BOULOGNE EASTERN CEMETERY
Pas de Calais
General Directions: Boulogne-sur-Mer is a large Channel port. Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, one of the town cemeteries, lies in the district of St Martin Boulogne, just beyond the eastern (Chateau) corner of the Citadel (Haute-Ville). The cemetery is a large civil cemetery, split in two by the Rue de Dringhen, just south of the main road (RN42) to St Omer. The Commonwealth War Graves plot is located down the western edge of the southern section of the cemetery, with an entrance in the Rue de Dringhen. Unusually, the headstones are laid flat in this cemetery. This is due to the sandy soil. Car parking is available along the Rue de Dringhen.
Boulogne, was one of the three base ports most extensively used by the Commonwealth armies on the Western Front throughout the First World War. It was closed and cleared on the 27 August 1914 when the Allies were forced to fall back ahead of the German advance, but was opened again in October and from that month to the end of the war, Boulogne and Wimereux formed one of the chief hospital areas. Until June 1918, the dead from the hospitals at Boulogne itself were buried in the Cimetiere de L'Est, one of the town cemeteries, the Commonwealth graves forming a long, narrow strip along the right hand edge of the cemetery. In the spring of 1918, it was found that space was running short in the Eastern Cemetery in spite of repeated extensions to the south, and the site of the new cemetery at Terlincthun was chosen. During the Second World War, hospitals were again posted to Boulogne for a short time in May 1940. The town was taken by the Germans at the end of that month and remained in their hands until recaptured by the Canadians on 22 September 1944. Boulogne Eastern Cemetery contains 5,577 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 224 from the Second World War. The Commonwealth plots were designed by Charles Henry Holden & William Harrison Cowlishaw
Further Information: This Cemetery is open every day of the year. From 1 October to 15 March: 08.00 - 18.00. From 16 March to 30 September: 08.00 - 19.00.
Victoria Cross: Captain Frederick William Campbell, VC. 1st Bn. Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario Regiment), died of wounds 19/06/1915. Plot II. A. 24.
Citation: An extract from the London Gazette, No. 29272, dated 20th Aug., 1915, records the following:-For most conspicuous bravery on 15th June, 1915, during the action at Givenchy. Lt. Campbell took two machine-guns over the parapet, arrived at the German first line with one gun, and maintained his position there, under very heavy rifle, machine-gun and bomb fire, notwithstanding the fact that almost the whole of his detachment had then been killed or wounded. When our supply of bombs had become exhausted, this Officer advanced his gun still further to an exposed position, and, by firing about 1,000 rounds, succeeded in holding back the enemy's counter-attack. This very gallant Officer was subsequently wounded, and has since died.
Shot at Dawn: 18603 Private G. Mills, 2nd Bn. Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, executed for desertion 29/09/1915. Plot VIII. B. 81.
Shot at Dawn: C/40124 Lance Bombardier F. S. Arnold, 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, executed for desertion 25/ 07/1916. Plot VIII. A. 137.
Shot at Dawn: 107526 Private J. W. Roberts, 2nd Bn. Canadian Mounted Rifles, executed for desertion 30/07/1916. Plot VIII. A. 154.
Shot at Dawn: 26/626 Acting Corporal J. R. Short, 24th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers, executed for mutiny 04/10/1917. Plot VIII. I. 43.
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 4735, Canada 442, Australia 307, New Zealand 74, South Africa 15, India 5, Total Burials: 5578
Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, probably early 1920's
A group of demobilised army nurses embarked for home on the ferry at Boulogne in 1919. (Photgraphed by Olive Eldis)
© IWM (Q 7999)
Doing their Bit - The Voluntary Aid Detachment
by Janine Lawrence
Over the centuries the history of our country has been littered with governmental mistakes and mishaps. How refreshing then, that in 1908 the new Secretary of State for War, Lord Haldane, undertook reforms in the army which were to have far-reaching effects.
He established a new part-time army of volunteers who were fully-trained soldiers in full-time jobs and who were organised on a county system. This Territorial Force became jokingly known as the 'Saturday Night Soldiers' as the young men who joined were taught to shoulder arms at weekly meetings and drills. They even attended summer camp and many 'Terriers' were at camp when war was declared in August 1914.
In 1909, with unbelievable foresight, the War Office issued a 'Scheme for the Organisation of Voluntary Aid in England and Wales' which recognised the need to provide sufficient medical backup to supplement the Territorial Force in the event of war. Ultimate efficiency would not be realised unless all voluntary aid was co-ordinated and the Territorial Associations were directed to entrust the work to the British Red Cross which had also adopted the county system of organisation. They joined up with the Order of St John of Jerusalem and thus, the organisation known as the Voluntary Aid Detachment was born.
