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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Posts: 6103
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The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 5:57:46 AM
A Tribute to the Missing of British 5th Army during
The German Spring Offensive of March 1918

I never met my maternal Grandfather - James Cunliffe Leask - he died some years before I was born, but what I do know about him I obtained from his letters to his wife, what I was told about him by my mother, and from documents obtained from the PRO whilst researching his military service during the Great War,

He was the second son of Robert Leask, a civil engineer and his wife Anna Louise, nee Malloy, born on the 7 of December 1875 in Dublin. James, as well as having an older brother, HM"old; who was also a civil engineer, also had four siblings; two brothers and two sisters. The family lived in large house in the Rathimines area of the city.

His education started in 1880 at a Private School in the city,after which there were two more before he was
finished at Fanagh School in Co.West Meath aged 17yrs.
Following school, he joined the Gresham Insurance Coy, which was based in the city and which his father was a stockholder. He gradually worked his way up the ladder of promotion.However his overwhelming passion, was for all things military-uniform,headgear,accoutrements,etc.added to which he was a gifted artist in this particular field. In l898 he joined a rather exclusive band of men-the Dublin Detatchment of the 5th (Vol.) Battalion of the Black Watch (The Royal Highlanders)
and went to summer camp with 30 some men each in Scotland.He had also become a MM.

In 1901 he married Mary Anderson,also of the city and there were two children to the marriage viz. Clara Gladys born April 1902 and James Ronald Sigurd born in July 1907.James was transferred to Belfast in 1902 as an Insurance Superintendant and it was during this time that his children were born.He also became, for a 4yr tenure, The Commandant of the 1000 strong Belfast Boys Brigade. The Cardwell Reforms of the British Army in 1908, brought about a numbe of changes-one of which affected Cpl. Leask of the Dublin Detatchment-the Volunteers were to be subsumed into the new Territorial Force; whose particular function was to be Home Defence.

This apparently was not to his liking, so "he resigned his position for private reasons'He was returned back to Dublin;- but was ultimately transferred again to Newcastle upon Tyne-this time as District Inspector in late 1911,where he took up residence in the suburb of Gosforth.

Between 1910 and 1914 he co-wrote, with Maj.L McCance late R. Munsters and illustrated The Records of the Royal Scots (The Lothian Regiment) which was published in Dublin in 1915. He
also provided a number of Uniform Plates for the Black Watch, The Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders,the Leicestershire Regiment and,of course the Northumberland Fusliers.-which prestigious Regiment he gained a commission into the 5 TF Battalion as a 2° Lieutenant in 1912 .

The Northumberland Fusliliers aka The Fighting Fifth was raised in 1674, as the 5 Regiment of Foot.He spent the next two years very happily in this new gentleman's club and made many friends. He was taught to ride a horse-all officers rode horses.'Such idyllic days; but war was looming and getting ever closer.

The Great War started in Aug. 1914 and the British Army was mobilised,every officer and man were called to the "Colours".5 Batt. Nthld Fus.after serving on R. Tyne Defences was sent to France in May 1915 as part of the 50 Division;which was given a Baptism of Fire when committed to the Battle of Loos—the Division was decimated. James Leask however missed all of this bloodshed as he was deemed too old for a subaltern's command in the field.In any event he was transferred to the Regiment's 4th Reserve Batt.;in which he served until Dec. 1917.

He was given a Medical and sent to France/Belgium to relieve front line officers for leave. James Leask,now a captain was sent to his 5th batt.serving with 50 Dvision on Passchaendale Ridge in Dec 1917.His first assignment was to relieve the CO who went on a Training Course;followed by two Coy Commanders for Xmas/NY leave and finally the 2nd IC when the CO returned.This period in the front line trenches, often under
artillery fire;was his baptism of fire-his letters to his wife were always cheerful.With this relief period over,he was not sent back to England because Colonel Wright,the CO wanted him as 2nd IC when the existing 2nd IC got a command of his own.He was offered and accepted the post of Wing Commandant ie the CO of the 50 Divisional Depot Batt.which was situated at XIX Corps HQ.and given the rank of Acting Major.-more about this post later.

All went smoothly until Feb.l918,when the British Army was reorganised.Each Brigade which had 4 Batts. was reduced to 3 and the surplus Batts.posted to other Divisions -this was brought about by the Government of the Day's refusal to send further reinforcements to maintain Divisions at their regular strength and this had serious repercussions; as shall be seen.

Following the reorganisation, 50 Division was ordered south to the old Somme Battlefield and here was placed in GHQ Reserve in the Moreuil Area .XIX Corps followed and so too did James Leask's little band -the 80ml train journey from the Ypres area to Corbie took 4 days and they arrived at Corbie on 18 March 1918.

On the 21 of March the much heralded German Spring Offensive (Kaiserslacht) began .At daybreak all the front line positions of the British 3rd and 5th Armies were deluged by 1000s of gas
and HE shells.British 3rd Army had 14 Divisions defending 28mls of front line south of the R.Somme,along with British 5th Army which had 13 Divisions defending 43mls-this critical disparity was to have serious consequences for the 5th Army, because not even the C in C FM Haig do anything to level up the strengths of the two Armies-he did however tell the GOC 5th Army "to do his best"

Throughout the next few days there was some gallant but desperate defending; but to no real avail the German Steamroller kept up the relentless pressure and the British Armies were driven back despite GHQ releasing the 8th,20th and 50th Divisions to attempt 5th Army to halt the German advance. By the 24 March every available soldier was called to the
Front. Capt. Leask and his ofificers,NCOs and men-perhaps 250 all told, were ordered to march to Villers Bretonneux on the afternoon of the 25th March; where they arrived after nightfall and were obliged to sleep in the street .

