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Ken Lees

Concentrations into Guillemont Road Cemetery

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Ken Lees

I spend a lot of time on the battlefields and one of the subjects that I am determined to learn more about is the recovery, identification and reburial of British & Empire soldiers on the Western Front.

 

In the last few days I have tried to answer my own questions on why there are no CWGC cemeteries close to the Bullecourt battlefields of April & May, 1917. A winter project ahead.

 

Another project will be to research the men who fell and are now buried in the Guillemont Road Cemetery. This interest is primarily due to my interest in the 1/9th King's Liverpool Regiment, who fought in that area in August, 1916. Of the 66 oficers and men of the battalion who were killed in action on 2th August, 1916, only 12 have a known grave, all in Guillemont Road Cemetery.

 

So, with Guillemont Road Cemetery in mind, I have begun to browse the Concentration of Graves (Exhumations & Reburials) reports and I will open with the following questions:

  • Are there any War Diaries, documents, books or website articles relating to the work of the No.3 Labour Company, who were responsible for the exhumations in this area?
  • Some of the Concentration of Graves (E&H) reports, such as THIS ONE show a list of names and the location the bodies were recovered from, but where there would usually be details of the Plot, Row and Grave it says, "Memorial Plot. No Bodies Found". Is this perhaps simply the moving of a memorial from the battlefield into the cemetery with the intention of preserving or creating a lasting memorial to men whose bodies hadn't been found? If that is the case, then the 'Map Reference Where Body Found" must be the location the cross was found.
  • Are the digitised documents that are available on the CWGC site the only ones they have, or are there more that can be accessed by visiting their Maidenhead offices?

 

I am thinking of plotting the recovery sites for all the men in this cemetery onto a trench map to see if the distribution over the area tells us anything new, or throws up anything of interest. Has anyone done anything similar? Any advice, comments or suggestions welcome. 

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keithfazzani

An interesting project. There seems to be very little published on the subject. I shall be interested to see what you come up with. The area that has always puzzled me is the reality versus the story. It all looks so neat and tidy. I find it hard to believe that. The job of exhumation was unpleasant and difficult. I cannot believe that some level of confusion arose. There is one man buried in Hooge crater that is “Believed to be” yet the Exhumation and Reburial report is quite clear as to who the man is and full map references are given for the place where the original grave was. Therefore somewhere along the line there must have been a muddle with labelling or some such. Such errors must have been more common than it would appear considering the circumstances. I’ll try and dig out the full details. 

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Ken Lees
17 minutes ago, keithfazzani said:

An interesting project. There seems to be very little published on the subject. I shall be interested to see what you come up with. The area that has always puzzled me is the reality versus the story. It all looks so neat and tidy. I find it hard to believe that. The job of exhumation was unpleasant and difficult. I cannot believe that some level of confusion arose. There is one man buried in Hooge crater that is “Believed to be” yet the Exhumation and Reburial report is quite clear as to who the man is and full map references are given for the place where the original grave was. Therefore somewhere along the line there must have been a muddle with labelling or some such. Such errors must have been more common than it would appear considering the circumstances. I’ll try and dig out the full details. 

 

Thanks Keith,

 

One thing that is clear from the outset is that this battlefield (and presumably others) was a sea of crosses at the end of the war when the process of clearance began. I hope to graphically illustrate that in due course.

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Ken Lees

Next question...

 

On the Concentration of Graves (Exhumations & Reburials) reports, there is a note to each entry which begins "G.R.U." which is followed by a letter (or letters) and number(s). Each seems to be unique, but related, although not consecutive.

 

Any ideas what this notation means?

 

See here for an example

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Ken Lees
3 minutes ago, IPT said:

GRU- Graves Registration Unit, responsible for recording details of graves and burials of war dead

 

https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-war-dead-and-cemeteries/glossary

 

Thanks - it appears that the notation following the GRU bit is of no consequence now, in the absence of the original paperwork it refers to.

