October: The Somme Remembers and Commemorates and Essex Men Reburied

Posted on 31st October 2016 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

October: The Somme Remembers and Commemorates and Essex Men Reburied

It has been another busy month here with many stories to tell and history to discover. The weather has been autumnal with misty days and chilly nights though the last days of October have been mild and sunny, not wet like the conditions of 100 years ago.  The farmers are still toiling in the fields and The Somme is looking beautiful in the autumn light. So there has been plenty to keep us busy this month, including the reburial of 2 soldiers after 100 years…

Personal Pilgrimages

 The Somme Centenary has continued to inspire family of those loved ones who served and returned or served and died on the Somme to visit from near and far, as well as those with a general interest in the events here. October 1916 saw a period of fighting in the west and east of the Somme Front with names which now 100 years later still mean so much – Stuff Trench, Regina Trench, Schwaben Redoubt…. There was terrible weather in October 1916 in which the chalky, clingy, heavy Somme mud and the freezing, flooded battlefield became as formidable an enemy as the Germans. The British gradually pressed forward, still fighting against numerous counter-attacks, in an effort to have the front line on higher ground from which the offensive could be renewed in 1917.

Alan Pearce and his nephew Daryl visited to follow in the footsteps of Daryl’s ancestor William Edwin Barker of the Royal Field Artillery attached to 39th Division. David took Alan and Daryl out to the spots where William’s guns would have been positioned during the Somme battle. William survived the Somme, only to be killed in August 1917 at Pilkem Ridge. We were able to help them find out where their ancestor was involved in his final action at Pilkem Ridge in Belgium.

Alison and Gary Elvy from Kent have been visiting the Western Front for many years and are passionate about the history here. For some time they had been planning a special weekend for the weekend of 7th and 8th October as 100 years ago Alison’s great uncles were killed in action in the area between Flers and Guedecourt. They walked the lines on the day using trench maps and stopped at the point where Alison believes they were when they were killed. Both men are on Thiepval memorial so they laid crosses and raised a toast to their ancestors gone but not forgotten.

Maurice and Carol Turner made the journey to be at Connaught Cemetery on 8th October when Carol’s Great uncle was killed in action at Schwaben Redoubt.  The redoubt was finally taken in mid October after months of defence by the Germans.

Alan Graham came with his friend Richard to be at Stuff Redoubt on the 100th anniversary of his great grandfather Thomas Whiston’s actions as a stretch bearer which resulted in him being awarded a Military Medal. Thomas survived the war, only to suffer from industrial injuries from his trade in the print industry, and Alan has documented Thomas and his brothers story on a website:


Robert, Betty and Brett Palmer came from Melbourne, Australia to trace Robert’s grandfather Percy's  time on The Somme. Sadly, Percy was killed in action in August 1916 and has no known grave so is commemorated on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial. Robert’s grandfather died in the area north of Pozieres towards Mouquet Farm.

Heather and Malcolm Johnson are also frequent visitors to the Somme and came to pay homage to Heather’s ancestor who was killed in action near Les Boeufs.

The Laws family – 3 generations including Walter in his 80th year, daughter Jacklyn and grandson Thomas (who had his 8th birthday while staying with us – special cake sorted of course) along with Walter’s wife Joyce and Jacklyn’s husband Shawn, came to find out about Walter’s grandfather Joseph Fenwick who died on 1st July 1916 with the 3rd Tyneside Scottish in our village. His body was taken from the battlefield sometime later, but he was identified and is buried in Ovillers Military Cemetery. This wonderful family of 5 from Durham, spent a day with David walking in Joseph Fenwick’s footsteps. Young Thomas made his Cub Scout promise at Joseph’s grave. We were proud of them all, just as Joseph would have been.

During half term week another family explored their ancestor’s time on The Somme with David. Pete, Jo, Ella and Callum came searching for Private William Herbert Fovargue, Pete’s great grandfather who served with the 7th East Surreys and was wounded in August 1916, likely in the area north of Ovillers, around Moy Avenue. He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station behind the lines where he sadly died on 12th August 1916 and is buried in Varennes Cemetery. Seeing the area where he had been wounded was a special moment for the family, being able to understand a little better what had gone on here with such devastating consequences.

