Lest We Forget

"Lest we forget"

WW1 memorials

The Pays de Weppes area was occupied by the German army  dice October 1914 until the end of the war. 
Several military cemeteries and memorials  are still the witnesses  of the bloody and deadly battles that happened in 1915 and 1916.
These include in particular the most recent: the Pheasant Wood Cemetery in Fromelles (opened July 19, 2010) in which are lying 250 British and Australian soldiers discovered in the 8  pits in the Pheasants Wood in 2008.
On the same site a new Franco-Australian museum traces the history of the Battle of Fromelles and the Australian presence.
« They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

A tribute to brotherhood

The attack in Fromelles made little impact on German troops movements toward the Somme and is now seen as a costly failure. In just over one night of fighting, over 5,300 Australian and more than 1,500 British soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured. The incident was the first major deployment of an Australian division on the Western Front and the only one in which none of the original objectives were achieved. 

The magnificent tribute of devotion which Autralian soldiers never failed to pay to their mates is immortalised in the Memorial Park dedicated in Fromelles. 

The Australian Memorial Park is situated around the remains of German fortifications on the part of their line that was captured by the 14th Australian Brigade and held overnight on 19-20 July 1916. The park and the nearby VC CORNER Cemetery are  some 3 kms from Fromelles. The sculpture “Cobber’s” by Peter Corlett is based on Sergeant Simon Fraser, a 40 years old Victorian farmer turned soldier who rescued many men from the battlefield. Later, Fraser was killed in Bullecourt on 12 May 1917. He is remembered on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial as he has no known grave.

The "Cobber's statue" depicts the story of the Sergeant Simon Fraser, one of the wounded soldiers who risked his life to answer a cry from an other wounded soldier :”Don’t forget me Cobber”.

A Battle of Aubers Ridge's victim

Following the British capture of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, the Germans greatly reinforced their defensive lines in the sector, particularly around a portion of the front near Fromelles that became known as the Sugarloaf Salient. As part of the Allied spring offensive in 1915, a combination of British and Indian units staged a major assault on the German positions on Aubers Ridge on 9 May. The artillery bombardments that opened the attack made little impression on the fortified German positions, and German machine-gunners were able to remain at their posts with the result that many of the attacking troops were cut down as soon as they left their trenches. Despite some initial successes, the British Expeditionary Force failed to achieve its objectives, and over 10,000 officers and men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. 

Erected and blessed in October 1922 in honor of the English Captain Paul Adrian Kennedy who died at the age of 29 in the Aubers ridge battle that took place on 9 and 10 May 1915. This fight, begun by the allies, was aimed to support the offensive of the French army near Notre-Dame de Lorette in Pas-de-Calais. Captain Kennedy broke through the first enemy front lines, but a German soldier shot him and Kennedy asked his friend to leave without him.

His body was never found, but in 1922 his mother bought the plot of land where her son died to erect this wayside cross so as to honor him.

The original crucifix is kept in the church in Fromelles.

The objective of the battle was to seize the coast of Aubers. After an intense artillery preparation the assault was given at 5:30am on two sides.

In the South side, The Indian army is stopped by machine-guns fire. In the north, The 8th British Division manages to enter German lines in three places but is completely isolated and has to retreat the following night.

The James Boyle cross

The Captain James Boyle belonged to the Royal Scot Fusiliers. On 18 October 1914, his unit received the order to attack a German artillery position between Illies and Herlies. He was killed in the battle and his body left on the ground. His name was then engraved on a commemorative plaque in Le Touret Memorial, which was built to honor the soldiers whose bodies are missing. In 1924, his family built a Celtic cross  near the presumed location of death, along the RN 41 road.

CWGC cemeteries

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Records of Commonwealth soldiers who fell during the Great War are available on the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission owes its existence to the vision and determination of one man - Sir Fabian Ware.