Detachments were divided into those for men and those for women. Men's detachments numbered 56 lead by a commandant and comprising a medical officer, a quartermaster, a pharmacist and four section leaders each responsible for 12 men. They were usually responsible for transport and converting suitable buildings into hospitals and clearing stations and would also act as stretcher-bearers and male nurses if required. After enrolment the men studied first aid and were lectured in the various duties connected with transport and camps.
The women's detachments were less than half the strength of the men. They were also led by a commandant, who could either be male or female and not necessarily a doctor, a quartermaster, a trained nurse as a lady superintendent and 20 women of whom four had to be qualified cooks. It was felt the women's detachments would be better served to the 'less arduous' task of forming railway rest stations where they could prepare and serve meals for sick and wounded soldiers. It was obvious they were seen more as domestic assistants than nurses! However, they were given lectures in first aid, home nursing, hygiene and cookery and were occasionally given training in infirmaries. They were taught to identify suitable buildings for use as temporary hospitals and how to obtain equipment and supplies.
Within a year membership numbered somewhere around 6000 with over 2,500 detachments. These numbers increased considerably after the outbreak of war in 1914 and numbers rose to over 74,000, two-thirds of whom were women and girls.
As men were called away to answer their country's call it fell upon the women to fill their shoes in whatever way they could. Initially it was mostly middle-class women who were eager to 'do their bit' and they took on roles such as ambulance drivers, welfare officers, fundraisers, civil defence workers and even letter writers for the illiterate. It is interesting to note that the novelist, Agatha Christie was a VAD and worked in a hospital pharmacy where she learned about poisons!
The military authorities were reluctant at this early stage to accept VADs on the front line, perhaps thinking that the battlefield was no place for a woman. However, this restriction was lifted in 1915 and women volunteers over the age of twenty three and with more than three months experience were allowed to go to the Western Front, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. Eventually VAD's were also sent to the Eastern Front.
Before the outbreak of war some VADs had taken short nursing courses for which they were awarded certificates. Qualified nurses had undertaken three years training and were understandably suspicious of these short courses, referring to the volunteers as 'ignorant amateurs'. Quarrels broke out and there are even reports of open conflict before the new spirit of unity in time of war was felt and working together for mutual benefit was the order of the day.
The VAD's became very active in the war effort using influence to transport themselves to the conflicts in France to care for the sick and wounded and thus carving out for themselves a clear role as nurses or orderlies in hospitals at home and in the theatres of war. By 1916 their numbers had increased to 80,000.
In 1917 clear regulations were laid down by the British Red Cross which governed the employment of nursing VAD's in military hospitals. Age limits were specified and volunteers should be between 21 and 48 years of age for home service and 23 and 42 for foreign. They were to be appointed for one month on probation during which time they were assessed for suitability by the matron. They then had to sign an agreement to serve for six months or the duration of the war, at home or abroad. Salary would be £20 per annum rising to £22.10.0 for those who signed on for another six months at the end of their current contract. Increments of a further £2.10.0 would be paid every six months until probationers reached the maximum of £30 per annum.
It was also laid down that VAD's should work under fully trained nurses with duties including sweeping, dusting, polishing, cleaning, washing patients' crockery, sorting linen and any nursing duties allotted by the matron.
Meanwhile, VAD hospitals were being set up in Blighty and were mostly located in large houses loaned for the purpose by their owners. Gustard Wood at Wheathampstead and The Bury at King's Walden are just two Hertfordshire premises used. The Council School in Royston and the former mental hospital, Napsbury in Colney Heath are examples of institutes put into service.
These hospitals received the sum of three shillings per day per patient from the War Office and were expected to raise additional funds themselves. As everyone was keen to be seen to help the war effort this was not difficult and local newspapers regularly featured lists of donations received - obviously anonymity did not seem to be the case!
Many women returning home after the conflict ended undertook formal nurse training and registration with the General Nursing Council. Others tried to pick up the threads of their former lives. What must be certain is that life could never have been the same for any of them again. The sight, smell and fear of war must have been imprinted on every mind bringing about a change in the lives of women which would grow and grow over the following years.
Our thanks to Janine Lawrence for permission to use this article
© Janine Lawrence
Interior of Ambulance Train at Boulogne
© IWM (Q 14760)
Canadian V.A.D, staff of the Canadian Rest House for nursing sisters passing through Boulogne. 29 July 1918.
© IWM (Q 9140)
Used with permission www.cwgc.org