Also during the month Tim and his twin Nick, and their friends Andy and Paul came becasue they continue to be drawn here like a magnet - by the history and the stories of the men which still need to be told. We like to think the men of 100 years ago would be proud and humbled to know that today’s generation recognizes their sacrifice and still remember, often with difficult personal journeys being made. We salute you all.

2 Men of the Essex Regiment Reburied.

During the archaeological study of the Glory Hole in La Boisselle in 2013, 2 bodies of British soldiers were discovered, along with 2 French and a German soldier. Nearly 3 years later we were honored to attend the reburial of the 2 British soldiers on 19 October 2016 at Albert Communal Cemetery Extension. 

Privates William Marmon & Harry Carter of the 10th Battalion Essex Regiment, along with six more of their comrades had been killed by falling spoil from a 15-tonne German mine blown at the Glory Hole on 22 November 1915.  The men’s dug out was engulfed but it is believed Marmon and Carter were on sentry duty outside the dugout and were found closer to the surface. The bodies of the other 6 men sadly still lie entombed in situe. It is believed Marmon and Carter were on sentry duty due to the position they were found in and the artifacts found with them – flare guns, rifles bayonet fixed and ready etc. A painstaking job of recovering the bodies was undertaken and through modern methods of research, genealogy and DNA testing the identity of the 2 men was finally discovered. The story has not been in the public domain until now as the MOD were keen that the families of the men were contacted first and only when positive identification of the 2 men were made and the families informed, that the information was released.

The reburial was a remarkable occasion. Families of William Marmon and Harry Carter were there and the Anglian Regiment did a wonderful job as the men were buried with full military honours.  Draped in the Union flag, the coffins were borne by current serving soldiers and they painstakingly folded each flag while kneeling at the coffins with the Major of the regiment then presenting each of the 2 flags to a family member.

Members of the La Boisselle Team who carried out the archeology led by Peter Barton, were in attendance and it was wonderful to see their work reach at least a partial conclusion.

In the afternoon the families visited the Glory Hole to see where William and Harry had lain for so long, and of course where the other 6 Essex men, and not forgetting the other bodies which still lie there, beneath our village.

Carried by the Anglian RegimentAt the Glory Hole 

Further details on the project can be found at the La Boisselle Study Group web site.


 Battle End

As we are about to enter November we enter the final few days of the 100-year commemorations for the 1916 Battle of The Somme.

The end of the battle will be marked at Thiepval Memorial by a special Drum Head commemoration on 18th November 2016 at 13.30. This is a ticket only service and we are lucky to have been succesful in getting tickets and will be attending with our guests who have decided to be here on the day to mark the battle end.  The memorial will be closed for most of that day due to security arrangements and a park and ride will be in operation from Albert as there will be no parking on site that day. 

We too will mark the final day in some way at No.fifty6, just as we have continued to commemorate each day of the battle and remember the sacrifice of so many.

The week before that, 11th November we will be taking part in our village’s Armistice commemorations. The Mayor has asked Julie to read a small piece in 2 languages at the commemorations which will see the village and schoolchildren turn out in numbers as each memorial and cemetery in Ovillers and La Boisselle is visited from 10.30am, ending with a short service at Lochnagar crater at 14.30 and a vin d’honneur in the village hall.

Madame Guerin – The Poppy Lady

We have mentioned that Heather and Malcolm Johnson stayed with us in October. Heather is passionate about history and has done an incredible amount of research about a relatively unknown woman who should really be a household name. Madame Anna Guerin is one of the reasons the poppy has become the international symbol of remembrance we all wear. As we approach Armistice Day, please take a look at the website Heather has put together about Madame Guerin.


