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Remembered Today:

Help with a place name please


clinchpc

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On a recent visit to the Western Front for the Somme Memorial Ceremonies, my colleague and I also went up into Belgium to visit Ypres & Poperinge.

I purchased Major & Mrs. Holt's excellent Battle map of the Ypres Salient. It was only when we had left the area and were returning to England that I noticed on the map 'Girton Cross' just a mile or two south-east of Poperinge.

Does anyone know how this crossroads got its name? Could it be named after the small village in Cambridgeshire which in turn gives its name to the Cambridge University college?

It would be quite strange if it did, because as you will probably know it was an all female college until the 1970's. I have tried a Google search for 'Girton Cross' and also looked in the Holts guide to the area and can't find any reference.

My daughter went to Girton; that's why it caught my eye. I would be very interested to know if there is any connection with the college or perhaps its just an English interpretation of a Flemish placename.

Grateful for any information or clues you may have on this little puzzle.

Thank you,

Peter Clinch

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(...) that I noticed on the map 'Girton Cross' just a mile or two south-west of Poperinge.

(...)

I would be very interested to know if there is any connection with the college or perhaps its just an English interpretation of a Flemish placename.

Peter Clinch

Hi Peter,

Let me be clear : I can't help you with your little puzzle I 'm afraid. :huh:

But I was puzzled by it. Not only because I live in the area (Boezinge, near Ypres, 6 miles from it), but because at first I couldn't find "Girton Cross" on my "Major & Mrs. Holt's Battle Map of the Ypres Salient", even thinking that it was technically impossible to find it there, since this Battle Map does not cover the area southwest of Poperinge. And then I took my more recent version of the Battle Map, and saw that that one mentioned more placenames, and found Girton Cross indeed. Only : it is "southeast" of Poperinge (4 km / 2.5 miles from the centre indeed). Anyway, that's only a detail. Let's get to the point.

As far as I see "Girton Cross" is certainly not an interpretation of a Flemish placename. (I suppose that you are thinking of names like Wipers < Ypres, Plugstreet < Ploegsteert, Whitesheet < Wijtschate, or even that most amusing God Wears Velvet < Godewaarsvelde.)

That area (a hamlet nearby) was then (and now) called "Busseboom". Whatever the meaning and etymology of that name is, it certainly doesn't bear any relationship with "Girton".

Maybe this can help you though. It is my experience that these English placenames, in their origin and namegiving, are related with other names in the immediate vicinity. Also because often they were given by men from the same area in England. I see other names of "Corners" and "Crosses" in the immediate vicinity of Girton Cross, all in a radius of 2 miles, and between northwest and southeast of Girton Cross.

These are : MAYO Corner, MANDALAY Corner, OGDEN Fork, CONDIMENT Cross, HENGIST Cross, MERSEY Cross, WARATAH Corner.

Right here from my tiny village in Flanders it is impossible for me to see if somehow there is a connection between all these names. But maybe for someone in the UK ?... (Mind you, I am not saying that there is a connection. I just think that if (if !) these names were given in the same period, by men from the same area of with a similar background ...

Hope this helps.

Aurel

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Hello Aurel,

Thank you so much for your prompt reply to my enquiry. I have now corrected the 'compass' error in my original posting. Good job I wasn't in the artillery 90 years ago!

You have made it clear to me that the name Girton isn't a corruption of a Flemish place name, so at least we can rule that out. I hadn't heard the 'God wears velvet' reference to Godewaarsvelde before -very amusing.....it seems our gift and respect for foreign languages hasn't improved much since then.

So it would seem that perhaps a soldier from Girton in Cambridgeshire gave the crossing its name and it must have stuck. I wonder if there is a cross or shrine there or it is simply a road crossing? Interesting to hear it is very near Busseboom, as I always remember that place name being referred to in a Siegfried Sassoon poem.

I will carry on trying to find out how exactly it got its name. I might even write to the university college and see if they can throw any light on the matter.

This is my first foray into the Great War Forum. Thank you Aurel for getting me up and running and I'm sure I will be back.

Kind regards,

Peter

Orpington, Kent

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1. I have now corrected the 'compass' error in my original posting. Good job I wasn't in the artillery 90 years ago!

2. So it would seem that perhaps a soldier from Girton in Cambridgeshire gave the crossing its name and it must have stuck.

3. I wonder if there is a cross or shrine there or it is simply a road crossing? Interesting to hear it is very near Busseboom, as I always remember that place name being referred to in a Siegfried Sassoon poem.

