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Help me locate a lost grave?


Alex R

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Greetings Everyone,

I am working to locate the grave of a certain member of the 6th Royal West Kents who received a hasty battlefield burial after the Battle Loos concluded. Although I have a pretty good idea where they were buried, a few loose ends are giving me some trouble.

The area I am focused on is square G 12 within map 36c NW3. Per the war diaries, the 6th West Kent held a line from G 12.a.5.5 to G 12.b.2.2 at the time they were relieved on Oct. 14th 1915. In lay terms this was a line of trench opposite Gun Trench just west of Cite St. Elie and immediately southeast of Quarries.

My questions:

1. Could anyone help me understand why the 37c maps dated Oct. 19th 1915 and Oct. 18th 1916 are so different from one another? The location of everything -- and I do mean everything -- shifted to the northwest by several hundred feet. Was the fog of war during the Battle of Loos really that severe? Or was the British grid system modified during this period?

2. Could anyone direct me to reconnaissance aerials covering G 12 in 37c NW3? I've looked through IWM and McMaster holdings but had no luck. I see there is one aerial within Trench Mapper, but I'd like to locate the original image (and any others that might exist) so that I can add it to my own analysis in Google Earth Pro. Aerial photos will, I think, be critical for reconciling inaccuracies in the trench maps.

Advanced thanks for any help!

Alex

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Welcome to the forum, @WhiteStarLine and @Howard should hopefully be able to assist you with your map questions. 

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Thank you for the welcome! I look forward to learning from you all and helping out where I can. I'm a historian and forensic cartographer by trade, but this is my first research project involving the Western Front.

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Was your man subsequently exhumed and re buried, or do you think he’s still out there?  I am heading to Loos in a couple of weeks and am always interested in Loos related threads. 

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7 hours ago, Alex R said:

Or was the British grid system modified during this period?

Yes, as a result of a combination of British resurvey and a re-calibration of original French survey markers.  @Howard has written extensively on this and the TrenchMapper Help system reflects his research.  Howard is the instigator of TrenchMapper and personally scanned many of the 10,000 IWM trench maps almost 20 years ago.  He georeferenced hundreds of maps in this area and will no doubt be along shortly with a full explanation and links.  Also, his grandfather fought near Loos so he has a personal interest in this area.

7 hours ago, Alex R said:

I'd like to locate the original image (and any others that might exist)

We can get the original image and a catalogue of aerials we hold to you.  Perhaps with your specialist interests you may even want to join the TrenchMapper team.  We're always hiring - apart from the fact that as volunteers we do it for free!

Cheers, Bill

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13 hours ago, Alex R said:

Greetings Everyone,

I am working to locate the grave of a certain member of the 6th Royal West Kents who received a hasty battlefield burial after the Battle Loos concluded. Although I have a pretty good idea where they were buried, a few loose ends are giving me some trouble.

The area I am focused on is square G 12 within map 36c NW3. Per the war diaries, the 6th West Kent held a line from G 12.a.5.5 to G 12.b.2.2 at the time they were relieved on Oct. 14th 1915. In lay terms this was a line of trench opposite Gun Trench just west of Cite St. Elie and immediately southeast of Quarries.

My questions:

1. Could anyone help me understand why the 37c maps dated Oct. 19th 1915 and Oct. 18th 1916 are so different from one another? The location of everything -- and I do mean everything -- shifted to the northwest by several hundred feet. Was the fog of war during the Battle of Loos really that severe? Or was the British grid system modified during this period?

2. Could anyone direct me to reconnaissance aerials covering G 12 in 37c NW3? I've looked through IWM and McMaster holdings but had no luck. I see there is one aerial within Trench Mapper, but I'd like to locate the original image (and any others that might exist) so that I can add it to my own analysis in Google Earth Pro. Aerial photos will, I think, be critical for reconciling inaccuracies in the trench maps.

Advanced thanks for any help!

Alex

Hello Alex

Welcome to the forum. Bill has been nice to me as usual but I am only one voice here. If you look at the TrenchMapper Help->Knowledge Centre, that will answer some of your points about differences in maps, inaccuracies etc. In those articles I set out some of the troubles you are likely to encounter. It is good you spotted the grid error in the 1915 maps, many don't.

Don't bother trying to georeference early maps using their grids, it will not work. Late 1915 maps had better grids but the roads were drawn not from a survey but by tracing pre-war French 1:80,000 maps of woeful quality so you won't get those to fit either. Have a look at TrenchMapper's georeferencing for these maps and you will see the problem. The fit from 1916 onwards is far better owing to the British resurvey. One of the articles describes using Resection from fixed known points to establish a point of interest, then you can transfer the bearings and distances to a modern map to fix a point. However, that is not a quick method as finding suitable fixed points can be uncertain, e.g. was a church rebuilt in the same place.

In particular, look at the Report on Survey on the Western Front. Its author sets out the reasons for those errors.

