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The current time is: 12/13/2017 3:54:14 PM
 General History    
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5699

Battlefield Crosses
Posted on: 4/13/2017 6:48:44 AM
I understand that it was common in the US civil war and in WW1 for soldiers to make battlefield crosses, the unofficial kind, for other soldiers.

Usually they were a tribute to an individual and I wonder whether many of these crosses, made out of wood, have survived.

Also I do not know the history of this practice but some literature suggested that battlefield crosses were common in the US Civil War. I don't know whether that war saw the genesis of the practice.

The reason I ask is that while reading about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, I discovered that one regiment had constructed a wooden battlefield cross that was erected on the battlefield site at Vimy near the regiment's start line.



This cross survived the war and somehow made it back to Canada.

And I had seen it but didn't realize that it was associated with Vimy Ridge. It had been in the basement of St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Toronto which is where the 48th Highlanders of Canada regiment has their museum. My Uncle George had served in this regiment in the second war and I had attended there to get any information on him that was available.

The 48th's battalion designation in the Great War was the 15th and that is what appears on this cross.

Veteran's Affairs Canada arranged to transport it back to Vimy for the ceremony, back to the place where the regiment had erected it. That place is now a farmer's field.

The cross is of wood and described as a "Celtic style cross".

This fellow had a relative who was killed at Vimy and this is the cross. It is difficult to see but about half way down, the list of names stops and then the word, "Also" appears followed by more names. The "also" list is just below the larger print that says "Killed in Action".

It seems that the carpenter who made the cross had finished it before the final tally of the dead had been known.




So I am wondering how many of these battlefield crosses have survived the first war or any war for that matter. It is my understanding that British and Commonwealth regiments commemorated their fallen in this way, so there may be more, in museums in the UK.

These are fascinating artifacts and if you have any pictures or information, please weigh in.


Cheers,

George


Phil andrade
London, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2596

Re: Battlefield Crosses
Posted on: 4/13/2017 8:48:44 AM
These battlefield crosses marked the resting place of British - and Dominion - soldiers on the battlefield during the Great War.

The battlefield recovery entailed the removal of these dead to the military cemeteries of the Imperial War Graves Commission - now designated as Commonwealth rather than Imperial.

During this process the wooden crosses were discarded in favour of the headstones.

The original crosses were sometimes retained and displayed as momentoes at home in Britain.

I have seen them in local churches ; usually commemorating an officer, they are given pride of place on a church wall ( inside ) , with a narrative giving date of death, place where he died, and where he is now buried....or commemorated : all too often the original grave was lost or destroyed, and the body unrecovered or unidentified, even if the original grave marker survived. The casualty would then be commemorated on one of those huge memorials to the missing. It would be some solace to his kin to have that original wooden cross on display at his local church. If his body had been obliterated, lost or buried as A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR. KNOWN UNTO GOD, then this would bestow a deal of comfort to his loved ones at home.

Regards, Phil


---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5699

Re: Battlefield Crosses
Posted on: 4/13/2017 11:47:10 AM
Thanks Phil. I was wondering whether any wooden crosses commemorating the dead from a battalion or regiment would be found in museums.

I can imagine that those individual wooden crosses would be important to family members.

EDIT:

US civil war



Cheers,

George

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5699

Re: Battlefield Crosses
Posted on: 4/13/2017 11:57:49 AM
Hi Phil,

This group in the UK has a project to identify the locations of battlefield crosses that have been repatriated.

As you said, many are found in churches, museums and private homes.

[Read More]

I can't imagine that many of these crosses made it home to Canada or Australia or NZ.

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2596

Re: Battlefield Crosses
Posted on: 4/13/2017 3:58:32 PM
Thanks for that, George.

I noticed that several of the examples were of private soldiers, as opposed to officers....different from what I had suggested in my post.

And I wouldn't be surprised if the wooden crosses for individual soldiers made it back to the Dominons.

Let me know, please.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5699

Re: Battlefield Crosses
Posted on: 4/13/2017 4:19:11 PM
This is the Long Tan cross in Australia. It was erected to commemorate the dead at the Battle of Long Tan, Australia's costly battle of the Vietnam war. ( D company, 6 RAR). These men were outnumbered 10 to 1, I understand.



I'm not sure but I think that the Vietnamese have loaned the cross to the Australians.

Cheers,

George

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major
Moderator


Posts: 1450

Re: Battlefield Crosses
Posted on: 4/13/2017 7:21:24 PM
This may be off-topic. I'm honestly not sure.

There are, evidently, some 2800 CWGC sites in Canada, where 18,500 individuals are commemorated.At least one of these is just outside CFB Esquimalt, and is relatively little known. Burials and commemorative markers in this cemetery go back to around the 1860s. Nearly all of the early markers are naval-related. Many have been erected by contribution from mess mates, and – as it to be expected – there are many which evoke great sadness. The number of "boys" (14-17) lost at sea, or dead from a fall from the rigging, is not as great as one might expect, and these are the ones one notices now. Shipmates, despite their rank, often appear as a group when a ship has been lost; they may be grouped around a memorial cross to the skipper or to the ship herself.

I guess it took death on the scale of the ACW or WW1 to standardize markers. Or maybe it just took a government agency to reduce all deaths to similar plots and markers. In this little graveyard I visit from time to time, at least a large minority pre-date standard headstones. The markers are, instead, as individual as the men from a dead man's mess were, and as plain or fancy as the meagre pence and tuppence they could afford to donate in memory. Many have painted rather than carved inscriptions; some may be wood overpainted time and time again.

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2596

Re: Battlefield Crosses
Posted on: 4/14/2017 5:27:19 AM
There is something to be said for bringing the immediacy of the battlefield home : albeit in a sanitised - though poignant - way.

The crosses serve us a point of contact with what happened.

I think that I might have seen aircraft propellers used in the same way ; and maybe ships' anchors.

A tangible momento is sought after, especially if loved ones perished far away ; and, more especially, if bodies were not recovered for identified burial, which was the case in so many hundreds of thousands who died 1914-18 : and that from the British peoples alone.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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