4. I will carry on trying to find out how exactly it got its name.

Peter

Orpington, Kent

Hi Peter,

1. Actually I think Ypres would have been very grateful if you had been in the artillery, 90 years ago. In the German artillery, that is. :D

2. Possible. If you are sure that the only "Girton" in the UK is the one in Cambridgeshire.

If I suggested that there may be some link between Girton and the other military names in the area, of course I don't know. (Mandalay, Mersey, Condiment, Waratah, Mayo, ...) From here I don't see any. But maybe from a UK point of view ? Though they look rather exotic and foreign.

The only link I see between two of them, is musical. The Road to Mandalay (Robbie W. ?) and Ferry 'cross the Mersey (Gerry and the Pacemakers, of that I am sure !) But I guess that's not much help ? ;)

3. On a modern IGN map I see there is a chapel now, but I have no idea if there was one pre-war.

4. You may be interested in a map Malte Z. posted on this forum, a while ago. (I think the map came from Dave Croonaert's website.) Unforunately the crossroads were cut off by the bottom edge of the map, where you can read "Devonshire Camp"). But you will see Busseboom a little northwest of where it is.

This is the link.

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...mp;hl=busseboom

Posting # 32, named MAP 1, I think on page 2)

Aurel

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Is it not more likely that it relates to Girton the village, not Girton the college?

Not that I see any connection between this Cross and the others mentioned by Aurel.

John

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Is it not more likely that it relates to Girton the village, not Girton the college?

Not that I see any connection between this Cross and the others mentioned by Aurel.

John

John,

Thanks for your comments. I'm sure you are right so I had another search and came up with the Girton (Cambridgeshire) village website which in turn has a 'History' section. It has a picture of the village war memorial which has the names of 18 Great War losses. So I have e-mailed the village society's chairman and secretary with my enquiry and await their answer.

I have also enquired of the publishers of the Holts' battlefield map to see if they know anything.

I will let you know if I get any further information. Very impressed with your Stockport war memorial website. I'm trying to compile one for my local war memorial in Keston, Kent which has a staggering 30 names despite being virtually a hamlet.

Thanks to Aurel as well for pointing me in the direction of those wonderful old pictures of Poperinge and the map with the nearest recognisable village of Busseboom to Girton Cross.

Kind regards,

Peter

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A brief update on my search for the derivation of Girton Cross nr Poperinge

I have have heard back from the Secretary of the Girton (Cambridgeshire) Village Society via their website.

They do not know of any connection with Girton Cross nr Poperinge and didn't even have it on their earlier edition of the Holts' map. It is defintely there on the latest 5th edition. They are going to make some further enquiries and hopefully get back to me. I have yet to receive a reply from the publishers of the Holts' map.

One interesting point to come out of the reply from Girton is that of the 22 Great War names on their village memorial, only 11 were Girton born. The other 11 when they enlisted, gave the village where they were temporarily working and not necessarily their home or birthplace. One assumes they were transient agricultural workers - nothing changes then; can you imagine the similar sitiation now if men were called up from places like Lincolnshire at this time of the year.

Hopefully I will have some more information shortly.

Peter

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I have now heard back from the legendary Tonie Holt of Holt's maps fame. I asked her if she new of the derivation of Girton Cross near Poperinge.

She replied:

Sorry to say that we do not know why the crossroads was named 'Girton'.

The name appears on trench maps of the time. As you may know the naming

of such particular points was generally done by staff officers as an aid to

navigation and artillery fire.

When naming places officers might use either an alphabetical or thematic

framework and generally the names would be done in batches. Thus you can try

Google for connections between Hengist - Girton - Mersey - Condiment as all of

the 'Crosses' may well have been named at the same time. A thematic reasoning

could well show up but otherwise ..................

If you do find out anything please let us know. Glad you found the map useful.

Have you had a look at www.guide-books.co.uk ?

Tonie Holt

ps Hengist and Girton do bring up a fascinating connection which you could pass

to your daughter to follow up!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well I have tried a few 'google' searches trying to link the crossroads names in the area, namely Girton Hengist, Condiment & Mersey - and can't come up with any thread or link.

Perhaps the staff officer in question was a scouse, medieval scholar with a sister at Girton College and a pepperpot holding the map unfurled while he wrote the names on it.

We will keep on looking and see what turns up. In my limited experience of historical research if you leave a question for a few weeks then come back to it afresh, you often turn up something that didn't appear to be there when you first looked. Here's hoping......

Peter

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(...)