In the morning of the 26 Ct. Leask met fellow Dubliner Major R W,Kinghan late of the7/8th Batts .R Irish Fusliers- and now Head of 5 Army School of Musketry at Villers Bretonneux-along with his staff and pupils,perhaps another 200 all told. Major Kinghan was to be the officer commanding(he had fought in the Battle of the Somme) and Capt.Leask was 2nd IC. After picking up some stragglers Kinghan's Force numbered just short of 500; and to each of 4 Officers he allotted a Company of 125 men -all ranks.Weapons having been checked,3 or 4 mc guns scrounged; they started their march to the front line and arrived before nightfall.They were in front of the badly mauled 66th Division facing Framerville and to the north of the also newly arrived
Little's Force-another scratch unit also hastily put together at Corbie of the 66th Div. Depot Batt.-Lt Col W B Little DSO MC 0C 5th Batt. Border Regt.-66 Div's Pioneer Batt. The night passed without much incident.In the morning of the 27 Kinghan were detached to assist the 39 Division who were almost encircled by the enemy north of the road between St Quentin and Villers Bretonneux .They and the 16th Irish Division fought the 39 out of trouble, but not without loss to themselves.

The next 2-3 days saw much bitter fighting particularly in rearguard actions and this incurred casualties-mostly "missing".The German advance was relentless at this stage.On the 28th Kinghan's was amalgamated into Little's Force, in order to tidy up the various "commands";and during this day they witnessed the savage battle for Harbonniers who's defence was placed on the 8th.50th and 66th Divisions against five German Divisions. Littles Force defence line poured murderous fire into the exposed flank of the German advance and thereby reduced the possibility, of the now seriously depleted 66 Div;.giving way. However the outcome was inevitable-another retreat!

That night they quietly marched west to Rosierre en Santerre.On the morning of the 29 the 39 Division were engaged in battle at Wiencourt I'Equipe and when Little offered to assist was, as he put it, "chid from the field" and ordered to Demuin/Aubercourt to prepare the old Army Defence Line for the 39th to fall back on.During this General Feetham GOC 39th Div.was killed by a shell in Demuin and General Malcom GOC 66th Div. wounded nearby, after a meeting of the generals at Rosierres; to determine strategy!-that Strategy was RETREAT!


On the evening of the 29.first the 39 Div. (Remnant) and then 66 Div.(Remnant) fell back to the Aubercourt Defence Line. Little's Force who had been in Demuin on the 29th,but had abandoned it, but left Icoy in the village for it's defence; after heavy shelling;came into a defence position in trenches just North of the village -these trenches faced Demuin and were across the spur of the high ground between the roads to Villers Bretonneux and Marcelcave. The night was uneventful and the 39th Div .were able to to retreat through Aubercourt (Leask's position) behind Little's Force and go into a support position behind a spur of high ground between Demuin and Hangard.The other hard fought Divisions the 8th and 50th were on the south side of the R.Luce in the vicinity of Moreuil. The 61" Div.was 54 ml west of Marcelcave and the 20th Division was deployed along the Demuin to Moreuil road.

At first light the Germans attacked along both sides of the R.Luce,after a 90 minute bombardment of all British positions; but particularly the flanks of 61st and 20th Divisions. Two German Divs- the 19th and Guards Ersatz attacked the northern positions and the 208th and 243rd attacked on the south
side of the river .As the attack on the south side progressed elements of the German 208th Division occupied the high ground to the SE of Demuin and infiltrated Demuin village itself-the defence coy put up a desperate fight, despite being reinforced by two additional platoons; but were eventually driven out and across the R Luce to Little's position.

66th Div were now in serious trouble being threatened by enfilade fire from Demuin village and also from guns on the high ground above the village. This brought about the urgent need for a safe withdrawal of the 66th Div.troops.
To expedite tins move, Lt Col Little requested that Captain Leask at Aubercourt;to organise and lead a counterattack on Demuin with the objective of clearing the village of the enemy and holding for as long as possible; such that 66th Div could be extricated.

This task was carried out in the wordsof the Official Communique "in remarkably little time"and were able to hold the village so that 66th were withdrawn and having done so, proved to be Capt. Leask's undoing. Prior to 66th Div's withdrawal, 20th Divs 61st Brigade had maintained contact with the extreme west end of Demuin. Now with 66 Div .relocated further west,20 div conformed by pulling its forces back to the new line.This had several effects a)The Aubercourt Defence Line was lost to the Germans and b)The troops of the 208th German Div. who had managed to escape from Leask's cotmterattack came back to fight and c) Leask's men were running out of ammunition-their task accomplished this was now turning into a siege!

Little's men had also retreated up the Villers Bretonneux road to safety and a counterattack by troops of the 39 Div. failed and it was not until 2pm when someone woke up and ORDERED LittUe to get his men out. This order came too late for many, including Capt. Leask and his sergeant who had been wounded by a shell burst-his corporal and a man went to find a stretcher but when they returned there was nothing of Capt. Leask to carry away. His body was never recovered and he was reported on the day as "wounded whereabouts unknown"

For his action at Demuin ,Little recommended him for the Distinguished Service Order but this was downgraded to a Military Cross as he was not of field rank and not declared to be dead-the award was duly gazetted. His death was declared official on the 28th Dec. 1918. As he has no known grave, his name is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing Dead of the Somme.

Captain Leask was awarded the following awards for his Great War Service:-

The MiUtary Cross -4th Army Order of 17.5.18-London Gazette 26.7.18, British War and Victory Medals with Oakleaf Emblem-mentioned to the Secretary of State for War "for good service to the war effort 1.1.18 Territorial Force War Medal Croix de Guerre avec Star-a belated French award made in 1921!
Bronze Death Plaque bearing his name.

Major Kinghan was wounded during a final counterattack to retake Demuin at 3pm on the 30th.He spoke to a wounded sergeant in the Casualty Clearing Station who told him that he had been
wounded by the same shell that had killed Capt.Leask.Kinghan was also awarded the Military Cross and for him the war was over.Lt.

Col.Little went to command the 6 Royal DubUn Fusiliers
the unit which replaced the 5 Nthld FusiUers in the reconstituted 50 Div. He got a bar to his DSO
for Demuin and another for the Hindenburg Line Battle later in the war, as well as many foreign decorations incl. The American Distinguished Service Cross.

