Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Marie Chesham

Burials on farms near Ypres

Recommended Posts

Marie Chesham

I have found letters from the Royal Engineers Brompton Barracks Chatham dated February and September 1915 informing Archibald G Harper's mother of his burial on the farm of Mr Marhove Isidor, Langemarck.  Unfortunately one letter that describes the location is damaged but there is something about the crossroads, one mile from St Julian. The attached sketch is missing,  The second letter mentions a map reference - Map 20 and I think the next part says U.22.d.

 

Archibald Harper was killed in action on 21 October 1914 and I know his unit was fighting in the Langemarck area.  Can anyone help with the map reference?  

 

He is listed on the Menin Gate.  Would this be because the burial site was destroyed in subsequent action as to have informed his mother I presume they must have found an identifiable body or a dog tag?

 

The Royal Engineers Library state they do not hold any personal records but would the letters regarding the burial be held in regimental correspondence records.  I no longer live close enough to visit.

 

Any help much appreciated.

 

Marie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jonbem

Hi and welcome.

Those co-ordinates give a map near Langemarck

See HERE on McMaster, near bottom right

image.thumb.png.f6afc92b9aa0252c02776e7a3c96fa8b.png

regards

Jon

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
nigelcave

Destroyed in later fighting and unidentifiable after the war. Not too surprising when one considers how much action Langemarck (now Langemark) saw in late October/early November 1914, at Second Ypres in 1915, again during Third Ypres and again in 1918.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

U.22.d is a square 500yds x 500 yds, that seems to include most of the built up modern day centre of Langemark.

I'm not sure which crossroads might be the one mentioned.

Are there any numbers after U.22.d ?, like 5.6 or 52.66  or something of that nature?

That would narrow your search area to a 50 yd square (1 digit reference) or 5 yard square (2 digit reference).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marie Chesham

Thank you both for such quick replies which have given me the location and confirmed that the burial site was destroyed.  

 

My only other question is would Mr Isidor's farm have been part of the battle line or a dressing station - perhaps one of you may know this?

 

Regards

 

Marie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marie Chesham

Another reply!  Thank you DG y S.  Unfortunately the letter only gives U.22.d and as mentioned the sketch is missing.  The correspondence is part of Archibald Harper's service record on Ancestry.  The letters were not there when I found his record a few years ago so have been added since.  I will try to find out from the National Archives if there is a sketch - there is a possibility that when the records were being digitised that it was not copied.

 

Regards

 

Marie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AOK4

He may have been reburied by the Germans when they concentrated the graves from the area in 1915-1917.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jonbem

HERE is a 1917 map on NLS where you can adjust transparency over modern view

You can see a Reitres Farm in that square.

image.thumb.png.14b2cb5fb872713d7ba06e018f8d0586.png

Edited by jonbem

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

I wonder if Aurel Sercu  will see this thread.

He might have some local knowledge of the farms at that time?

Aurel, where are you?

7 minutes ago, jonbem said:

HERE is a 1917 map on NLS where you can adjust transparency over modern view

You can see a Reitres Farm in that square.

Good spot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Michelle Young

@Aurel Sercu can you help please? 

Thank you 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AOK4

In those days, there ware plenty of small farms in Flanders, most of which are not named specifically as such on maps etc. There's no way to find out more without exact coordinates and even then it may be not possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Aurel Sercu

And I am afraid I cannot really help, except confirm what already has been said. And ... express some doubts ...

 

The name of the farmer : Marhove Isidore ... Isidore looks allright, but Marhove? It does not look like a Flemish surname I know. (Jan, do you have any idea? Does it ring any bell ? I tried Markhove, Marckhove, Manhove, ... but to no avail. Anyway, only a detail ...)

 

As to location trench map U.22.d ... I know where that is, indeed in the centre of Langemark (a little north of the Steenbeek) ... But that is 3 km (1.9 miles) northwest of Sint-Juliaan. It is not only the distance that is puzzling me, but that : (quote) " something about the crossroads, one mile from St Julian" (unquote). And the thing is Langemark is a large village, and Sint-Juliaan (Saint Julian) is only a hamlet. Wouldn't it be a little strange if Sint-Juliaan was referred to instead of nearby Langemark Centre ? (Or am I misunderstanding ?)

 

Aurel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marie Chesham

Thank you to everyone for being so helpful.  Aurel Sercu - these letters are attached to Archibald's file on Ancestry (Archibald George Harper)- they are not much better to read on that.  I suspect that Mr Isidor's name could have been incorrectly spelled, you will note it is spelled with two 'O's' on one of the letters!  Do any of you know if these type of letters were only kept with a soldier's record or if they were also centrally filed as well  at the Royal Engineers headquarters?

 

Forgive my ignorance but I do not know anythng about the German cemeteries, I am guessing there will be quite a few given the intense fighting in that part of Flanders.  Given that the British knew where Archie was originally buried and no doubt many others, was there ever any communication between the two countries about remains that had been destroyed in further fighting.  Basicially would the Germans eventually have known how many of our soldiers would have been buried at the farm and although the remains were no longer identifiable, would they have recorded the names somewhere?  I am also guessing the sheer number of unknown soldiers whose names ended up on the Menin Gate it was not possible to inform families of what had happened as in the case of Archibald where the original burial site had been destroyed.

