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Remembered Today:

Irchonwelz Communal Cemetery, Belgium


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christiandup

20th May 2019

Dear Mr Dubuisson, (Tourist office of Ath)

I saw your details at the Great War Forum and wanted to contact you because I am planning a visit to Ath that relates to the Great War.

The reason I want to visit Ath is because my father was in Ath on the afternoon of 11th November 11 1918!

My father was the medical officer of the 1/5th King’s Own Royal Royal Lancashire Regiment. (At 11.00 on the 11th, the 1 / 5th KORL was just west of Ath in the village of Moulbaix)........

Mr Morris

 

Mr Morris

Laurent Dubuisson sent me your e-mail.

We will be happy to meet you at the Notre-Dame-au-Chêne chapel in Irchonwelz.

For our region, the chapel became a memorial to the British soldiers killed in the last days of the war. We will then reach the Irchonwelz cemetery and very soon we will be in the neighbouring village: Moulbaix. You can discover the church, the castle and the windmill, they are still in place as your father discovered them. We will then return to the center of Ath.

But on the postcard published by the Germans, one discovers the pond of the castle and not the castle, maybe the architecture of the castle didn’t appeal to the German authorities.

Mr Morance, historian, will accompany us.

See you soon ; (I’m not free on June 7th)

Christian

Moulbaix Klett Partie im Genesungsheim Schloss Moulbaix [recto].jpeg

Moulbaix.jpeg

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Christian & Sébastian,
Merci Messieurs! I will contact you when I have made my plans.
I was also going to go to Moulbaix as my father and the rest of the 1/5th KORL were actually in Moulbaix at 11:00 on the 11th. They were sitting at the side of the road having something to eat when the General rode up on a horse to say that an Armistice had been agreed.
I will try and bring a few things with me. (And will start practicing my French!)
 


 

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In November/December 1918 my father sent these three postcards from Ath to his family in England. (I shall not be bringing the originals with me!)

1918 11 29 postcard B.JPG

1918 11 29 postcard C.JPG

1918 12 15 postcard A.JPG

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Alfred, Have a good time in Ath, You will not find anyone friendlier than the people there! The postcards are very interesting. Re the band picture posted earlier. It's difficult to tell from the scan but some of the cap badges could be Lancashire Fusiliers.

On a different matter. We are very keen to maintain the links between Bury Grammar School and our friends in Ath. The school is celebrating its 450th anniversary next year. 

 

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Thanks for the message Mark, I know what you mean, but it always seems a bit strange to think of having a "good time" in the context of remembering those that had anything but a good time!

This video from the Imperial War Museum collection is meant to be filmed in Ath, and shows the difference between what an enemy does after an Armistice has been agreed, rather than after they have surrendered.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060022840

 

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Don't worry about that. War is a mixture of emotions. If you read the account of the liberation of Ath by Bury Grammar School old boy Lt Tom Floyd ( who had served as a private soldier on the Western Front and was seriously wounded as a junior officer on the First Day of Passchendaele) this becomes very clear. 8 men of his unit, 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers, were killed by a single shell on 10th November. The next day, after the solemn funerals, there was ecstatic rejoicing at the end of the war.

 

The people of Ath will ensure that your visit  is a commemoration not a celebration. 

Edited by Mark Hone
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My father never really spoke about any of the horrors of what he went through , and I did not get to see the letters he wrote home until after he had died. He experienced quiet a bit of "non-rejoicing".
He wrote the following (in Ath) on the evening of the 11th


Monday night. November 11th 1918.

My dear Mother.

I can hardly realise - in fact I cannot realise at all - that the end has actually come at last. It seems too amazing to be true. We heard the news at midday. We had halted at a little village for our lunch, and were just starting to eat when the General rode up and announced that the Armistice had been agreed by the Bosches. I think we all took it very quietly, we all felt it to be too solemn a moment to do anything else.

 

 And he wrote this on the 13th November

This morning we had a special Thanksgiving Service in a factory. It seemed very solemn but most people were too much upset to thoroughly enjoy it - nearly all the men were either weeping or on the verge of tears. The reaction after the months and years out here seems to have taken everybody rather differently to the way it has in England. Today I have been acting as Medical Officer to some six hundred English prisoners who were abandoned by the Huns. Never, never, never have I seen such pitiful wretches or heard such ghastly stories of brutality and cruelty. The smell of them made one sick. Those that were captured in March and April were wearing the same underclothes as when they were taken prisoner and these have never been taken off to be washed and the men themselves have never been washed. Many of the poor chaps were almost half-witted, many couldn’t stand upright. Terrible were the stories that they told of the sufferings not only they had gone through but the dozens who did not live long enough to escape. At an epidemic of flu a few months ago in one camp about fifty died and no doctor ever went near the camp. Several men had gone raving mad and died.

