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Guest Ben Jones

High Wood

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Guest Ben Jones

Does anybody know who owns High Wood? After visiting on a number of occassions and being put off by the dogs, private property signs and last time by three hunters with guns I confess to not feeling very welcome here!

It seems odd that so many places are open albeit some unofficially and yet this, one of the most interesting places to visit on the Somme battlfields is a no go area.

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Chris Noble

I know i sound like a "kill-joy" Ben, but the best option is to stay clear, especially, at weekends when the world and his wife tend to come out and blast everything.

If you really want to gain access, contact the landowner, they tend to be a bit more amiable than our English counterparts, dare i say that? :unsure:

Regards, Chris Noble.

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Terry Carter

The elderly Mme Mathon owns High Wood and she lives in the house on the southern corner. I think, if I have my facts right, she is looked after by a couple of English speaking care assistants. I was told that access to the Wood was allowed if people took the courtesy to ask first.

When I was there in March this year, I saw that they were thinning a lot of trees in the southern corner (to the right of the house and the British held corner of the wood). The fence was down and I walked along a few yards inside the wood adjacant to the road that leads up to water filled crater. I noticed that the growth on the trees, that remained in this area, was profuse around a certain height. I imagine that these were the original tree stumps that had survived from July, August, September, 1916.

It is said High Wood was never cleared after the war. However over 600 remains were found in High Wood (mostly in the southern half) during the battlefield clearances by Graves Registration Units during the 1920-22 period. They were reburied in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.

I have a map showing original battlefield cemeteries of the 1920 period. Roughly were the modern day house is, there was once a battlefield cemetery known as Thistle Dump (not the Thistle Dump we know today) Then just across the road from the southern corner were two others; Highland Cemetery and Black Watch Cemetery. Along the road from the Wood's western corner leading to Bazentin le Petit was another battlefield cemetery known as Clarke's Dump. These were closed and the bodies moved to Caterpillar Valley.

I hope this proves to be useful

Regards

Terry

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Ron

What I have never understood is why there are so few 17th London burials in London cemetery. The wood was taken by the 47th Division on the 15th September 1916 and presumably the dead were buried within a day or two and one would expect to find them all with their fellows in that cemetery. If they were buried in one or other of the temporary cemeteries listed by Terry then why were they not all concentrated on reburial in London cemetery?

Ron

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Marco

The landowner is not very cooperative, which is of course her right. The wood is hers. At least one of the guard dogs is a joke and we took it with us on a short trip once. She didn’t like that.

As I understand it the family has always been less then cooperative. The wood wasn’t properly searched after WW1, I can only imagine because the family refused. It took till shortly after WW2 before that was done. The bodies found then were mostly buried as unknowns in London Cem.

Regards,

Marco

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Paul Reed

It was my understanding that the wood was actually owned by more than one person, with the family that lives in the house owning the bulk of the wood, with some serperate parcels being owned/rented by locals in nearby villages.

I have always found the owners quite co-operative, if you speak French to them, and must say on my occasional wanderings around the wood was struck by the fact that very little remains of anything WW1 within the wood - not even of the Switch Line.

Terry's notes about the burials confirm what I thought, in that many London men I have researched now buried at Caterpillar Valley were once buried in and around the wood - we all await his book eagerly!

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Terry Carter

Hi all

To answer Ron's question regarding why men of the 17th Londons (KIA 15/9/16) who were buried in small battlefield cemeteries or whose remains were found by the battlefield clearance parties during 1920-21-22 period were not concentrated in London Cemetery.

The original London Cemetry was itself only a small battlefield cemetery like many in the vicinity of High Wood and Bazentin le Petit. Why the decision to keep London Cemetery open and close the others down I do not know. The original part of London cemetery is the front row as you enter the gate. The cemetry was surveyed by the Graves Registration Dept and a drawing of it was made by Lieut. H E Funn (Connaught Rangers) on 17/9/20.

Caterpillar Valley Cemetery was chosen to be enlarged and all the bodies from surrounding battlefield cemeteries were moved there plus all those found during the battlefield clearances of in and around HIGH WOOD.

High Wood was cleared and searched many times. Despite what people say. It had to be. How do you account for the fact that 677 men that now lie in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery were found (map reference to a 50 by 50 yard square) in High Wood.

In fact nearly 3000 bodies of the 5000 or so in Caterpillar Valley Cem. were dug up in the region High Wood, New Zealand Memorial, Wood Lane, Matinpuich- Longueval Road area in the early 1920's.

After the original battlefield clearances and after Caterpillar Valley Cem was built, any further bodies discovered by farmers, road works, building work etc were put into the London Cemetery Extension. As you can guess by the size of the extension, hundreds more bodies were discovered mostly in the 1930's.

My research, by the way, is taken from original GRU registers for Caterpillar Valley Cemetery held at the CWGC H.Q.

Ron...

According to Soldiers Died CD Rom. 71 o.r's and 4 officers from the 17th Londons were killed in 15 September,1916.

34 are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

29 are in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery

5 in London Cemetry

1 in Delville Wood Cem.

1 in Aubigny Communal cem (he DOW and cemetery is 15km N.W. of Arras

1 in Dartmoor Cem Becordel-Becourt

2 in Ovillers Military Cem

1 in Serre Road No.1

1 in Serre Road No.2

Perhaps the last four were found when London Ext was full and put in cemetries where they still had space.

Cheers all

Terry

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