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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Unknown H.L.I. Corporal: Arras Road British Cemetery 2.A.3


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I have been back looking at this cemetery on other cases, only one of which has gone by "others" to the CWGC. I only checked Canadians here in the past. It would appear there may be a number of other cases within this cemetery. So far I have these:



There were a number of men of the 1st Bn Highland Light Infantry found in a deep ditch on the western side of the Yellow Road at 36.S.27.c.15.95 in December 1914. So far it appears that the Unknown Corporal in 2.A.3 was never named. Only Corporal Frederick Smith #8745 is named on the Le Touret Memorial for that period, in any battalion of the regiment. That appears worthy of further investigation. The other Corporal has a known grave (CWGC Link).


From what I have seen for this cemetery, it was open in the late 1920's and was accepting remains from a number of locations across France. This particular area is just east of Festubert 36.S.26 as shown on map [Lille] 36. There were 188 men of the regiment lost in the last weeks of December 1914, of which 138 have no known grave (CWGC Link). There is one other Unknown Corporal William J. Herbert #10494 who will need to be checked for location, as he died on 21 December 1914, just 3 days later.




The COG-BR just prior to the one shown above has a number of the others and there may be more:



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Starting with the Highland Light Infantry at the Long, Long, Trail, Chris reports it was part of the Sirhind Brigade in the 3rd (Lahore) Division.



You will note the COG-BR refers to the location of the remains on the western side of the YELLOW ROAD. From the Canadian knowledge of this area during the combined British/Indian/Canadian action at the same location in May 1915, I initially presumed this was meant to say WILLOW ROAD, however on further examination of the trench sketches. The two roads appear running parallel to each other, but in 36c.A.2 not in 36.S.27?








Even in 1915 there were serious issues with the trench maps for this area, with reported locations out by 450 yards, plus the maps were printed upside down with north at the bottom. By the time these exhumations were undertaken in February 1927, those issues must have been corrected. This is a worthy example of these types of trench map errors - showing here 1915 versus 1918 - where the blue circles show how the intersection of WILLOW ROAD with LA QUINIQUE RUE move from 36.S.26.d.6.9 to 36.S.27.a.3.3. That means we can now place the men lost in December 1914 in the correct position relative to the location of the roads.




They are Festubert at 5:15 am on 19 December 1914 (war diary page 13 of 705). It was a composite battalion of British and Indian Gurkhas, in 4 lines. Unfortunately they do not give any trench map references. They were under intense German machine gun fire, driving the allied force back. Early on the morning of the 20th, the Germans blew in the whole of the front line trench, followed up by a bayonet charge. This explosion in the front line trench may have been what buried all these men, who lay there until discovered in 1927.


It does not appear that there was much change in the general location of the men between the 19th and 21st, so it may be impossible to separate the two Corporals.


The only reference to a location is PICQUET HOUSE which is referenced on 14 December 1914 (war diary page 11 of 705) when Pte. W. Ward #7767 was killed (see COG-BR in grave 2.A.4). This same location is referenced at 12 noon on the 20th (war diary page 14 of 705). In both cases it is noted to be on the left of the line. Apparently it was the only location to survive the explosion on the front lines.


I have yet to find the location of Picquet House.

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  • 1 month later...

It took me a few minutes to get my bearings on this until I realized you put it sideways so that NORTH pointed in the correct direction!


That fits with the trench map coordinates and the war diary information.


There were four Corporals of the 1st Battalion lost in December 1914, 2 known and 2 unknown. One of the known (Stallard) as found at 36.S.26.d.4.6, adjacent to the unknown Corporal, also on the 19th.


It would not appear that we could provide enough evidence to name the Unknown Corporal at this time. I shall put this in the "Short List" file, as it is one of those two Corporals and the families may want to know - perhaps they can "share a grave".

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Some friends will be in and around Arras in April if you need some ground work done and photos? 

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Thanks Bec, but nothing specific at this time. Unless they want to come to Canada, kidnap me, then take me with them!


This raises a good point, however. I should keep a list of site work that needs to be done on cases. Very often we just need to know what the CWGC actually inscribed on the headstone, versus what is said in the paperwork.


There is a collection of photographs of the destruction of Arras on the web site I made many years ago about my grandfather. He bought them in a souvenir book when he was there in the spring of 1917:



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