General Hubert Gough GOC 5 Army was sacked on the 28 Mar.and his Army given to a General who had lost his on the Somme in 1916-A scapegoat and the old pals act at work!

The above narrative is drawn from The Official History theWar,.Archive Military Records,Military Unit Histories.Personal letters of the time (various) and my own observations. I have visited Demuin several times in the last 12 yrs or so, to look at village and it's surroundings
(Geographical and Topographical) in order to try to understand what happened there on the 30th of March 1918-1 think I have a modicum of what the truth might be,but I fear that I shall never knowwhat really happened and WHY?One thing that I am sure of is, that THE FOG OF WAR played a major role.

POSTSCRIPT
PRIVY PURSE OFFICE,
BUCKINGHAM PALACE.S.W.
February 28th 1919.
Dear Madam,
The King and Queen have heard w i t h deep regret
t h a t the death of your husband, Captain J, C. Leask, MC.,
in the service of his Country is now presumed to have taken place in 1918.
I am commanded to convey to you the expression
of Their Majesties' sympathy w i t h you i n your sorrow and to
assure you t h a t during the long months of u n c e r t a i n t y Their Majesties thoughts have been constantly w i t h you and thosewho have been called upon to endure t h i s exceptional burden of anxiety.
Yours very t r u l y.
Keeper of the Privy Purse

My Regards
Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5732

Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 6:22:36 AM
Well done Jim. So many men just disappeared during the Great War with little to commemorate them but the monuments and the recollections of their family members.

Thanks for sharing this family story.


Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 6:30:32 AM
Thank you George-it was not an easy task-changing original documents to pdf so that I could C&P; but the result was a fearful task of reconstruction-hence the poor formation and spelling errors.I am glad that you have read it.

My Regards
Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 6:51:13 AM
Map of Area--expand and move up and down and left to right


[Read More]

My regards
jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5732

Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 7:26:15 AM
Hi Jim. That map shows allied troop movements in Aug. of 1918.

I have been trying to find a map of troop positions of your grandfather's unit in Mar. of 1918.

This one shows Demuin, where your GF was killed.

It is quite close to Amiens.




This map shows the advance of the German armies by the day.

While Demuin is not on the map, we can see the yellow line marking the line of advance to Mar. 29.

Demuin would be quite close to the point that the yellow line crosses the Rivière Luce, I think.

Your Granddad almost made it Jim. The German advance petered out shortly after and the British forces stopped them.

He did his duty as assigned and delayed them as long as possible.




George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Posts: 6103
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 7:49:19 AM
The crucial point was that GF not only had to clear the village-which he did between 8am and 9am
but had to remain in control of Demuin until all remaining troops had retreated past Demuin-which was 10.30 am
Then 20th Division pulled back away from Demuin to realign with 66th Division.Little was too busy arranging counterattacks
to regain the Aubercourt Defence Line-it was 2pm when he was ordered to get his men out-but by then it as too late
The Germans started shelling the village from the hill behind it at 1pm; and a 76mm whizz bang shell blew his legs off and he bled to death.
The Fog of War !!! Thank you for the maps- I had drawn one; but had no means of uploading same.

WAR OFFICE,
4 LONDON, S.W, I.
7 June, 1919.
Madam,
I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of
your l e t t e r of the 11th instant and to transmit the
Military Cross awarded to the-late Captain, J,C. Leask,
5th Battalion,, .Northumberland Fusiliers, attached'
5th Battalion, Border-Regiment, together with a statement
of the services for which the decoration was awarded.. '
I am to express to you the Secretary of State offers his
regret that t h i s gallant. Officer, who gave his l i f e for
his Country, did not survive to receive h i s reward from
the hands of His Majesty the King.
I t is requested that, you will he good enough to
acknowledge the receipt-of same on the enclosed form, ' '|
I have the honour to be, . .
Madam, '
Your obedient Servant,
Deputy M i l i t a r y Secretary


Awarded the Military Cross.


Captain James Cunliffe LEASK,
5th Battalion , Northumberland Fusiliers , T.F.,
attached 5th Btn . , Border Regiment.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to-duty '
in leading a counter-attack through a village. After,
severe fighting , he successfully cleared the village and
enabled a force to be.extricated, thus greatly assisting the
withdrawal that was in progress.He behaved with gallantry and skill

Extract London Gazette,
28th July 1918.



My regards
jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2603

Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 9:39:23 AM
What a moving story, Jim.

An officer and a gentleman.

A middle aged man who had to contend with the White Heat of battle in the most stressful of circumstances.

A couple of years hence will be the centennial of his death.....perhaps you might consider a pilgrimage to the place where he died.

Your grandfather exemplifies the qualities of those men who stood up to one of the fiercest onslaughts in military history.

Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

It makes me realise how lucky I was to have known both my grandfathers.

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 10:03:47 AM
Thank you Phil for your interest and input.I thought my GF extremely unfortunate to be in such a position on the fateful day-IF Col. Little had pulled him out as soon as his charges were clear- up in the hills near Hangard Wood-he would have got away with his life.If Wishes were Horses---???.I have been to Demuin about six times over the years; and was livid with the CWGC when they admitted to me, that remains had been found in 1996; but had been "disposed of"-they knew damn fine that I was intensely interested and would have donated DNA. 2018 is a long way off to me now.

My Regards
Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 10:24:17 AM
Copy of letter sent to my GM's uncle

In the field
24/4/18

Dear Mr. Pickering,
Major Tweedy, 4 N.F.'s has j u s t sent me your l e t t e r enquiring after
Capt. Leask, I remember him well as he was f i g h t i n g i n my mixed
force on March, 30th in and around Demuin, But I regret to say I
cannot give any d e f i n i t e information regarding him.
The last bit I definitely remember was him leading h i s Coy. in a
counter attack through the v i l l a g e (about 8 a.m.) which he did with
remarkable and outstanding gallantry. So splendidly did he and his
men fight that they cleared the enemy out of the village in a
wonderfully short time.