 

Kind regards

 

Marie

 

image.png.3607c46eee6097eef9a9a093adc4c2cb.pngimage.png.e63d696d720ea2ae39188b59bf5c85d0.png

 

Thank you to everyone for your help.  I have attached the two letters relating to Archibald Harper's burial.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AOK4

The screenshot is very hard to read. Could it be Vanhove? Anyway, the rest is pretty difficult to decypher for me on my screen anyway.

The Germans didn't always have an idea who was exactly buried when they captured ground. The grave marker may have become illigible because of shelling or weathering. Or there may not have been a name on it in the first place. They did concentrate most of the field graves onto German cemeteries though, where they would be buried as "unknown British soldiers".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
petwes

Looks almost certainly to be Vanhove.

 

image.png.fe55ed0bad01df8401e1de86a9d6c5ff.png

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AOK4

Farmer Isidoor Vanhove (°5 April 1862) was married on 27 April 1904 to Maria Nuyttens from Oekene (°10 December 1877).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marie Chesham

Again many thanks to all of you who have provided further information on the burial site of Archibald Harper and clarifying the name of the farmer as Mr Isidoor Vanhove and the additional information about Vanhove's marriage.  Family history often results in so many brick walls and dead ends but at least I have now been given a lot more information and reasons why Archibald's name ended up on the Menin Gate. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Oggy2378

Text of the letters is more readable on Find My Past (attached cropped versions) I have added these and the map to Archibald's "Lives of the First World War" page

https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/1567111

 

Cheers

Wayne

SR Letter 1a.png

SR Letter 2a.png

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marie Chesham

Thank you Oggy.  Why is it always the case that the key information has been destroyed/damaged as per the letter that stated where the burial was!  Amazing that the tears/burns are in that exact spot and the sketch is missing! The great tragedy of all of this for me is that Archie, as I guess he would have been known was not the son of Arthur Harper - Arthur died 2 years before.  My immediate family were totally unaware of him (we thought there had been no one who served in WW!).  The mother lost both sons - the first child was a boy who only lived for 6 hours and then Archie.  It would seem that the reminders for dead soldiers mothers like Archie's mother go on for a couple of years, being told he was dead, his personal effects, the two burial letters, medals.   As usual with family history the only person who might have known anything died a while back; they also might have the one who would have had a photograph of him.  So apart from some census information and his army records, most of his life remains a mystery.  Having read up on the German cemeteries and the concentration reburials etc. I suppose I will just have to assume his remains are in the German Langemark cemetery.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AOK4

Marie,

 

The British burials that the Germans made in Langemarck North Cemetery were for a part reburied elsewhere after the war: some were reburied in Perth Cemetery (China Wall), one was reburied in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. Some were probably not found or couldn't be identified as British and remained in langemarck.

However, as the exact location of the original grave is unclear, Archibald Harper, may have been buried on another German cemetery or the grave may have remained at the farm as well.

Unfortunately, the German sources about the graves and cemeteries are largely lost.

 

Jan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Marie Chesham

Thank you Jan.  It looks as if I will just have to go with a burial somewhere in Flanders.  At least I know there was a burial originally.

 

Marie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Aurel Sercu

Is there anyone who can guess what the missing word is in or beneath the stain / burn (?) (black triangle) between "situated of"  and  "the Cross roads" ? It looks like a word ending on ...est. (Which must be west ?)

 

And is there something betwee "situated" and "of" ?

 

Aurel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Aurel Sercu

From a German map (*) : marking where Rêitres Farm (of Farmer  Isidore Vanhove). But also (encircled) : Sold.Gr. (Soldatengrab / Soldatengräber)

 

(*) Jan, can you tell if necessary what map that is exactly ? As you probably recognize "Flandernschlacht 1917", from Richard Heijster's "Krieg". (Contemporary or reconstruction ?)

 

Aurel

DSC01251 - kopie.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AOK4
2 minutes ago, Aurel Sercu said:

From a German map (*) : marking where Rêitres Farm (of Farmer  Isidore Vanhove). But also (encircled) : Sold.Gr. (Soldatengrab / Soldatengräber)

 

(*) Jan, can you tell if necessary what map that is exactly ? As you probably recognize "Flandernschlacht 1917", from Richard Heijster's "Krieg". (Contemporary or reconstruction ?)

 

Aurel

 

 

Aurel, are you sure Isidoor Vanhove lived on that exact farm? There was no adress in his marriage act.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
petwes

The entry between "situated" and "of" looks like the typewriter lower case L character.  From looking closely at the FMP version I think there is the word "of" between est and crossroads.

 

The sentence could therefore read

"Situated [l?] of[six or seven missing characters or spaces] [w]est of the crossroads (one mile [E?] of St. Julien). "

 

(P.S. It's probably obvious but unlike modern technology typewriters work with a fixed character spacing which is how I estimated the number of lost characters we are looking for)

Peter

Edited by petwes

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...