Well I have tried a few 'google' searches trying to link the crossroads names in the area, namely Girton Hengist, Condiment & Mersey - and can't come up with any thread or link.

(...)

Peter

Peter,

I had done the same as you a couple of days ago. To no avail I'm afraid.

But I suppose while doing this you must have felt the same : How could this lead to a result, it's like needle in a haystack ..

Also this. Maybe it would be wise to "google" with not too many names. Starting with 2 (I know : which 2 ?!), then 3 (which 3 ?!). Of course asking which 2 or 3 or 4 or 5, you realize that in the end there may be dozen (a hundred ?) combinations.

What I mean is : if somewhere on the internet there is a webpage mentioning 4 of these names in one article, but you google for 5 names, then Google won't find the one with 4 names.

(I hope I'm right when I say this. I'm not an expert in these matters.)

Aurel

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Peter,

Like the other posts I have no idea about this one, but the question does set the imagination running so how about this:-An officer sits in his billet just behind the lines in the Salient, a record is playing the Gilbert & Sullivan opera Utopia and, as he listens to the lines 'oh maiden rich in Girton lore', he thinks back to his time at OTC in Cambridge (there were OCT's at 3 Colleges in Cambridge) and the girls he got to know from nearby Girton College (motto 'better is wisdom than weapons of war'). He jumps off his stool, shouts eureka, I know what we can call this place.

Simple really isnt it. Ok, ok, I'll take another tablet and have a lie down.

Keith

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The question does set the imagination running so how about this:- An officer sits in his billet just behind the lines in the Salient, a record is playing the Gilbert & Sullivan opera Utopia and, as he listens to the lines 'oh maiden rich in Girton lore', he thinks back to his time at OTC in Cambridge (there were OTC's at 3 Colleges in Cambridge) and the girls he got to know from nearby Girton College (motto 'better is wisdom than weapons of war'). He jumps off his stool, shouts eureka, I know what we can call this place.

Thanks Keith, great stuff!

You may well be on to something. I wasn't aware of the Girton reference in the Gilbert & Sullivan opera. I'm sure there is a research paper or a book subject in all these derivations of 'British' trench and landmark names - randomly attributed by Allied officers in the Great War. At least we could probably have written a 'Blackadder' sketch on the subject between us.

As Aurel suggested I will keep on looking. Someone must have given the crossroads its name...........

Peter

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Peter,

Keith was right. With regard to name giving, so much depends on coincidence and the inspiration of the moment. The inspiration of an individual, making all sorts of personal associations. Which makes it almost impossible afterwards to trace the origin. Same for trench names, except that these were alphabetical. Wasn't Peter Chasseaud preparing a book on that ? Or has it already been published. I would certainly be interested for my own area. (North of Ypres)

Aurel

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Peter,

Keith was right. With regard to name giving, so much depends on coincidence and the inspiration of the moment. The inspiration of an individual, making all sorts of personal associations. Which makes it almost impossible afterwards to trace the origin. Same for trench names, except that these were alphabetical. Wasn't Peter Chasseaud preparing a book on that ? Or has it already been published. I would certainly be

Aurel,

It seems there is no link between the names of the crossroads in the area. I guess it was just a staff officer with some association with Girton village or college. I have heard back from the Girton Village Society and their chairman Dr. de Lacey, a Cambridge academic it seems, bears out the Gilbert & Sullivan reference as he has sung the 'Girton lines' in their local production!

Your reference to Peter Chasseaud's book on the subject sent me scurrying of to Amazon; and sure enough there it was. Rats' Alley: British Trench Names of the Western Front, 1914-1918 is the name of the book by Alan Sillitoe & Peter Chasseaud, in hardcover at £16.50. Like most of this Forum's members I am need counselling for compulsive WW1 book buying, but I expect I will succumb and add it to my library. Another roll of the eyes from my wife.......

The book boasts the first gazetteer of over 10,000 trench names. However we are looking for a crossroads name that appeared on an early trench map, but you never know. And as we always say.......it will be a useful book to have for research purposes - like the other three shelf full's no doubt.

So the puzzle remains.........

I will let you know if the book throws any light on 'Girton Cross' Incidentally Aurel if you are ever in the area I would be interested to know what there is at the crossroads? Just a meeting of roads or perhaps a cross or shrine?

Kind regards,

Peter

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Peter,

Of course, Rats' Alley ! Now I remember I saw mention of it in some other thread in the Forum.

Tomorrow I'll be in the Ypres Documentation Centre. Maybe they have the book already.