At the time the enemy was carrying out an enveloping movement and
my force being immediately threatened on the left flank I was ordered to withdraw. I then sent 2 different runners to Capt, Leask
ordering him to withdraw. I cannot say I actually remember seeing
him again although I do think he got back safely. Anyhow all through
that day we were heavily engaged and launching counter counter attacks,
during the night we were relieved and the 50th Div. troops had to
concentrate at a different rendezvous to my Division. As I had men
of 34 seperate Units f i g h t i n g with me that day you will understand
how impossible it was to keep i n touch with them all especially in
view of the fact that we were relieved that night,
I do hope sincerely that he came through a l r i g h t and if he has not
been heard of since the best we can hope for is that he was taken
prisoner.

Although I had never seen him before that day I formed a very high
opinion of him. He fought in a fearless manner and led his men with
great skill and courage.

I shall try and find someone who was with him on the day i n question
and make further enquiries - the result I will let you know.
Please convey my deepest sympathy to Mrs. Leask i n her period of suspense
and anxiety and tell her I hope she will soon have definite news of
her husband.
Yours sincerely,
W. B. LITTLE LT. COL.
Comm. of 5th Border Reg't B.E.F

My Regards
Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5732

Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 11:27:43 AM
So Lt. Col Little claims to have sent runners to tell your GF to withdraw. I suppose we'll never know whether it was actually done or whether the runners even got there. They may have been killed on route.

I cannot imagine the chaos that ensued as the Germans crossed the Luce and occupied the hill above Demuin.

Must have been frightening to realize that your small band was cut off and taking artillery fire.

Thanks for sharing Little's letter to your uncle, Jim.


George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 11:59:35 AM
The German 208th and the 243rd Division crossed the Luce at source at Rosieres en Santerre and proceeded along the high ground on the south bank of the stream-a detachment of the 208th chased Little's Defence Coy out of Demuin.Their artillery was set on Hill 102 behind the village threatening not only Demuin; but also the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, directly across the Luce valley, at Lamotte.They helped for a while on the evening of the 29th with covering fire for the 39th and 66th Divisions remnants retiring towards Hangard,but they too pulled back to Villers Bretonneux shorty after.

Little's runners- both junior officers of the Lancs Fus., were both taken POW,but were unavailable for questioning after the war- because they were still serving officers in the Army; and protocol forbade questioning an officer who has given his word.

My Regards
Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2603

Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 12:45:30 PM
Jim,

You allude to protocol forbidding the questioning of officers.

This surprises me.

Officers who had been taken prisoner were interviewed on their return as to the whys and wherefores of their capture. It was almost as if they were under some kind of suspicion.

My close friend's grandfather ( also a Captain ) was captured at almost exactly the same time as your GF was killed - in late March 1918 he was taken prisoner on the Albert Bapaume Road. He had to provide a written account of what had happened after the war.

There is a sequence of film footage, taken by the Germans, of large numbers of British POWs being marched into captivity - again, this was in the spring of 1918.

The men look pretty relaxed - almost cocky - but there is one officer, conspicuous by virtue of his demeanour : he actively shields his face from the camera with his helmet, doing his best to conceal his identity. He looks like a man mortified by his humiliation.

Interesting commentary on the code of conduct expected of men of a certain station.

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 12:57:34 PM
Ah!! that jogs my memory Phil -you are absolutely correct-they were questioned by the authorities on return from a POW Camp; and if "cleared of any wrong doing"-the matter was officially closed.The content of such a report of the enquiry was sub judice; and therefore not available to the public.AM I right here Phil??

My Regards
Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2603

Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 2:59:32 PM
Yup...that sounds right on the money, Jim.

Some form of inquiry was instigated when officers returned from their incarceration.

I think there's a lot to be extrapolated from the role of officers in WWI , especially British officers.

What I'm learning about the fate of the regular army officer cohorts of 1914 has astonished me...had I not seen the statistics of their mortality, I would have refused to believe how fatal their ordeal was.

I reckon it had a lot to do with noblesse oblige ; social convention and the burden that inevitably falls on a professional body when a nation takes up arms.

By 1918, as warfare had become more industrialised, more predicated on artillery timetables and the routines of an increasingly technological approach, the killing had become more indiscriminate, and the disparity between the death rates of officers and other ranks reduced.

In 1914, the role of the officer had been more conspicuous, the combat more of the close quarters and " personal " kind. The effect on the officer contingent of this kind of fighting was catastrophic.

Viewed in this light, the fate of your grandfather is all the more poignant - he had been steeped in the old fashioned military ethos of the late Victorian era, and, in his middle age years, was exposed to the violence of the most intense industrial onslaught that had yet occurred. A gentleman of the Old World, plucked out of his comfort zone, and pushed into something modern and monstrous, he went to it and paid the price.

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6103
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 3:23:53 PM
Quote Phil
"Viewed in this light, the fate of your grandfather is all the more poignant - he had been steeped in the old fashioned military ethos of the late Victorian era, and, in his middle age years, was exposed to the violence of the most intense industrial onslaught that had yet occurred. A gentleman of the Old World, plucked out of his comfort zone, and pushed into something modern and monstrous, he went to it and paid the price."

I knew my GF had lost his life in the Great War and it was only by accident decades later that I found out where-first Shaw Sparrow ,then accidentally coming across the 1922 publication of the 2nd/6th Btn of the Lancashire Fusiliers,which I photocopied and still have to this day-with all the names in.
A friend of mine from Mansfield Notts tok us to France and when we came down the hill from Villers Bretonneux there was Demuin;s CWGC Cemetery and I hurried in and there in a corner was a cross with the inscription "Known Unto God"-I planted my littLe wooden cross and with tears streaming down my face-I whispered "You aren;t lost anymore Grandfather-you are here or hereabouts-so I know where you are"I felt at peace knowing he was somewhere around Demuin-May God Rest His Soul.

My Regards
Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5732

Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 4:04:43 PM
Quite a pretty place to rest Jim, and well maintained by the CWGC



[Read More]



Jim, when I was searching for a photo of the British Cemetery at Démuin, I was surprised to find a reference to a second war cemetery at Démuin.

