering positions of the villages of Lebucquere and Velu and at the same time making contact with the 153rd Bde on their left and 154th Bde. on their right. At 6am a heavy bombardment and enemy attack forced another retirement and during this action, Major Johnston was sighted as being wounded and reported missing (now known as having no known grave). At 11.00am Echelons B of the 5th and 6th Seaforth were brought up and put into shell hole positions where they were joined by the remnants of their battalions following their retirement. Their new positions were covering the villages of Villers Au Floss – Riencourt – Bancourt (exclusive). 6th Gordon Hrs. in reserve at Mill Cross.

24th March at 9.00am the 6th Gordon Hrs. were ordered to rejoin their Bde at the above position. They were then organised; 6th Gordon astride Bapaume road, 6th Seaforth centre and 5th Seaforth to their right in touch with 154th Bde. By 5pm this line was in retreat and at 7pm an order was received for a retirement to a new line:
Warlencourt – Eaucourt – Loupart Wood.

25th March. On this date, more enemy attacks. Capts. W Stewart and L Fraser along with Lt. R Rees made a stand to the last. Recorded as either being killed or captured. Rees has no known grave, Stewart does have a grave and Fraser was taken POW and has ICRC records.

The above is a brief summary of the movements of 6th Seaforth 21 -25 March. Casualties for 6th Seaforth for the month of March: 6 Officers Missing 130 ORs missing.

Intelligence regarding Inchy:
2nd March. Enemy artillery was shelling Doignies from Inchy en Artois.
3rd March. Our artillery (heavies) shelling Inchy.
13th March. Enemy ammo dump was seen to go up at 4.50am. explosions continued for 20 minutes at same another fire seen in direction of Inchy
17th March. Hostile artillery and red glares during night seen from Queant, Inchy and Bourlon Wood.

British artillery was also active over this period. Observations over this period of marked ambulance cars and horse drawn transport coming from Inchy, collecting their wounded and taking them to Inchy. Map refs given.

Sorry about the qual of the maps Phil, the best I had to show Division and relationship to Inchy en Artois. Other points to be aware, a few days before being at O'Shea they were in the line and active patrols of NCOs and ORs were out and about. I'll call it a day on this one.

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Wow Seaforths - that's superb detail. I only knew the bare bones of all of that. I'll need to study it in detail but thanks a lot.

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I'm still here. Thanks for the maps - they add a bit of perspective and I can now see that Inchy is a decent distance behind the action. I haven't been able to find a picture of the Soldatenfriedhof in any of the usual places, but I did find a reasonable aerial photo on McMasters. I can see the church, but no sign of a cemetery, although the place does look knocked about a bit. I know the church took a hit.

Inchy aerial, September 1918.

Phil

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Thanks Phil - as you say, that area behind the church doesn't look like a cemetery. You would think that every village would have had a cemetery in those days. I'm beginning to wonder if the Germans just made their own cemetery somewhere outside the village.

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Bear in mind that French cemeteries are often not located around a church, and in some cases were outside the actual villages so there is a good probability that the village cemetery was not alongside. Sore were I gather reconstructed on original sites post war.

Keith

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Bear in mind that French cemeteries are often not located around a church, and in some cases were outside the actual villages so there is a good probability that the village cemetery was not alongside. Sore were I gather reconstructed on original sites post war.

Keith

I have read a couple of accounts now of British/American men working at German med. facilities. In both cases, the Germans had the bodies of those who died buried some distance away outside the town/village in a field. Which made me think that they started their own cemeteries. Or, they were using an existing cemetery that was started by the British.

Edit: Not something I had considered before until you drew attention to it. I've just looked at half a dozen town/city contemporary maps and the cemeteries all show as on the outskirts or suburbs. Presumably because they were originally on the outskirts and the place expanded in population which then put them in the suburbs. Arras and Cambrai illustrate this and in the case of the former - early war the French defensive line of Arras consisted of trenches dug through the cemetery itself. It also accounts for some accounts of British when setting up defences of towns/villages of having the distasteful task of having to 'dig in' through a cemetery or take over a portion of trenches that had been dug through a cemetery. I also found a photograpph of Anneux British Cemetery with it's crosses - in a field.

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Wow Seaforths - that's superb detail. I only knew the bare bones of all of that. I'll need to study it in detail but thanks a lot.

Sorry Brodie, I missed your wee post. You are very welcome. I now also see that the quality of the map I posted, is quite appalling. I'm guessing it was compressed when I circled beetroot and did a 'save as'. While the image I have is not brilliant it is certainly clearer that what has appeared in my post. If you want a clearer image, please send me a PM with your email (you were right to remove it from the public part of the forum).

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