Google Earth Pro.is good in that it gives 3D from a universal DEM but its georeferencing is not as powerful as other tools. The TrenchMapper team use QGIS, if you fancy a go at that we can supply instructions. One magic trick it will do that Google Earth does not is the Thin Plate Spine transformation. I used that georeferencing most of the aerials on TrenchMapper, it allows local distortions to reduce the photogrammetry problem, i.e. when the photograph is not truly vertical and when the ground is not flat. OK, around Loos it is flat!

"but I'd like to locate the original image". Most of the aerials I scanned were from uncatalogued prints held not in the Photographic Dept. of the IWM. Few of these had their negative number, they start with Q. None of the 5 aerials on TM that cover part of 36c.G.12 had a Q number on them so the best you can do is download the scan from TM and use that. That download will not be cropped as they are on TM so you will get any marginal information we did not record. They will also be full resolution. I very much doubt you will have any luck tracing the negative at the IWM, but if you do, please let us know how you did it!

McMaster have more aerials the most people realise, but like so many collections, their index leaves a lot to be desired. Try putting just Aerial Reconnaissance in the search box. There are a lot of images that have no location but you might be lucky.

Howard

 

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Have you seen this aerial from 12th Div 37th  Inf Bgde war diary. It covers parts of G12, H7, G18 & H13 at 10/10/15

43112_1858_0-00120.jpg

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Thank you all so much for your responses!

I’ll preface my reply by mentioning that the individual I am researching is Pte. Charles Adie (G/4177). I am of no relation, but I became interested in his circumstances whilst reading Private 12768: Memoir of a Tommy by John Jackson (6th Cameron Highlanders). On 24 October 1915, Jackson spotted Addie’s body 50 yards behind his trench and decided to investigate it that night. After searching his body for papers, Jackson and a few others buried him in a shallow shell crater and marked his grave with a wooden cross. A member of the informal burial party then wrote to Adie's mother to inform her of her son’s death. An excerpt from the letter was subsequently published in The Kent and Sussex Courier.

What intrigued me is that in spite of all this, Adie’s grave location appears to be unknown. At least, I certainly couldn’t find him anywhere. The CWGC database merely notes that his name is commemorated on the Loos memorial. So, Michelle, he may still be out there. Or it could be that he was exhumed later but not re-identified at that time. Or it may be that his grave was obliterated by shelling.

I am unclear what about Adie’s body caught Jackson’s eye as the area near the front line was sill very much a mess. An unusually descriptive and candid War Diary entry for the 8th Seaforths, who occupied this part of the line beginning 29 October, noted that “the ground in front was dotted with the unburied bodies of English and Highland troops; between the fire and support trenches there were literally lines of corpses; and men lay on and in the parapet and parados of the fire trench.”

Several War Diary entries mention burying of the dead, and I am left with the impression this burying may have been occurring locally. So Adie may be one of many still in the area. This is something I need to look into a bit more.

Bill - Thank you for the helpful context. And yes, helping out with TrenchMapper is definitely of interest. I actually have several War Diary maps that probably ought to be uploaded.

Howard - Many thanks for the very thorough explanation. I will be sure to visit the TrenchMapper Knowledge Centre. It’s unfortunate that the grids are unreliable, but at least I know not to trust them. I know what you mean about Google Earth Pro’s limited georeferencing capabilities. To get around these, I usually crop image overlays to their smallest useful size, then use the “Convert to LatLonQuad” feature to help mitigate distortions or inaccuracies. Of course, this approach really only works if the distortions present in the image overlay are minor and uniform. I have some familiarity with QGIS, but GE has been my default software for analysis simply for its speed and versatility. Anyway, as noted above in my response to Bill, I would be interested in contributing to TrenchMapper. Also, thanks for the tip regarding McMaster’s holdings; I'll do some more digging.

Edward1 - Thank you! No, I had not come across that one yet. Would you mind sending me a link to the original image if you have it handy?

Trevor - I appreciate you asking, but as it happens this trench map slightly pre-dates the timeframe I am working within. The German line was eventually pushed back a little further than what is shown, and it was at that time that the individual I am researching was killed.

Edited by Alex R
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14 hours ago, EDWARD1 said:

It covers parts of G12, H7, G18 & H13 at 10/10/15

@EDWARD1, great picture and fits the landscape nicely.  The next version of TrenchMapper ships with a lightweight overlay tool, where twin opacity sliders let users fit overlays to the modern landscape or to an existing trench map.  Then zoom in or pick other trench maps etc.  Click each image to enlarge.

Name: Areas of 15th, 47th & French Divisions, Loos, 1915
Sheet: 36C NW 3 & 36C NW 1 & 36C NW 2 & 36C NW 4 [parts of]
Scale: 1:10,000. Edition: Provisional Edition 2 1915
Annotated German Trenches corrected to 7 October 1915. Printed 7/10/1915
Id: m_82_000004

image.png.4de6a3d93838f20c651fb843d84a57c9.png

image.png.db1e205dadfab446ed2a013ecf3e2351.png

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Alex

6 Camerons were 45 Infantry Brigade of 15 Div and the October 1915 War Diary of the Bn records that they were in Sector C2, The WD of 45 IB shows C Sector as being from G 18 c 6 6 (but I have also seen G 18 b 6 6 which I think is correct) to G 12 a 5 4. C Sector was split into C1 and C2 by the Vermelles to Hulluch road. I think C2 was north of the road but I can not be sure. Charles would have been buried by John Jackson and his pals 50 yards behind this line but also see the WD of 11 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who 6 Camerons relieved on 23/10, which refers to the position of 6 Camerons.