It caught my eye because it is called the Toronto Cemetery, Démuin.


I think that the fact that there are two cemeteries highlights just how often the same pieces of earth were fought over in this war.

Your grandfather lost his life March of 1918 and he and his fellows are buried in the British cemetery at Démuin or at the Toronto Cemetery or other places.

Names from all over the Commonwealth appear on these headstones.


In August of 1918, some Canadians lost their lives in this area at the beginning of the Last 100 days, during the Battle of Amiens. Members of the 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment) began to bury their dead here and other units also buried their dead here.

I mention it because while 74 graves contain Canadians, there are 22 UK soldiers buried here plus 1 Australians, and 4 German soldiers. I was hopeful that perhaps your GF was one of them but no.

There is a third CWGC cemetery at Hangard, not far from Démuin and your GF's name wasn't there.


I know that you have done your homework and have already checked but I am always stunned by the large number of soldiers from this conflict who have no known grave. So very sad.


Cheers,

George

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 5:36:02 PM
George,

Thanks for the photo.

You will not find Jim's GF's name on any headstone : he is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the missing - one of 14,655 who died in that sector in March and April 1918, and who have no known grave.

Not far from there is the Thiepval Memorial, with the names of 73,000 British and Empire dead from the earlier Somme battles who were never found or identified.

About one third of a million British and Commonwealth World War One dead who have no known grave are commemorated on memorials to the missing in France and Flanders, in addition to the several hundred thousand who have identified graves.

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/1/2016 6:58:47 PM
Thanks Phil. Jim mentioned that his GF had never been found. i was unsure as to where his name was commemorated.

I was just thinking that in the past few years, the bodies of soldiers have been discovered and identified.

Five Canadian soldier were discovered in the back yard of a French family.

All were on the Vimy memorial but have since been buried with their fellow soldiers.

I don't know whether their names would be removed from the memorial or not. That would be a difficult task.

Thanks for the statistics on the number of British and Commonwealth soldiers who simply vanished from the face of the earth. Shocking really.



George

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/2/2016 3:05:22 AM
George- there are two cemeteries at Demuin-the CWGC Toronto Cemetery just outside Demuin on the Villers Bretonneux road; and a civilian graveyard up the hill behind the village-it serves Demuin,Aubercourt and Courselles.


Pozieres War Memorial Click on Tablet to increase size

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My Regards
Jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/2/2016 3:59:37 AM
A word about Capt.Leask's attack on Demuin

Possible Reconstruction

He and his adjutant Lt.Herdman and say 120/130 NCO's and men. Leask took fifty nco's and men,Herdman had thirty men and the senior nco had thirty men-each team armed with a Lewis Gun and plenty of hand grenades.Once ut of the trenches and across the bridge at Aubercourt and passed through the hamlet of Courselles

The whole split up Capt Leask and his team took the tree covered grassy ride up to Demuin Village and its church. Herdman took the path to the right of Leask through the large reed bed behind the villager's gardens; and the third team took the country path up the hill on the left of Leask.
As luck would have it most of the Germans were at breakfast-the time being 8am.

When all teams were in position. Leask blew his whistle for the attack to begin-the two flank teams providing covering fire for Leask- whose target was the church and the village green.I do not think it was much of a fight-although lt Herdman was badly wounded by a German stick grenade-The Germans-those still alive -bugged out via a number of exits, particularly up the Moreuil road and the road up to Hill 102 from whence they had come.By 9am it was all over; but was it??The Germans knowing their enemy was in the village put them under heavy shell fire and intermittent incursions by the Germans who had fled.They were in for a torrid time.

My Regards
Jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/2/2016 4:39:57 AM

Quote:
Thanks Phil. Jim mentioned that his GF had never been found. i was unsure as to where his name was commemorated.

I was just thinking that in the past few years, the bodies of soldiers have been discovered and identified.

Five Canadian soldier were discovered in the back yard of a French family.

All were on the Vimy memorial but have since been buried with their fellow soldiers.

I don't know whether their names would be removed from the memorial or not. That would be a difficult task.

Thanks for the statistics on the number of British and Commonwealth soldiers who simply vanished from the face of the earth. Shocking really.



George
--George



George,

On the last Wednesday of every moth I attend a meeting of people interested in the Great War. This occurs in a London Pub and we sink a lot of beers, and conversation is by no means confined to matters 1914-18. But the array of scholarly talent and the profound commitment of our group of " Pals" is always inspirational to behold. Last week I attended, and was invited to join up with a group who are travelling to Belgium in April to witness the interment of six British soldiers who were discovered in road building activities near Ypres. Four of the six have been identified, and the ceremony is bound to be moving , with three hundred people in attendance - among them family descendants of the soldiers being buried. We know that these sodliers were killed on 24th May 1915, and that they were British gunners, victims of the last stage of the Second Ypres battle

One of the things that was emphasised by our group's " expert" was the wonderful way in which Canada leads the field in this endeavour : apparently the Canadians do more to inform and help their citizens when it comes to recovery, identification and information regarding war dead than the rest of the Commonwealth, although Australia comes a very close second. If you want to find out anything about the people who died, the advice goes, use the Canadian memorial archives online. We in the UK are not so well served, as Jim's experience will attest.

Of the third of a million 1914-18 Commonwealth war dead in France and Belgium who have no known grave, nearly two hundred thousand remain unrecovered, while there are 140,000 who are buried under headstones with the inscription A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR
KNOWN UNTO GOD

Sometimes it might say a little more, indicating that he was a member of so and so regiment, or from whatever Commonwealth country.

There are in addition nearly four hundred thousand 1914-18 casualties buried and identified in France and Belgium.

It's truly awful to countenance the scope and scale of the catastrophe, but, at the same time, it's an edifying testimony to our values that such immense efforts have been made to commemorate, by name, every person who died.

We can only guess at the numbers of unrecovered German dead from that war that remain along the old Western Front ; and then there are the French casualties, too.

Infra structure development brings forth more bodies all the time.

The dead of the Great War refuse to go away.

