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CWGC: Thiepval Memorial and Cemeteries

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The Thiepval Memorial


Image Right - The Thiepval Memorial and Cross of Sacrifice memorial "Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery 15a" by Wernervc - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval

644 Identified Casualties. The vast majority of the burials are those of officers and men who died in the summer and autumn of 1916.

There are 1,268 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. Half of the burials are unidentified, but special memorials commemorate two casualties believed to be buried among them and five buried in Divion Wood Cemetery No.2, whose graves could not be found on concentration.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.
The cemetery was begun during the early autumn of 1916 and at the Armistice it contained 228 burials (the whole of Plot I except 10 graves). It was then very greatly increased when graves were brought in from battlefields in the immediate area and the following small cemeteries:-

  • Thiepval Village Cemetery - contained the graves of 215 British soldiers who fell in 1916 (or in a few cases in 1918).
  • Thiepval Valley Cemetery - contained 11 British graves.
  • Quarry Palace Cemetery, Thiepval - contained 23 British graves of the autumn of 1916-17.
  • St. Pierre-Divion Cemetery No. 1, Thiepval - contained 10 British graves of November, 1916.
  • Divion Road Cemetery No. 2, Thiepval - contained 60 British graves of July, August and September, 1916.
  • Small Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval - was made by the 11th Division in November, 1916, and contained the graves of 41 British soldiers who fell for the most part on the 1st July.
  • Battery Valley Cemetery, Grandcourt - contained 56 British graves of November and December, 1916, and one of July, 1917.
  • Paisley Hillside Cemetery, Authuile - contained 32 British graves of July and August, 1916, mainly of the 49th (West Riding) Division.
  • Gordon Castle Cemetery, Authuile - contained 33 British graves (26 belonging to the 49th Division) of July-September, 1916 and the grave of one French soldier who fell in October, 1914.
  • Bluff Cemetery, Authuile - contained 43 British graves of July and September, 1916.

Mill Road Cemetery, Thiepval

489 Identified Casualties. There are 1,304 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 815 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to three casualties believed to be buried among them and three others buried in Divion Road Cemetery No.1, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
Mill Road Cemetery (called at one time Mill Road Cemetery No.2) was made during the spring of 1917, when the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line allowed the battlefield to be cleared. At the Armistice, it contained 260 burials, but was then greatly enlarged when graves were brought in from the battlefields of Beaumont-Hamel and Thiepval and from the following smaller cemeteries:-

  • Divon Road Cemetery, No. 1 - contained the graves of 29 soldiers who fell in July and September 1916.
  • Divon Road Cemetery, No. 3 - contained the graves of 44 soldiers who fell in September and October 1916.
  • Mill Road Cemetery, No. 1 - contained the graves of 39 soldiers who fell in September 1916.
  • St. Pierre-Divion Cemetery, No. 2 - contained the graves of 28 soldiers who fell in September-November 1916.

Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery

... behind the Thiepval Memorial. 61 Identified Casualties. Of the 300 Commonwealth burials in the cemetery, 239 are unidentified. The bodies were found in December 1931 and January-March 1932, some as far north as Loos and as far south as Le Quesnel, but the majority came from the Somme battlefields of July-November 1916. Of the 300 French dead, 253 are unidentified.

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme is a war memorial to 72,195 missing British and South African men with no known grave, who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918. It is near the village of Thiepval, Picardy in France. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The Memorial is the largest of the Memorials to the Missing, and the last on the Western Front to be unveiled (one day after that at Arras).

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Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery

The cemetery represents the shared sacrifice of these two nations in the Great War of 1914-1918. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves has been laid out at the foot of the Thiepval Memorial. The British Commonwealth graves have rectangular headstones made of white stone, while the French graves have grey stone crosses. On the British headstones is the inscription "A Soldier of the Great War/ Known unto God". The French crosses bear the single word "Inconnu" ('unknown').

The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932 (originally scheduled for 16 May but due to the death of French President Doumer the ceremony was postponed until August).

Historical Information

"On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.
In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918".

Notable Commemoratees

(British unless otherwise noted)

  • Eric Norman Frankland Bell, VC
  • William Buckingham, VC
  • Geoffrey St. George Shillington Cather, VC
  • William McFadzean VC
  • William Mariner VC
  • Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson VC
  • Alexander Young (South African) VC
  • English first-class cricketer Alban Arnold
  • English first-class cricketer Sydney Thomas ('Tommy') Askham
  • Composer George Butterworth.
  • Irish first-class cricketer William Crozier.
  • Scots rugby international Rowland Fraser
  • English first-class cricketer John Gregory
  • England rugby international and clergyman Rupert Inglis
  • Irish economist, poet and former British Member of Parliament Thomas Michael (Tom) Kettle.
  • England rugby international John Abbott King
  • England rugby international Alfred Maynard
  • Scots rugby international Eric Milroy
  • Welsh soccer international Leigh Richmond Roose
  • English first-class cricketer Ernest Shorrocks.
  • Welsh rugby international Edward John Richard (Dick) Thomas
  • Welsh rugby international Horace Thomas
  • Welsh rugby international David Watts

Shot at Dawn

  • Private H. T. Farr, 1st Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment, executed for cowardice 18/10/1916.
  • Private C. W. F. Skilton, 22nd Bn. Royal Fusiliers, executed for desertion 26/12/1916.
  • Private P. Cairnie, 1st Bn. Royal Scots Fusiliers, executed for desertion 28/12/1916.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing - Roll of Honour

References and Sources