Neither a soldier nor a politician, Ware was nevertheless well placed to respond to the public's reaction to the enormous losses in the war. At 45, he was too old to fight but he became the commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross. Saddened by the sheer number of casualties, he felt driven to find a way to ensure that the final resting places of the dead would not be lost forever. His vision chimed with the times. Under his dynamic leadership, his unit began recording and caring for all the graves they could find. By 1915, their work was given official recognition by the War Office and incorporated into the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission.

Read more on CWGC


The Trou Aid Post

Le Trou Aid Post Cemetery in Fleurbaix (a village in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, five kilometres south-west of Armentieres and fourteen kilometres west of Lille. Le Trou is a hamlet of Fleurbaix, south of the village). In October 1914 British soldiers serving in the Fleurbaix sector began burying their fallen comrades beside a regimental aid post and dressing station located not far from the support trenches that led to the front-line. Le Trou Aid Post cemetery was used until July of 1915 and contained just 123 burials when the war ended, all of which are now in Row F. In the years after the Armistice, the cemetery was enlarged when the remains of Commonwealth soldiers were brought here from other burial grounds and battlefields throughout the region.

Now, the cemetery is the final resting place of officers and men killed in Le Maisnil in October 1914 during heavy fighting, the Battle of Aubers Ridge (9-10 May 1915), the Battle of Loos (25 September – 14 October 1915), and the Battle of Fromelles (19-20 July 1916).  The unique architectural features and landscaping in the cemetery were designed by Sir Herbert Baker, the celebrated British architect who also designed the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle. Today more than 350 Commonwealth soldiers of the First World War are buried in Le Trou Aid Post. Over 200 burials are still unidentified but special memorials commemorate five casualties known or believed to be buried among them. There are also two French war graves.

The Pheasant Wood Cemetery

In the late 90s, the site of unmarked mass graves was discovered in Pheasant Wood, a position held by the Germans and known as Fasanenwaldche. These had been dug by Germans two days after the Battle of Fromelles.
In 2007, the Australian Government commissioned a geophysical survey which showed the presence of hundreds of Digger’s  remained undisturbed since the war. Five mass graves were discovered.
250 allies soldiers were exhumed. Most of them were Australian. At this moment, thanks to DNA, half have been identified. The Pheasant Wood Cemetery was built specifically for thoseAustralians recently found out. The first soldier was reburied there, with full military honors, on 30 January 2010. The final ceremony took place on 19 July 2010, the anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles.
Among 250 exhumed bodies, 96 had been identified when this cemetery was inaugurated on 19 July 2010, the commemorating day of the battle of Fromelles.

The Pétillon Cemetery

In May 1915 and July 1916 the Rue de Pétillon was one of the jump-off sites of the British and Australian forces on the line from Fauquissart to Fleurbaix.
Rue Pétillon Military Cemetery - British soldiers began burying their fallen comrades at Rue Pétillon in December 1914 and the cemetery was used by fighting units until it fell into German hands during the Spring Offensive in 1918. The Allies recaptured this sector of the front in September 1918. When the war ended in November the cemetery was the site of twelve Battalion burial grounds. Many of those laid to rest here had died of wounds in a dressing station located in the buildings adjoining the cemetery, which were known as ‘Eaton Hall’ during the war. The cemetery was enlarged in the years after the Armistice when graves were concentrated here from the battlefields around Fleurbaix and a number of smaller burial grounds. A whole range of different Commonwealth units served in this sector during the war, that's why the cemetery contains the graves of British, Irish, Canadian, New Zealand, and Indian soldiers, as well as over 260 men who were killed while serving with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Today over 1,500 war dead of the First World War are buried or commemorated here.
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission .

The Aubers Ridge cemetery

Aubers village was taken by the 9th Brigade on the 17th October 1914, as Herlies and part of the Ridge. These gains, however, were lost within a few days, and the Ridge, in spite of repeated attacks, was not captured by British forces for three years. Early in October, 1918, it was secured by the 47th Division. Among the 718 graves here, only 273 are named, and amongst these graves, 17 are of Australians killed on 19 July, mostly 59th Bn (Plot 1). Plot 2 contains the dead of the 61st British Division.