Building Works continue

The good news is Gregory, our injured builder is back and undertaking light(ish) duties. He is concentrating on the internal works including insulation and plumbing while there has also been a focus on external works and footings for the new area. Over the past few weeks we have had a digger clearing the area between the main house and the building being renovated, as we will have a new glass fronted building there which will link the main house and the renovated area. The digger has removed 8 tons of soil and spoil and we kept a close eye on the bucket – our French digger driver has been respectful and careful. We were not sure if anything would be found as the area sits on what was a German communication trench. Certainly we have not dug as deep as the trench would have been but even with just a few feet removed, we have found 18 pound shells, barbed wire, Mauser and Lee Enfield bullets and cartridges, shell casing and shrapnel. Most notably a large spoon which we believe to be British WW1 issue  - which needs a good clean up for any identification marks, and a little glass Huile de Ricin (Castor Oil) bottle which is French WW1 issue for medical purposes.  Brian Powell, archaeologist was here staying with us for the reburial of the Essex men and provided some useful insight on the artifacts and the soil strata that had been uncovered during our works.

Found by the digger, including a spoon and glass bottle. 

The digger is here again today, but filling in now with new footings.

The work continues and the dry weather is helping progress. Not sure of a completion date yet, we just take it one day at a time. 

Butterworth Farm

Our good friends Marie and Bernard Delattre who own and run Butterworth Farm B&B in Pozieres came to see us this week to let us know that they are selling Butterworth Farm. Bernard is the very active Mayor of Pozieres and they both want to spend more time with each other, their family and to go off travelling once in a while, which they have not been able to do while running a very popular B&B. It is a delightful place, running alongside Butterworth Trench and we have no heistation recommending it as a B&B.  So it is with a heavy heart that we learned that Marie and Bernard wish to sell but we are delighted they have exciting plans of their own and that someone else will have the opportunity to own this lovely established business. Marie and Bernard asked that we publicise that it is for sale. If you would like to know further details about Butterworth, then please message us privately.

Butterworth Farm B&B

 Chicken Postscript

The hens are happy. They still love our guests company and the odd treat. This weekend, keen photographer Chrissie from Glasgow went exploring in our garden to get some shots. She was accompanied by a red chicken who wouldn’t leave her side and clucked away merrily. . On her return to the house Chrissie asked who the nosy, talkative, photogenic chicken was – it had to be Joan! Everybody loves Joan. 

Joan and Mme Cholet

Comments (9)

Jonathan Hill says:

Interesting as ever to catch up with your news.

Dennis Weatherall says:

Another fabulous report from the front ! I've read it all and I'm sure both Darryn & Jarrod will do the same. Great work on the dig and the Poppy story interesting. It's just a year ago we three Weatherall boys stayed with you and the hens. Jarrod only the other day showed me a picture of a horse that was in the next paddock. We look forward to the next dispatch. Dennis

Len Chaganis says:

Sorry I missed you both in September at the Bell Redoubt memorial, thank you so much for looking after the family... see you next year all the best Len

Gary Linnell says:

Thanks, good to be kept informed as I'm travelling lots in eastern Europe but good to be kept up to date. Best wishes to you both. Gary

Rob Kirk says:

Every issue is worth waiting for - but this is superb. So much of interest. Well done. The link to the Madame Guerin website is fascinating, the 'finds' in the front yard are tantalising, and your reports on the visitors with their stories are invaluable. Some of this, I predict, with your permission, will end up in 'Lochnagar Crater Today'. Also good news about progress on the building work: we have to find room for Spencer and Stacey in May!

David Harvey says:

Thanks for sharing your news. Always interesting and brings back thoughts of memorable & emotional days in our forebears footsteps on the Somme.

Glyn John says:

just like to say how much I enjoy reading your news letter I always look forward to it.I have never stayed with you as yet, you were booked out last time I tried, but you never now one day. Glyn. John companies old sahib battlefield tours LTD.

Andy Rawson says:

Some great stories from No 56.

Jennifer Iles says:

Yet again, another newsletter packed full of rich, interesting information! Many thanks.

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