Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Burial of dead at ADS


jay dubaya
 Share

Recommended Posts

from what I gather from various readings, the Bn itself would often designate burial parties for this, with the Bn Chaplain/padre attending. 

 

M.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the 8th June 1915.  36th F.A  set up field hospital in old schoolhouse Near Armentieres.

29th June my grandfather wrote :- "Our chaplain buried two men today. The funeral was shelled in the process and they all had to take cover, some of them throwing themselves into the grave which they had dug" -  It is likely that burials were carried out by the ASC men attached to the F.A (40)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Marilyne and Reg, a thank you for the replies. 
The period in question is October 1917 at Cement House ADS and my initial thoughts at present are that the FA in attendance wasn’t responsible for burials and that there was some form of systematic process involving specific detailed parties for digging graves and the subsequent burials. 
More specifically I’m looking at one long trench grave with over 20 burials which cover deaths up to 7 days apart all of which may appear to have all been buried on the same day.

A handful of service records survive and one in particular whose DoD conflicts with the CWGC states ‘Burial reported by VIX Corps Burial Officer’

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin
18 hours ago, jay dubaya said:

 Who was responsible for the burial of dead at an ADS?
 

 

As the ADS was part of the Field Ambulance the 'responsibility' for administration and identifying the dead was as laid down in Field Regulations.   This is described in detail by a Lt Knee in a paper by Peter Hodgkinson reproduced on the LLT https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/burial-clearance-and-burial/.

 

 

The burial parties. i.e. those who dug the holes came from anywhere that men could be spared.  Julian Bickersteth, Chaplain noted on the 1st July 1916 the mortuary at the ADS where he, and another Chaplain, named Palmer were assisting was soon overwhelmed and the dead were carried outside, 'soon there were seventy to eighty bodies lying around'.  He goes on that there was nothing to be done for them as all efforts turned to and concentrated on the wounded.

 

The following day the dead were still laying out and they needed to be identified and dealt with according to practice

 

Returning to Bickersteth he notes that nobody else was paying any attention to the dead he and his colleague, Palmer set to work to identify and log them as described.  Having carried out this task they then turned to the issue of burial.  He notes no men could be spared for this task as every man was needed in the trenches and the ADS/FA personnel were occupied elsewhere.  The Assistant Provost Marshal arrived and told him he would get some men for him.  He notes these men arrived around midday and he set them to work digging a large trench.  There was then a short armistice, apparently initiated by the Germans.  By 7 pm he reports thirty men still digging a large trench and smaller parties digging in 'our little cemetery' by 9pm he and Palmer were conducting funerals.  By 11pm the trench was four feet deep, twenty six feet long and 6ft 6inches wide.  Elsewhere he ntes most burials took place after dark but on this occasion at 11pm the Germans started shelling the cemetery and they all took cover from shrapnel in the hole.  After half an hour the shelling ceased and he sent the men away to get some sleep.  The following day they began again and 'by midday most of the work was done'.

 

I think what his account tells us is that identification and burial of the dead took place after action and that men who dug the graves came from working parties of units out of the line.  I recently watched the documentary 'They Shall not Grow Old' and was struck by one old soldier's comment - 'all we did was dig' which presumably included graves.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A sidelight on the system of ADS is that it seems the ADS was regarded as a source of assistance when dealing with the dead-rather than the dead should be got to an ADS.  Below is the appendice to a plan of attack by 1st Royal West Kent at the end of September 1917:

 

image.png.536d8a96a956a52a21e2acb8b93163a9.png

 

image.png.c5f482e4808ebf5c46e2cb3b9af8538b.png

 

   This suggests to me that the Chaplain could be got from ADS to conduct some sort of burial service, rather than attempts made to get a body moved to ADS (though RWK plan also listed the divisional burial plots with map references)  Suggests to me at least, that dead could be dealt with in situ-shell holes et al- as long as the formal ID process, some sort of marker and map reference were ensured.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

thanks for the link... a very interesting article. 

I'm reading "The Flag" right now (in between my lectures) and just passed a chapter about the aftermath of the 10th September attack of High Wood. Padre Railton describes how the men were given the choice between going back into the line and dealing with the dead on the battlefield. 

 

M.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that Ken, I had read that a few years ago but in the fog of time had forgotten 

'Orders had been given that we were to take from their pockets pay books and personal effects, such as money, watches, rings, photos, letters and so on, one identification disk had also to be removed, the other being left on the body. Boots were supposed to be removed, if possible, as salvage was the order of the day. A small white bag was provided for each man’s effects, the neck of which was to be securely tied and his identity disc attached thereto'

The 'small white bag' is of great significance to some ongoing research and has confirmed a great deal.

 

Thanks for that Mike, the location and timing in the diary entry also appears significant and is how I too would interperate the same, I'll go have a look in the diary

 

Thanks for the heads up on the book Marilyne

 

J

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is part of the diary entry of my grandfather, Captain Norman Hall, 2/5th LF, for 1 August 1916, in the Somme area:

 

But we had our job to do. I went back to the Company, and had to take a party of 200 into Trônes Wood to bury the dead. It was an awful sight, thousands of dead. Many had been there 10 days in hot sun – it is too dreadful, too gruesome, to describe. It seemed a hopeless task to try to identify them before burial. For many it was impossible – they weren’t men any more. British and Boche were killed together. We even had to wear our Gas masks to try to breathe more or less fresh air. After six hours’ work we were relieved; then back to our littered shambles of a home in the trench. We just lay down on the floor or fire step and tried to sleep.

 

It was by then 6.00pm. The unit were preparing to go forward, and expecting to be involved in an attack within a few days. This burial work was hardly going to bolster morale, as commented in Peter Hodgkinson's article mentioned above, though my grandfather confines himself to commenting that at 11.30pm: "I was dog tired and feeling a bit rotten after the Burial Work." 

Peter Hodgkinson's article mentions "SS456 Burial of Soldiers published in August 1916", which, it seems, laid down regulations as to the process to be followed, including as to identification and putting the effects into a small white bag. Presumably this directive had not yet reached my grandfather's unit as at 1 August 1916.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that, It’s interesting to read another first hand account and especially their reactions to the job.

It would also appear that Norman Collins and his burial parties were not equipped with small white cotton bags when they cleared No Man’s Land in front of Beaumont-Hamel during November 1916 - he mentions the use of sandbags - the effects being mixed rather than been kept individual.
Small cotton bags are listed with the effects recovered of several men I’m researching - all October 1917, a good indication that a body had been recovered and likely buried and that the effects were not from the depot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...