Right now I can't say how Busseboom (Girton Cross) looks like, though I live only 6 miles from it. But next time I'm in the area I'll take a couple of photos.

Aurel

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Nowadays " Busseboom " (Reningelst) is a very tiny place, somewhere 1,5 km of Ouderdom (direction : Poperinge), and has some farms and a cross-road.

In ww1, the place was behind the front-lines. The whole area was full with (rest)camps.

Gilbert Deraedt <_<

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Gilbert,

At last ! A local from (near) Busseboom !!! ;)

I don't know if I mentioned it in one of my previous postings, but Girton Cross is not even Busseboom. I mean not the actual crossing at Busseboom, but a little (500 meters) more southeast. (Crossroads Ouderdomseweg - St.-Pieterstraat)

I had a look at a trench map yesterday in Ypres (Doc. Centre), and saw that indeed at Busseboom crossroads there were very few houses then. And even fewer at Girton Cross !!!

Peter,

Gilbert is right about the camps. Many of them. One was called "Devonshire Camp". I don't know enough about British geography, but when I "googled" with "Devonshire" and "Girton", there was no result... :(

Is there a link ? Who knows...

Aurel

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Beneath you wil find a scan of a small part of a ww1 trench map. The scan shows ' Girton Cross ' near

Busseboom.

Gilbert Deraedt :(

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The scan

Gilbert,

Thank you for your scan of the trench map. I'm having a little trouble reading it and have tried to magnify it without success. I would be very grateful if you could perhaps re-send it perhaps with a 'smaller extract'

It's great to have your local knowledge of the area as I try and build up a profile of 'Girton Cross'.

It would be great to actually see a 1914-1918 map with 'Girton Cross' actually on it. Can you let me know the name and publishers of the map or is it just available for reference in your local libraries?

Aurel, your mention of Devonshire presumably relates to the Devonshire Regiment - so that opens up a new line of enquiry! Perhaps it was one of their officers who named the 'Girton Cross. I have ordered the 'Rats' Alley' book from Amazon so we will see if that helps in our enquiries.

Kind regards to both of you,

Peter

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Peter,

I hope Gilbert won't mind me doing this. But this morning he sent me the extract in the original resolution, and I have just cut out that part.

However, my programme obstinately refused to keep it large enough. So this a lot smaller than I wanted it to be, but I just can't find how.

Aurel

post-92-1156011319.jpg

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Peter,

This afternoon I took my bike and cycled to Girton Cross. And took a couple of photos.

If you expect Girton Cross to be something just a little bit smaller than Piccadilly Circus in London, please do NOT look at my photos. It would be too much of a disappointment. ;)

There are no buildings at the crossroads itself. Just as you see on the right, an empty dilapidated little house, with an old structure next to it I don't know the former function of.

And a farm some 100 meters away (not on the photo ; it is to the left of it.)

I was standing with my back toward Poperinge.

But there was also ....

post-92-1156012903.jpg

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But there was also, as you can see a little chapel.

I was wondering : could this possible have been pre-war ? I thought it was not, and outside I did not see any date or year.

But then I looked through the door (it was locked) and I saw ...

post-92-1156013016.jpg

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... and I saw it had been "érigée" (erected) in 1906.

So, definitely pre-war !

Should you want these pictures (and also a forth one I took, and one at Busseboom, a little more northwest) in the original resolution, approx. 400 kB, 1600 pixels wide, then let me know what your email address is. (Off Forum, click on my name.)

Aurel

post-92-1156013387.jpg

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Peter,

I hope Gilbert won't mind me doing this. But this morning he sent me the extract in the original resolution, and I have just cut out that part.

However, my programme obstinately refused to keep it large enough. So this a lot smaller than I wanted it to be, but I just can't find how.

Aurel

Thanks Aurel,

Gilbert is going to send the original file to my personal e-mail so I will be able to see it all. As you have shown me 'Girton Cross' is very near the Devonshire Camp. So perhaps there is a link between the naming of the crossroads and the nearbye regimental camp.............

Aurel, I've just seen your photographs! Thank you for making the special trip just to get these pictures for me. They are excellent. How interesting the little chapel! At least that marks the spot and you have told us it was built in 1906.

Thank you again for your help. We are building up quite a file on this now, aren't we. I will let you know if I need a higher resolution when I have printed some copies on my printer

Kind regards,

Peter

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Peter,

One more.

Girton Cross seen fromSt.-Pietersstraat, photographed from southwest to northheast.

The farm in the background is where the Devonshire Camp was.

Aurel

post-92-1156077767.jpg

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