LILLERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Lillers

Pas de Calais

France

 

General Directions: Lillers is a small town about 15 kilometres west-north-west of Bethune and the Communal Cemetery and Extension lie to the north of the town. From the Mairie in the centre of the town, head north on the D182, after 500 metres turn right onto Rue St Venant. The cemetery is a further 200 metres on the left hand side. Within the Communal Cemetery the Commonwealth war graves are situated on the right hand side half way up the cemetery central path, and the Extension is at the far right end of the Communal Cemetery. Both cemeteries are signposted.

Lillers was used for billets and headquarter offices from the autumn of 1914 to April 1918. At that time it was a hospital centre with the 6th, 9th, 18th, 32nd, 49th and 58th Casualty Clearing Stations in the town at one time or another. These units buried their dead on the right of the central path of the communal cemetery, working back from Plot I. In April 1918, the Germans advanced as far as Robecq: Lillers came under shell-fire, and the units holding this front continued to bury beyond the cemetery boundary, in the extension.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens & Arthur James Scott Hutton

Victoria Cross: 6707 Corporal, William Richard Cotter, VC. 6th Bn. The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), died of wounds 14/03/1916, aged 33. Plot IV. E. 45.

Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 28th March, 1916 (No. 29527), records the following:-"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. When his right leg had been blown off at the knee and he had also been wounded in both arms, he made his way unaided for fifty yards to a crater, steadied the men who were holding it, controlled their fire, issued orders, and altered the dispositions of his men to meet a fresh counter-attack by the enemy. For two hours he held his position, and only allowed his wounds to be roughly dressed when the attack had quieted down. He could not be moved back for fourteen hours, and during all this time had a cheery word for all who passed him. There is no doubt that his magnificent courage helped greatly to save a critical situation."

Victoria Cross: Major David Nelson, VC. Mentioned in Despatches. "D" Bty. 59th Bde. Royal Field Artillery, died of wounds 08/04/1918, aged 31. Plot V. A. 16.

Citation: An extract from the "London Gazette" (No. 28976, dated 13th Nov., 1914), records the following-"Helping to bring the guns into action under heavy fire at Nery on 1st September, and while severely wounded remaining with them until all the ammunition was expended-although he had been ordered to retire to cover."

Shot at Dawn: 6807 Private J. J. Dennis, 1st Bn. Northamptonshire Regiment, executed for desertion 30/01/1916. Plot 4. E. 16.

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 697, Canada 42, Australia 1, South Africa 1, India 153, France 15, Total Burials: 909

 

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Buried within this cemetery:

 

Private 16866

Thomas O'Connor

10th Bn. Highland Light Infantry

KIA 14/07/1915, aged 30

Husband of Alice O'Connor, of 30, Wellwynd St., Airdrie.

Plot II. A. 38

 

Image courtesy of Joe O'Raw and William Kilgour

18729 Airman 1st Class

L. K. H. Bailey

1st Bde. HQ.

Royal Flying Corps

18/09/1917.

Plot V. E. 18.

 

4135 Private

Robert (Robbie) Williams

6th Bn. Queen's Own

(Royal West Kent Regiment)

12/10/1915, aged 20.

Son of Robert Henry and Emma Williams, of 108, Hertford Rd., Enfield Wash, Enfield, Middx.

Plot IV. C. 29.

 

According to the family Robbie had been given some R&R leave and was behind the lines when the area was hit by Artillery fire. Robbie was hit in the stomach by shrapnel and died some 10 days later; a few days after his 20th birthday.

 His mother, Emma, was apparently very distressed for a second time when she received his birthday presents back un-opened.

 

 

 

Picture courtesy of Robert Gillard of Whangarei, New Zealand,  great nephew of this soldier

 

 

 

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