 

Edited by Morris
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christiandup

Another reality

 

Smiles on the faces,

IWM Collections:

Released British POWs enjoying their first meal in freedom after they met British troops. Ath, 14 November 1918.

Released British POWs meeting British troops. Ath, 14 November 1918

 

The immense distress

Ath, November 13, 1918: the doctor Morris wrote to his mother:

This morning we had a special Thanksgiving Service in a factory. It seemed very solemn but most people were too much upset to thoroughly enjoy it - nearly all the men were either weeping or on the verge of tears. The reaction after the months and years out here seems to have taken everybody rather differently to the way it has in England. Today I have been acting as Medical Officer to some six hundred English prisoners who were abandoned by the Huns. Never, never, never have I seen such pitiful wretches or heard such ghastly stories of brutality and cruelty. The smell of them made one sick. Those that were captured in March and April were wearing the same underclothes as when they were taken prisoner and these have never been taken off to be washed and the men themselves have never been washed. Many of the poor chaps were almost half-witted, many couldn’t stand upright. Terrible were the stories that they told of the sufferings not only they had gone through but the dozens who did not live long enough to escape. At an epidemic of flu a few months ago in one camp about fifty died and no doctor ever went near the camp. Several men had gone raving mad and died.

------------------------------

The civil hospital of Ath

1Ath 14-11-18 British Pows.jpg

2Ath 14 november 18.jpg

3Hôpital civil.jpg

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  • 4 weeks later...

My visit was a GREAT success.
Many thanks to Christian and Sébastian. Your hospitality was superb! I will eat the chocolate when the weather is not so hot! The stone-ground flour from Moulbaix Mill will be used for some very special baking. 
Your offer to place a photograph of my father in the chapel left me speechless!
Christian, I think you were very pleased that we managed to get into the grounds of the Chateau at Moulbaix!

I had managed to find 8 red roses to lay in the chapel.

DSC03848a.JPG.6e7619543c0611110715448fb93efdf7.JPG

 

The never ending job of keeping the graves tidy. Those of us that cannot be there to do it are very grateful to people like you (Sebastian & Christian) that do it
  
DSC03851a.JPG.5eb4184baf161ade269a1f9955ab7614.JPG

 

The church in Moulbaix; Utterly unbelievable to be in the same village where my father was at 11am on the 11th of Novemebr 1918.
DSC03854a.JPG.11f3363c4b183ffff03d05b843c0bade.JPG
 

And the mill at Moulbaix, with the Union Jack flying specially !
DSC03863a.JPG.32faeefe39766c5633597f28d245dd0a.JPG
 

The Rue du Tournai in Ath as in the postcard taken before the war that my father sent to his sister in December 1918
and the view as it is today.
DSC03887a.JPG.232788f7869a1393bdf0e86ad3d5480a.JPG1894308799_PostcardAthRuedeTournaiAA.JPG.ff0448a564171a6866e06d8632c4004a.JPG

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Tremendous : lovely to see the then and now photograph. Glad you had such a great time. I told you that you would receive a fantastic welcome from our dear friends in Ath. The local beer is pretty good, too!

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25 minutes ago, Mark Hone said:

The local beer is pretty good, too!

I had to avoid the beer, as I was driving, but we watched Christian drink one!

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  • 2 months later...

Sébastien Morancé has managed to contact a niece of Private Edward Sullivan

This lady kindly gave him a copy of 2 documents below.

The wall behind the tomb was shot down in the early 1970s.

In order to better inform our visitors, we would be pleased to obtain an answer to these two questions.

1) Since when have the present white stone monuments replaced wooden crosses?

2) Is there any chance of finding a photo of the same wooden crosses for the other British soldiers buried at Irchonwelz, especially those of the Lancashire Fusiliers?

 

Thank you for your opinions and advice

Christian

First Grave Sullivan 1.jpg

First Grave Sullivan 2.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Christian, I have sent an enquiry to the CWGC asking if they know when the wooden crosses were replaced with stone ones.
 

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John,

I thought the history of these tombstones was well known, I was wrong. Thanks for the help, this will help us date the photo of Private Sullivan’s wooden cross.

Irchonwelz residents are very interested in the events of November 1918,

The rose of Lancashire is in good place among all the family photos.