Regards, Phil
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/2/2016 5:31:54 AM
Phil-grateful thanks for the magnificent support that you and George have given me-you are right about the Canadians-I did some research for my son's father in law- whose uncle went to Canada in 1912 -joined up in 1914- killed at Vimy Ridge-the ease at which I got all this man's details for nothing- staggered me.I have paid professional PRO researchers a "small fortune" to get anywhere near the truth.


NB.Ossuaries

CWGC did not bury the bodies - either in whole or as parts. That was done by the army before they turned over responsibility for the completed cemeteries to CWGC.

The same would apply today to any remains found. The MoD would decide whether they had sufficient remains to call it a 'person'. I suspect that very few remains would be needed to warrant the creation of a new grave. Small quantities of human remains have been found on several occasions recently in excavated WW2 aircraft. These always warrant a full grave etc.

I have never seen any mention of the possibility of the British using ossuaries. They just do not figure in our culture. In fact, the whole thrust of the early discussions was to give each casualty their own individual grave wherever possible.

My Regards
Jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/2/2016 7:10:05 AM

Démuin is a small village in northern France. The village is situated in the Somme department in Picardie region . Démuin village belongs to the district of Montdidier and the township of Moreuil. The postal code of the town of Démuin is 80110 and its INSEE code is 80237. The people of Démuin call the Démuinois and Démuinoises.

Geography:
The average altitude of Démuin is 51 meters. Its area is 11.23 km². The latitude is 49,819 degrees North and longitude 2.536 degrees East. The cities and towns of Démuin are: Aubercourt (80110) at 1.42 km, Hangard (80110) at 1.67 km, Ignaucourt (80720) at 2.86 km Villers-aux-Érables (80110) at 3.55 km, Domart-sur-la -Luce (80110) at 3.67 km. (the distances to these nearby towns of Démuin are calculated as the crow flies - See the list of cities and villages of the Somme )


Population and housing:
Démuin population was 431 in 1999, 452 in 2006, 459 in 2007 and 472 in 2009. The village's population density is 42.03 inhabitants per km².
The number of dwellings in the municipality was estimated at 183 in 2007. These homes consist of 169 main homes, 5 second homes and 9 vacant accommodations.

Public services :
Here the directory utility Démuin .
The contact information for several key public services associated with the municipality: Mayor , EPCI , Prefecture , Sub prefecture , Pôle Emploi , CAF , CPAM , CROUS , CIO , Useful Numbers

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jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/2/2016 7:10:21 AM
Ossuaries do not feature in British Commonwealth rites.

French and Italian war dead are interred in ossuaries when and where the practicalities of battlefield clearance have determined. There is also the cultural difference : I think that nations with a significant or preponderantly Catholic population are more reconciled to ossuaries than their Protestant counterparts.

Regards, Phil
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/2/2016 8:03:11 AM
To return to the scene of the 30th March 1918.

THE WITHDRAWAL OF THE REMNANT OF THE 66TH DIVISION

This withdrawal was a costly business as the German machine guns caught men in the open as they crossed the sunken road leading from Demuin to Villers Bretonneux.

The following is an extract from a letter written a month later by Lt. C.H.Vines,who was wounded and taken prisoner,bears eloquent testimony to the severity of the Bosche machine gun fire.

"Major Chesney gave me orders to get the men out (of Demuin) and retire to a sunken road in the rear.I saw every one out and then tried to make good my own retreat,but came under machine gun fire.I was hit in the left arm (through the muscle),then a moment later through the left thigh,then in the back and out at the shoulder,lastly behind the left ear--I had made three attempts to get back but was wounded afresh each time.My next recollections were in a German Field Hospital"

An attempt was made from the line of the sunken road to cover the retirement with Lewis gun fire,but the position was untenable; as the enemy was able to enfilade it from Demuin village.

All Extracted from "The History of the 2/6th Lancashire Fusiliers" made and printed at the Observer Printing Works,Rochdale in 1927.

Quite "a turn up for the book" as it were-what does one make of that -I had forgotten all about th little gem ???

My regards
Jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 4:22:12 AM
The battle for Demuin did not finish with my GF's death.After 3pm Brig. Williams of the 66th Division supported by Col Little counterattacked to regain the Aubercourt Line.Little gives this description :-

"It was a fine show,just within an ace of being a huge success.It was wonderful to see our lines,hastily got together,advancing under a perfect hail of machine gun fire and shrapnel.I was on the left with some two to three hundred men,and I saw something I had never seen before,namely Hun gunners firing over open sights at us and running about feeding their guns.In a red brick house on the outskirts of Demuin, four machine guns were spitting fire;with any numbers dotted about.Despite this fire the men kept going only to be stopped by ground
that made further advance impossible-it was heartbreaking"

Source- Col.Little's Papers/Notes

My Regards
Jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 7:22:37 AM
Jim,

CWGC data reveal the extent to which the fortunes of war denied men like your GF the honoured and identified burial that was afforded their comrades in death.

More than half of all the British dead who fell in the Somme fighting of March 21st to April 30th 1918 have no known grave.

OTOH, in the August and Sepember fighting of 1918, fought over much the same ground, nearly three quarters of the British and Dominion dead were given identified burial.

This shows us how the desperate battles in the retreat, so vividly described by Little in your posts, Jim, resulted in the abandonment of the British dead and dying.

In August and September - a fact often overlooked - the British and Dominion troops lost nearly as many men killed in their victorious advance as they had lost in their shocking retreat several months earleir - but at least, this time, the majority of the dead were recovered for identified burial.

Regards, Phil
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 8:00:17 AM
Absolutely spot on Phil-the Retreat from Peronne to Villers Bretonneux ie 21/3--5/4 Edmonds in the Official History -published 1937- shows the following as Total Casualties :-

Officers

Killed-----1193
Wounded---4356
Missing----2795

Other Ranks

Killed----13630
Wounded--69169
Missing---86354

Total
Missing--89149

-A staggering figure I am sure you will agree. 5th army's XIX Corps the worst by far re. Missing--accepting of course-Edmonds states that some 70.000 of the Missing were POWs-so in reality about 20,000 soldiers were left dead or dying in the field.