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IPT
34 minutes ago, Ken Lees said:

 

Thanks - it appears that the notation following the GRU bit is of no consequence now, in the absence of the original paperwork it refers to.

 

Are they cross numbers? The two soldiers without a cross don't have it.

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Ken Lees
4 minutes ago, IPT said:

 

Are they cross numbers? The two soldiers without a cross don't have it.

 

Well spotted! Looking through a few other forms, that confirms it. I wonder how those numbers were issued. As they are so close together (numerically) I assume they were added to the crosses as the bodies were being exhumed.

 

Another piece of the jigsaw.

 

Thanks.

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jay dubaya

IPT beat me to it again.... the link holds some fascinating information for those interested on the subject, much of the IWGC paperwork is now missing but Justin's research has filled in many gaps and answered many questions.

My interest in this subject grew from the moment I realised my relative had been exhumed and concentrated to Quarry Cemetery, Montauban. My own research into this began prior to the CoGR being available online and so was conducted with lots of emails with the CWGC, once these documents were available online I did start the research of plotting the exhumations of other members of the battery my relative served, the WD for the battery wasn't very forthcoming with the battery positions but the exhumations once plotted created a probable pattern of where they were along with some very questionable official dates of death. 

I believe once a grave had been registered by a GRU it was allocated a reference and these are what we see on the CoGR as 'means of identification'. Looking at your first link Ken we note that all those exhumed were recovered from 57c.T.14.d.4.2. The below image is an extract from Individual Burial Location Map 57c. these maps were prepared by the DGRE in early 1919. The blue pencil figures indicate to the labour companies about to start the grim task of clearance, where bodies were registered as buried according to DGRE records. The blue figures do not represent any burials within 'registered' cemeteries within the square even if that cemetery is due for concentration, unburied bodies and bodies whose temporary burial was not notified to the DGRE are also not included in the figures. We can therefore assume that the 18 GRU registered crosses on doc 2008502 are included in the 274 figure for sub square 'd'. However no bodies were found under these registered crosses and so the crosses were removed to the Memorial Plot at Guillemont BC.

780167192_57cT14.jpg.64acfad708d143fe086490477ec8b70b.jpg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        At the time of concentrations it was not known what to do regarding bodies that could not be found under a named or registered cross, the idea at the time was to create memorial plots in every cemetery and so a missing man would have a grave space with a headstone, the idea was soon dropped on space consideration and so the foundations of the memorials to the missing was created. The below image shows part of the original Memorial Plot at Loos BC during 1921.

 

J  

 

1025264945_LoosBCMemorialPlot.jpg.818e061305256924c7faee158d9518f6.jpg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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tootrock

I am also curious about the final resting place of those killed on the Bullecourt battlefield.

My great uncle, who was in the Devonshire Regiment, was kiled on the 9th May 1917. 92 men from the regiment were killed that day, and not one of them has a known place of burial - all are named on the Arras memorial.

Martin

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Ken Lees
5 hours ago, jay dubaya said:

IPT beat me to it again.... the link holds some fascinating information for those interested on the subject, much of the IWGC paperwork is now missing but Justin's research has filled in many gaps... 

 

Thanks for your comprehensive response. All food for thought. 

 

Ken

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Ken Lees
1 hour ago, tootrock said:

I am also curious about the final resting place of those killed on the Bullecourt battlefield.

My great uncle, who was in the Devonshire Regiment, was kiled on the 9th May 1917. 92 men from the regiment were killed that day, and not one of them has a known place of burial - all are named on the Arras memorial.

Martin

 

I hope to make that the next project , but we'll see how the current one unfolds. 

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laughton

What about the other regiments?

  • two (2) of the 12th Gloucestershire Regiment have known Graves (CWGC Link)
  • three (3) of the 1st East Surrey Regiment also have known Graves (CWGC Link)
  • all three (3) of the 1st Duke of Cornwall are on the Arras Memorial (CWGC Link)

So the starting points for the cemeteries that have ZIP Files prepared are:

and those will send you to the surrounding "larger" cemeteries.

Edited by laughton

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