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Ancre CWGC - Grave stones query


andymr1
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Would any one be able to explain why the usual neat little rows of grave stones found in any CWGC site occasionally have stones set back a few inches? I noticed this at Ancre.

I've never seen or heard of this before.

Any advice appreciated.

Thanks

Andy

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It is possible that the graves that are set back were there before the cemetery was opened, and they weren't moved when it was created.

There are plenty of examples of graves being both in an apparently haphazard formation and in nice neat rows - Tyne Cot is just one that I can think of. The reason is that they soldiers were often buried at night and under fire, and the burial parties had to be very quick to do their work without being killed or wounded themselves.

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Hello Andy,

The reason, as explained to me, in the past by a CWGC executive, is as follows:

The soldiers, when buried would have been placed in a "trench grave" (an open trench). When placed, they would have been basically, laid elbow to elbow. When the original wooden crosses were used, they would have one Cross "high" and the next Cross" low. There is plenty of photographs showing this method of "tucking" the Crosses in along the row.

When the standardised Portland stone tablet, as approved by Fabian Ware was used to replace the original wooden Crosses, it was found that even when placed "shoulder to shoulder" they created a creep in that the stones started to exceed the position of the soldier's Remains buried below. As a result, they kept as close as they could and then, left a space between two headstones and placed the "correcting" headstone just out the back of the line. Once this correction was done, they could continue the rest of the line until it became necessary, once more, to make the correction. So, if you look closely at your photo, you will see the gap in the line of those that are shoulder to shoulder.

Regards, Peter

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I have seen this before and wondered :huh: - thanks for the answer, another one solved.

Great picture by the way.

Graham

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Absolutely fascinating stuff, the knowledge and 'community' of this forum never ceases to amaze me.

Thank you very much.

Andy

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After some thought about where I had first seen this process and, it is this very same Cemetery.

It is quite evident in this particular Cemetery and this is what encouraged me to seek the answer.

Being resident in Arras at the time, it was easy for me to go and ask the question at their Head Office, France.

Glad to be of assistance, Peter

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Joseph – the photo of Ancre BC which you sent shows the front (row E) of Plot IV, just in front of the cross. The burials in the area of the two “set back” stones are casualties of the 13/11/16 “Battle of The Ancre” attack, - the two stones placed just behind the main row both being unknown soldiers. Those are graves 40 and 55, - originally stones 1175 and 1189 on the original headstone schedules. At the time that the permanent headstone schedules were being prepared all of these graves (including the two for the unknown soldiers) were noted as having been identified from existing (wooden) crosses.

There is no mystery here; it’s just a case of the IWGC having tried to fit the stones at least approximately into the space originally marked by wooden crosses or other forms of original grave markers – without creating a mess of overlapping stones. The real “problem” here is that joe public tends to think in terms of civilian burials – everything neat, tidy, spaced out, etc etc. In reality many battlefield burials were little more than bodies and bits if bodies being “piled” into old trenches / shell holes and the like and then hurriedly covered over. Even more “organised” burials of numbers of men, in forward area cemeteries, would be in communal pits. Any thought that individual graves were being dug for large numbers of dead in battle areas owes more to sentimental naivety than anything else.

Goodness knows how many headstones in this type of cemetery are erected in positions which are maybe “visually pleasing”, but only remotely relevant to where the man commemorated on the stone actually lies

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