My Regards
Jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 9:50:14 AM
Yes, grim figures indeed, Jim.

Take a look at the difference between the officers and the other ranks when it comes to the proportion of missing.

For all the officers confirmed killed, there are fewer than two and a half times that number posted as missing.


For all the men confirmed killed, there are more than six times that number posted as missing.

The fate of the officers was far more conspicuous ; a greater effort was made to identify their fate.

As you state, those unrecorded dead or dying outnumbered those posted as killed in action. Perhaps one in five of those recorded as missing in this fighting were dead ; the only mitigation being that the majority were POWs and would live to return home. Not so, alas, for your grandfather.

In many cases, even the soldiers who were counted among the killed and given identified burial, subsequently had their graves destroyed or lost, with the result that in post war clearances their bodies could not be found or identified, and their names were consigned to the memorials to the missing, such as the one that carries your GF's name at Pozieres .

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

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 10:21:40 AM
The whole sad business revolves around whether Armies were retreating or advancing.

An advancing army would leave its dead behind for the Graves Registration parties-not so in retreat-bodies were left behind for the enemy- who were more interested in pursuing the retreat-rather than stopping to bury enemy dead.I wonder what happened to the German dead during the Last Hundred Days when they were retreating???

My Regards
Jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 11:06:02 AM
Jim,

There were other reasons for the preponderance of missing dead.

In the 1916 battle of the Somme, there was very little capture of ground. The whole thing raged on a virtually static front for months on end, with the lines hardly shifting . Likewise Verdun, and also Passhendaele. In all three of these horrific battles, an even higher proportion of the dead were unrecovered or unidentified.
This was attributable to the pulverised nature of the battlefield.

The German dead during the Hundred Days ? My guess is that they were disposed of by random and cursory burial, with little incentive to identify. In many cases- I suspect - German POWs ( of which there were huge numbers taken during those days ) were put to work burying their own compatriots.

The revolting sight of long unburied dead made a deep impression on the soldiers. When the Germans recaptured Passchendaele in the spring of 1918, they were appalled to see that the dead from the previous autumn were still unburied - two thirds of them in khaki , one third in field grey ( wherever uniforms remained on the rotting corpses ).

Monty had witnessed these scenes in the Great War, and he retained a fixation that his men in WWII should be spared this nightmare , and insisted on rapid battlefield clearance as an essential drill for maintenance of morale.

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

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 11:26:11 AM

Quote:
The whole sad business revolves around whether Armies were retreating or advancing.

An advancing army would leave its dead behind for the Graves Registration parties-not so in retreat-bodies were left behind for the enemy- who were more interested in pursuing the retreat-rather than stopping to bury enemy dead.I wonder what happened to the German dead during the Last Hundred Days when they were retreating???

My Regards
Jim
--anemone



Good question Jim. The advances were swift and covered great distances in the Last 100 days.

Artillery was used effectively but unlike the static phase of the war, the ground was not pulverized to the same extent and again and again. The rains did not have as long a period of time to create the mire that made the discovery of bodies difficult.

So may we speculate that more of the German dead would be found and buried in the latter stages of the war.


The web site, "The Great War, 1914-1918, has a bit of information on the identification and burial systems.

[Read More]

What I found interesting were the maps of the positions of the war cemeteries all across France and Flanders.

Out of interest I tried to follow the general pathway of the Canadian and Australian Corps in the Last 100 days.

And of course, I found several CWGC cemeteries some of which were described as British, Canadian, Australian or French.

There were several German cemeteries but also several described as "Communal".

I don't know what communal means exactly but after checking the casualty lists for a couple, it seems that the grave sites could be from any of the participating countries whether allied or German.

Of the German graves that I checked and as we should presume, many were from the Mar, 1918 fighting and the Aug, 1918 fighting.

Perhaps this has not been helpful though it appears that an attempt was made to bury the German soldiers. Many were buried in mass graves and moved from the place of death so the discovery of those bodies could have been after the war.

The German agency that is responsible for war graves registration claims that there are still 80, 000 German deaths for which there are no known grave sites.

What an incredible slaughter that this war became.



RE: German War Graves Commission administers to over 800 military cemeteries across the world.

There is one in Canada, in Kitchener, Ontario. It is called Woodlands and contains the graves of 187 German military personnel from both wars. I believe that all were POW who died here in Canada.

There is a large population of Canadians of German descent in that part of Canada.

Nothing to do with this thread but the city of Kitchener was formerly the city of Berlin until 1916.

As you can imagine, there was great hostility toward anything German by 1916 even though the "Germans" living in Waterloo county and in the City of Berlin, Ontario were mostly Mennonites who had come north from the USA.

People were angry at the low rate of enlistment from this part of Ontario. There was a bust of Kaiser Wilhelm l in a park that was tossed into a local lake.

After a referendum and a good deal of violence, the name was changed to Kitchener.


Cheers,

George

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 11:54:25 AM
A fine report George-I have done most of the CWGC cemeteries from Ypres Flanders- all the way down to Moreuil in Picardy; but never beyond Peronne.I must have sen a hundred or more large and small; and that was just a drop in the bucket.Silent and a Sadness that was tangible.I remember that some bodies did not connect with the site-a soldier killed at Mametz in 1916 buried in a small cemetery near Rosieres en Santerre-up a grassy ride-completely hidden from view.I shall not do it again.

My Regards
Jim
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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 12:22:17 PM
George,

The figure of 80,000 unrecovered German dead is a fraction of the true total.

The German CWGC equivalent is the VdK.

The information is that there are just over nine hundred thousand German WWI military dead interred in cemeteries in France and Belgium.

These - note - are just the dead that they could find. Many, probably most, are unknown.

In Belgium, the VdK informs us that 132,000 German 1914-18 dead are buried, but that another 80,000 - 90,000 remain unrecovered. And that is just in Belgium.

