Pas de Calais



General Directions: Vieille-Chapelle is a village north east of Bethune. From Bethune follow the D945 to Estaires for approximately 10 kilometres. Take the right turn onto the small road signposted to Vieille-Chapelle opposite Zelobes Indian Cemetery. Follow this small road and on entering Vieille-Chapelle village, the Vieille-Chapelle New Military Cemetery lies on the right hand side of the road.

The Old Military Cemetery (now removed) was closed in November 1915, as being too near the school; and the New Military Cemetery was begun in that month and used by fighting units and Field Ambulances until March 1918. The village and the cemetery fell into German hands in the following month, in the Battles of the Lys; but in September 1918, on the German retirement, some further burials took place. These original graves are in Plot I and Plot IV, Rows A and B.

The remainder of the cemetery was made after the Armistice, by the concentration of British, Indian and Portuguese graves from the neighbouring battlefields and from other cemeteries; but the Portuguese graves were removed to Richebourg-L'Avoue Portuguese National Cemetery in 1925, and three German prisoners graves have also been removed.

The following were among the burial grounds from which graves were taken to this cemetery:-

BOUT-DE-VILLE GERMAN CEMETERY, RICHEBOURG-ST. VAAST, 19 kilometres North-East of Vieille-Chapelle, where five soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried by the enemy in April 1918 and 28 by their comrades in September and October 1918.
KING's LIVERPOOLS GRAVEYARD, CUINCHY, situated among houses on the West side of the Festubert-Cambrin road, opposite Givenchy. It contained the graves of 170 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from Canada, almost all of whom fell in 1915 or 1918; it was begun by the 1st King's in February 1915, and used by the 55th Division in April 1918.
LOCON OLD MILITARY CEMETERY, 228 metres East of the village, used in June 1915 and containing the graves of ten soldiers from the United Kingdom.
LOCON NEW MILITARY CEMETERY, begun by the 38th (Welch) Division in September 1915 and used in 1916 and 1918; it contained the graves of 30 soldiers from the United Kingdom, and it was 365 metres West of the village on the road to Merville.
RICHEBOURG-ST. VAAST CHURCHYARD, where four soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried in 1915.
ROUGE-CROIX, RICHEBOURG-ST. VAAST, a hamlet at the crossing of the Rue-du-Bacquerot and the Estaires-La Bassee road. Here were buried 24 men of the 2nd East Lancs, who fell on the 14th March 1915, and two unknown gunners.
ROYAL BERKS CEMETERY, CUINCHY, 182 metres South-West of Cuinchy Church. Here were buried, in 1915, 53 soldiers from the United Kingdom, of whom 34 belonged to the 1st Royal Berks, and one German prisoner in 1917.

There are now nearly 1,000, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Almost all fell in 1914, 1915 or 1918, and most of those who fell in 1918 belonged to the 55th (West Lancashire) Division. Of these, over one-third are unidentified and special memorials are erected to five soldiers from the United Kingdom, believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of nine soldiers from the United Kingdom, buried in other cemeteries, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.

The cemetery covers an area of 4,111 square metres and is enclosed by a stone rubble wall.

The village was later "adopted" by the Metropolitan Borough of Paddington. The Communal Cemetery contains a memorial to the 1st King Edward's Horse, who defended the village in April 1918.

Victoria Cross: Second Lieutenant Joseph Henry Collin, VC, 4th Bn. King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), killed in action 09/04/1918, aged 24. Plot III. A. 11. 

Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 25th June, 1918, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice in action. After offering a long and gallant resistance against heavy odds in the Keep held by his platoon, this officer, with only five of his men remaining, slowly withdrew in the face of superior numbers, contesting every inch of the ground. The enemy were pressing him hard with bombs and machine-gun fire from close range. Single-handed 2nd Lt. Collin attacked the machine gun and team. After firing his revolver into the enemy, he seized a Mills grenade and threw it into the hostile team, putting the gun out of action, killing four of the team and wounding two others. Observing a second hostile machine gun firing, he took a Lewis gun, and selecting a high point of vantage on the parapet whence he could engage the gun, he, unaided, kept the enemy at bay until he fell mortally wounded. The heroic self-sacrifice of 2nd Lt. Collin was a magnificent example to all."

Victoria Cross: Second Lieutenant John Schofield, VC, 2nd/5th Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers, died of wounds 09/04/1918, aged 26. Plot III. C. 8.

Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 25th June, 1918, records the following:-"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in operations. 2nd Lt. Schofield led a party of nine men against a strong point which was reported strongly held by the enemy, and was attacked by about 100 of the enemy with bombs. He disposed his men so skilfully, and made such good use of rifle and Lewis gun fire, that the enemy took cover in dug-outs. This officer himself then held up and captured a party of twenty. With the help of other parties this position was then cleared of the enemy who were all killed or captured. He then collected the remainder of his men, made his party up to ten, and proceeded towards the front line, previously informing his Commanding Officer as to the position, and that he was proceeding to retake the front line. He met large numbers of the enemy in a communication trench in front of him and in a drain on his right and left. His party opened rapid rifle fire, and he climbed out on to the parapet under point blank machine gun fire, and, by his fearless demeanour and bravery, forced the enemy to surrender. As a result, 123 of the enemy, including several officers, were captured by 2nd Lt. Schofield and his party. This very gallant officer was killed a few minutes later."

Shot at Dawn: 18/313 Private H. Crimmins, 18th Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment, executed for  desertion 05/09/1916. Plot 5. F. 9 

Shot at Dawn: 18/356 Private A. Wild, 18th Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment, executed for desertion 05/09/1916. Plot 5. F. 6.

Shot at Dawn: 7595 Private J. A. Haddock, 12th Bn. Yorks & Lancs Regiment, executed for desertion 16/09/1916. Plot 6. F. 5.

The mass pardon of 306 British Empire soldiers executed for certain offences during the Great War was enacted in section 359 of the Armed Forces Act 2006, which came into effect on royal assent on 8 November 2006.

Casualty Details: UK 918, Canada 1, India 72, Total Burials: 991


This picture courtesy of Colin Ellender



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