Kind regards

Christian

IMG_1339.JPG

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  • 1 month later...

Irchonwelz 11 November 2019

 

Irchonwelz doesn’t forget ! This year, we have a special thought for Willam Kitchen, native of Bury and soldier of Lancashire Fusiliers.

Children play an important role in this ceremony. It is they who flower the monument and the tombs, they also carry the different flags.

Thanks to the Royal Union Saint-Denis d'Irchonwelz brass band that accompanies us every year.

1 Irchonwelz 11-11-19 .JPG

2 Irchonwelz 11-11-19.JPG

3 Irchonwelz 11-11-19 .JPG

4 Irchonwelz 11-11-19.JPG

5  Irchonwelz 11-11-19 .JPG

6 Kitchen .jpg

7 Irchonwelz 11-11-19.JPG

8 Irchonwelz 11-1-19.JPG

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  • 7 months later...

During the confinement period the Lancashire rose was refreshed. Thanks to Laurence and Freddy (Laurence’s dad) who helped to replace the panel in front of the chapel. Then Freddy read the names of the 8 soldiers killed on November 10, 1918 in Irchonwelz; after each name quoted, Laurence pulled the bell of remembrance. An intense moment of recollection.

DSC01601.JPG

DSC01604.JPG

DSC01606.JPG

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Thank you all once again for keeping the memory alive. We have very fond memories of our Battlefields Tour  visit to Irchonwelz in 2018. The detailed diary of another Bury Grammar School old boy who served as an officer in 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers has recently come to light.  He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. When he recovered, he transferred to the sister 1/5th Battalion for the rest of the war, so he was not involved in the liberation of Irchonwelz and Ath. However, he may well have known some of the long-serving members of the battalion who were there, like William Kitchen. When I have access to the full diary I shall check for any mentions. 

Edited by Mark Hone
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Thank you Christian.
The poppies seeds you sent at Christmas have turned into flowers this week!

 

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Mark

Many walkers are wondering when they pass by the chapel because they don’t know the Lancashire Rose. So, I will add a small panel with a short explanation, in English, Flemish, French and in German if I find someone to check my translation. On the internet, I bought the sticker. Below this explanation: « Since 1485, this red rose has become the emblem of Lancashire, a region north of Manchester (England). » I’m not sure about the date.

Note that the chapel was built in 1482, that the name of our giant Goliath appears for the first time in 1481.

What should I change for this explanation?

Thanks

Christian

51+CiBQGCcL._AC_.jpg

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I shall check the inscription for you. Lancashire Day is 27th November. We shall have to do a joint celebration this year!

Mark

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According to wikipedia General Jeudwine CO of the 55th Division adopted the Red Rose of Lancashire as the divisional emblem to foster county pride in the division at some point in 1915.
 

The motto of the 55th "We live or die who wear the rose of Lancaster" was adopted from a poem that Lt. Leonard Comer Wall wrote in 1917. see  55th Motto.

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Thank you for arranging for some text for the Rose!

 

Lancashire is usually just described as being a county in the north west of England (a county is an administrative area similar to a Province in Belgium), and note that Manchester used to be part of Lancashire, and also includes a rose in its coat of arms. So perhaps a simple text could just say:

 

“In 1485 the Red Rose became the emblem of Lancashire, a county in the North-West of England.
And this rose was adopted by the 5th West Lancashire Division during the First World War as its emblem; troops from the Division helped liberate Ath and the surrounding area in November 1918.

 

The red rose was chosen because of its significance as an emblem of the winning side in the War of the Roses, one of the English Civil Wars that ended in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth. (The losing side’s emblem was a white rose).

 

Perhaps you'd like to read more here:

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerre_des_Deux-Roses

Edited by Morris
left out a line of text
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On 16/05/2010 at 18:11, daggers said:

 

It will be noticed that the concluding lines of the verses differ in one particular from the words of the motto. Wall wrote "We win or die"; the motto reads "They win or die." The mistake was not discovered until the spring of the following year, but it was too late to make the alteration; the motto by this time was in common use, it had been printed on the Christmas cards, had been painted on all the notice-boards, and had been stamped even in concrete in many dug-outs in and about the line.

 

It would be nice to include the Divisional Motto, I think. It is sometimes quoted as 'We win or die who wear the Rose of Lancaster' as in the original poem by Lieutenant Leonard Wall. However the version as used by the 55th Division was 'They win or die who wear the Rose of Lancaster'. The reason for this change is explained in the post by Forum Pal Daggers, quoted above. 

Win or die.jpg

Edited by Mark Hone
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