In France, the number of WWI burials of German soldiers is c.770,000 : in addition, there are several hundred thousand more unrecovered.

The more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to believe that great numbers of the German dead from the Hundred Days were left to rot.

It's on record that the Germans were dismayed by the failure of their Franco British enemies to bury even their own dead. At Fromelles, for example, the local German commander suggested a truce so that the Australians and Britsh could recover and bury their own dead : this suggestion was refused, and the Germans buried them themselves, despite the fact that they were enemies. This, apparently , was not the first such occurrence. It was an unspeakably revolting process.
I have seen the reports of the battlefield archaeologist who exhumed hundreds of Australian dead recently, and even after the passing of a century the story is harrowing.

Perhaps the Germans, enjoying the role of occupiers, had a vested interest in remaining in situ for as long as possible, and were more inclined to keep things clean and tidy. Maybe Germans were just more fastidious and hygiene minded.

Jim, let me say how much I think that this thread of yours exemplifies the best that MHO has to offer. You provide us with a poignant personal account, involving your own family. You link this with first hand accounts of the soldiers who witnessed the action in which your GF died. You extend it to invite a general discussion about the nature of that war and the way that its legacy impinged on following generations. All honour to you, and, of course, to your grandfather.

Editing : After the war, the Germans were compelled to remove many of their dead from a multitude of cemeteries into several vast concentration cemeteries.
Many graves -indeed, whole cemeteries were lost ; some were deliberately destroyed by vengeful populations , especially in Belgium. Even today, some small German military cemeteries are being discovered, some of them tumbled down in rack and ruin ; there are distant areas of Poland where this has occurred. I daresay in the more remote areas of France - Argonne, for example - there are still long forgotten German graveyards from the Great War that come to light.

Regards, Phil

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 12:35:58 PM
Indeed Jim. It is difficult to look at those headstones.

The cemetery at Beaumont-Hamel affected me greatly. Row upon row of headstones of soldiers, July 1, 1916.

The British cemeteries all had the same date. I know that there were others buried who died on other days but the number who died on July 1 is astounding.



The cemetery at Dieppe brought tears to my eyes. The headstones were back to back in the German fashion and all I could see was the maple leaf etched into the stone and Aug. 19, 1942.

707 graves of the 944 there were Canadians. It was all that I could see.

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 1:16:32 PM
Many thanks for the accolade Phil-I was bursting to tell this long writ story; but could not find my photographs and diagrams-I was so upset that I kept putting the project off.

Way back in the 1990's, when I was much fitter than I am now; we were walking the front line at Framerville/Rainecourt and we stumbled upon what appeared to be an opened grave-the top had been smashed in; and we could see what appeared to be wooden boxes om the floor-two or three were open, and we discerned what could only have been skeletons-the womenfolk took fright and took off, and I was forbidden to go down into the pit-I had to desist for decency's sake. but I threw a little wooden cross into the crypt.

On reflection- I could hardly believe my eyes-these were long, long dead civilians whose rest had been shattered by a shell in 1918. JHC what a world !!!

NB.I also have "What Did You DO In The War Dad"but it is hand written and needs to be typed; but he was not in the Army rather the Royal Navy Reserve 1925-1948-but served on ships throughout WW2 1939-45.

My Regards
Jim

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 2:35:59 PM
Jim,

" ....and I was forbidden to go down into the pit..."

Arthur Scargill wasn't on the tour, by any chance ?

Forgive my silly humour.

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 2:41:16 PM

Quote:
The figure of 80,000 unrecovered German dead is a fraction of the true total.


Thanks Phil. The figure seemed quite unrealistic when I wrote it and you have confirmed that.

Now if I could only remember where I read it.

It strikes me that it was in an article or web site that discussed the reinterment of the bodies of German soldiers. The VdK had moved the bodies of over 872,000 with more to go but I do not know whether that was WW1 only or all wars combined.

Thanks for pointing out my error.


George


Phil andrade
London, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
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Posts: 2603

Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 3:07:27 PM

Quote:

Quote:
The figure of 80,000 unrecovered German dead is a fraction of the true total.


Thanks Phil. The figure seemed quite unrealistic when I wrote it and you have confirmed that.

Now if I could only remember where I read it.

It strikes me that it was in an article or web site that discussed the reinterment of the bodies of German soldiers. The VdK had moved the bodies of over 872,000 with more to go but I do not know whether that was WW1 only or all wars combined.

Thanks for pointing out my error.


George


--George


That figure would certainly conform to the estimated number of lost German WWI bodies in Belgium...perhaps it was an article alluding to Flanders alone : I know that there is a website IN FLANDERS FIELDS, with a section on cemeteries, and it explicitly suggests that the 130,000 German dead from 1914-18 in military cemeteries in Belgium implies a total of c 220,000 Germans who perished there, with the clear implication that eighty to ninety thousand German dead remain unrecovered in the old Belgian battlefields .

We know that CWGC data are very clear about the numbers of lost British Empire 1914-18 dead in France and Belgium : from a total of about 720,000 dead on the Western Front, rather more than one fourth have never been found, let alone identified. If that ratio applies to the British figures, we might reasonably assume that it would be higher for the defeated Germans, who were denied the same access to their dead. If nine hundred thousand have been buried - albeit largely as Unknown - then it's a fair bet that at least half a million others were not recovered for burial in France and Flanders ; some might have been buried initially , but in the course of time, in the years of war itself and in its dismal aftermath, their graves were lost or destroyed.

We might also wonder how many of the bones in the gigantic ossuaries at Verdun and elsewhere - supposedly French - are actually German.

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


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Re: The Pitiful Detritus of War
Posted on: 2/3/2016 3:18:16 PM
Postscript'

There are some loose ends to my tale-I have in my possession today-handed to me by my mother many years ago, who got the articles from her mother's possessions after she died.The articles in question are GF's wrist watch and gun metal cigarette case containing four stained cigarettes- sent to my GM along with his other effects.

Given that those two articles were taken from his clothing-what happened to his dog tags ???Answers in sealed envelopes please. Seriously.

My Regards
Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

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