Brian

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@EDWARD1, you can ignore my earlier request; I had very little trouble finding the aerial myself, though I still need to incorporate it into my GE overlay.

@brianmorris547, thank you for mentioning this. I had seen many references to sector C2 but was unclear of its bounds. I will be sure to consult the War Diary of the 45th Infantry Brigade for more information.

For anyone interested, the image below reflects where I am currently at. The base maps are the 19 October trench map noted earlier and a 1928 Ordnance Survey map that appeared in Operations in France and Belgium 1915. The latter  of the two maps depicts unit locations and movements on 13 October. I expect things will move around a little bit yet, especially as I add aerial photos to the mix.

An operations order appearing in the 6th West Kent War Diary indicates Bravo Company was to stage in the rear as shown below, then move up to the the the position held by the 6th Buffs once they had cleared their trench during the attack that day. That attack did not go well, however, and at about 2:15am the 6th West Kents were ordered to relieve the 6th Buffs before dawn. This was done by Bravo Company, whose last reported location was was G.12.a.5.5. to G.12.b.2.2.

Earlier orders had stated that the 6th West Kent were to use Central Alley to move up, but I wonder if they instead moved up in the open (it was still dark, after all). If so, that would explain why Adie's body was found between lines. If Adie was indeed killed near the frontline, then that suggests he was actually killed on 14 October. Of course, it's also possible he was part of a work party and was indeed killed 13 October as reported.

So far I've traced the chain of relief for a full month from the time 6th West Kents held the line. In total, a dozen different units occupied the same trenches as Bravo Company, but none of them mention where the dead were being buried or reburied. I may keep following the chain of relief for another month to see if there are any clues.

image.png.59387e2e2eb778eda2bd617a3e71857a.png

Edited by Alex R
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Alex

The WD of 8 Seaforths of 44 IB, 15 Div (WO 95/1939) records that on 04/12/1915 the Bn moved to the trenches in C1 which ran from "about G 12 a 9 4 to about G 11 b 9 5". So it looks like C1 was north of the Vermelles to Hulluch road. I will try to pinpoint C2.

Brian

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On 08/09/2023 at 03:50, Alex R said:

The CWGC database merely notes that his name is commemorated on the Loos memorial. So, Michelle, he may still be out there. Or it could be that he was exhumed later but not re-identified at that time.

Without wishing to curb enthusiasm for the mapping search you may be interested in this article from the WFA 'Identification of the Dead' which explains the problems with identity discs and the various Army Orders issued which set out to address the issue later in the war.

https://www.westernfrontassociation.com/world-war-i-articles/identifying-the-dead-a-short-study-of-the-identification-tags-of-1914-1918/

The account suggests that in trying to be helpful, e.g. notifying next of kin, the burial party removed all identification before burial. 

It was a particular problem at Loos in 2015 which is why there are so many unknown recorded on the Loos Memorial. Over half the graves in Dud Corner Cemetery which was created in the main after the war are 'unknowns'.  As the CWGC Information states nearly all the burials in the cemetery were brought in after the war.

https://www.cwgc.org/visit-us/find-cemeteries-memorials/cemetery-details/58700/dud-corner-cemetery-loos/

Does Pte. Adie now rest among them? Pte Adie's death was recorded on the 13th October, along with that of three of his comrades.

On the 14th October at least 24 men of the 6th RWK were killed, all are recorded on the Loos Memorial and have no known grave.  Begs the question is there a communal battlefield grave for these men?

 

 

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Adie could be at Dud Corner or the larger Loos British Cemetery, or if his remains were found later, at Cabaret Rouge of one of the then open concentration cemeteries. I will certainly visit him and say hello when I’m there in a couple of weeks. 

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7 hours ago, brianmorris547 said:

Alex

The WD of 8 Seaforths of 44 IB, 15 Div (WO 95/1939) records that on 04/12/1915 the Bn moved to the trenches in C1 which ran from "about G 12 a 9 4 to about G 11 b 9 5". So it looks like C1 was north of the Vermelles to Hulluch road. I will try to pinpoint C2.

Brian

It seems that C2 was north of the Vermelles Hulluch road as well. Examination of the October 1915 WD of 8 Seaforths shows that on 26/10 the Bn went into the old German and British Front trenches behind the new British Front line occupied by 7 Cameron Hs from G 12 d central Hulluch Rd to G 12 a 5 4. The Bn moved into the front line on 29/10. The WD is marked C2.

These two sketches are from the October and November WDs. It's the clearest I can find for C2.

TNA/Ancestry WO 95/1939

1939 1.jpg

1939 2.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...
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@Alex R said hello for you today

IMG_1898.jpeg

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