VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MILITARY CEMETERY and MEMORIAL

Villers-Bretonneux

Somme

France

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The stairwell looking toward the top of the memorial

Villers-Bretonneux is a village 16 kilometres east of Amiens on the straight main road to St Quentin. The Cemetery is about 2 kilometres north of the village on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.


Villers-Bretonneux became famous in 1918, when the German advance on Amiens ended in the capture of the village by their tanks and infantry on 23 April. On the following day, the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions, with units of the 8th and 18th Divisions, recaptured the whole of the village and on 8 August 1918, the 2nd and 5th Australian Divisions advanced from its eastern outskirts in the Battle of Amiens.


VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MILITARY CEMETERY was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from other burial grounds in the area and from the battlefields. Plots I to XX were completed by 1920 and contain mostly Australian graves, almost all from the period March to August 1918. Plots IIIA, VIA, XIIIA and XVIA, and Rows in other Plots lettered AA, were completed by 1925, and contain a much larger proportion of unidentified graves brought from a wider area. Later still, 444 graves were brought in from Dury Hospital Military Cemetery.


The following were among the burial grounds from which graves were taken to Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.


CARD COPSE CEMETERY, MARCELCAVE, on the road to Fouilloy, where 35 Australian soldiers were buried by the 2nd Australian Division in July and August 1918.


DURY HOSPITAL MILITARY, CEMETERY, under the wall of the Asylum near the West side of the Amiens-Dury road. From August 1918 to January 1919, this building was used intermittently by British medical units, and a cemetery was made next to an existing French Military Cemetery. The British cemetery contained the graves of 195 Canadian and 185 United Kingdom soldiers and airmen; 63 Australian soldiers; one man of the Cape Auxiliary Horse Transport Corps; and one French and one American soldier.


HIGH CEMETERY, SAILLY-LE-SEC, on the road to Ville-sur-Ancre, where 18 United Kingdom and eleven Australian soldiers were buried in June-August 1918.


KANGAROO CEMETERY, SAILLY-LE-SEC (on the Ville-sur-Ancre road, but nearer Sailly), where 13 Australian soldiers were buried by the 41st Battalion in March-April 1918, and 14 of the 58th (London) Division by their comrades in August 1918.


LAMOTTE-EN-SANTERRE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION. The village was captured by Australian troops on the 8th August 1918, and the Extension contained the graves of 56 Australian and twelve United Kingdom soldiers who fell in August and September.


LA NEUVILLE-LES-BRAY COMMUNAL CEMETERY, containing the grave of one Australian soldier who fell in August 1918.


LE HAMELET BRITISH CEMETERY (behind the Church), contained the graves of 25 Australian soldiers who fell in April-July 1918; and the COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, in which 27 Australian soldiers and one from the United Kingdom were buried in July and August 1916.


MIDWAY CEMETERY, MARCELCAVE, 1,400 metres North-West of Marcelcave Church, made by the Canadian Corps and containing the graves of 53 Canadian and three United Kingdom soldiers who fell in August 1918.


VAUX-SUR-SOMME COMMUNAL CEMETERY, contained three Australian graves of March-April 1918, and two United Kingdom of 1916 and 1917; and the EXTENSION, made in May-August 1918, and contained the graves of 130 Australian soldiers and 104 soldiers (mainly 58th Division and Artillery) and one airman from the United Kingdom.


WARFUSEE-ABANCOURT COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, in which five Australian soldiers were buried by the 12th Australian Field Ambulance in August 1918.


There are now 2,142 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 609 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to five casualties known or believed to be buried among them, and to 15 buried in other cemeteries whose graves could not be found on concentration. The cemetery also contains the graves of two New Zealand airmen of the Second World War.


Within the cemetery stands the VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MEMORIAL, the Australian national memorial erected to commemorate all Australian soldiers who fought in France and Belgium during the First World War, to their dead, and especially to name those of the dead whose graves are not known. The 10,765 Australian servicemen named on the memorial died in the battlefields of the Somme, Arras, the German advance of 1918 and the Advance to Victory. The memorial was unveiled by King George VI on 22 July 1938.

The cemetery and the memorial were both designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens

Casualty Details: UK 1089, Canada 267, Australia 779, New Zealand 2, South Africa 4, Total Burials: 2141 (Cemetery)

DISCOVERY OF REMAINS AND ADDITIONAL COMMEMORATIONS

Of the 10,982 names displayed at the unveiling of the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial the burial places of many have since been identified and this continues to this day; 6 of these being among the significant discovery of 250 burials which culminated in the first new Commission cemetery in 50 years being dedicated in July 2010 as Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Cemetery.

All these discoveries are now commemorated by individual headstones in the cemeteries where their remains lie and their details recorded in the relevant cemetery registers; their names will be removed from this memorial in due course.

Time has also revealed more names not previously notified which have now been added to this memorial and register.

There are now 10,739 Australian servicemen officially commemorated by this memorial and named within the register.

 

 

 

 

  Victoria Cross: Lieutenant John Brillant, VC. MC. 22nd Bn. Canadian Infantry (Quebec Regiment), 10/08/1918. Son of Joseph Brillant, of Rimouski, P.Q., Canada. Plot VIA. B. 20. (Cemetery)

Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette" No. 30922, dated 27th Sept., 1918, records the following:-"For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty when in charge of a company which he led in attack during two days with absolute fearlessness and extraordinary ability and initiative, the extent of the advance being twelve miles. On the first day of operations shortly after the attack had begun, his company's left flank was held up by an enemy machine gun. Lt. Brillant rushed and captured the machine-gun, personally killing two of the enemy crew. Whilst doing this, he was wounded but refused to leave his command. Later on the same day, his company was held up by heavy machine-gun fire. He reconnoitred the ground personally, organised a party of two platoons and rushed straight for the machine-gun nest. Here 150 enemy and fifteen machine-guns were captured. Lt. Brillant personally killing five of the enemy, and being wounded a second time. He had this wound dressed immediately, and again refused to leave his company. Subsequently this gallant officer detected a field gun firing on his men over open sights. He immediately organised and led a "rushing" party towards the gun. After progressing about 600 yards, he was again seriously wounded. In spite of this third wound, he continued to advance for some 200 yards more, when he fell unconscious from exhaustion and loss of blood. Lt. Brillants wonderful example throughout the day inspired his men with an enthusiasm and dash which largely contributed towards the success of the operations."

 

Victoria Cross: 3055 Private, Thomas Cooke, VC. 8th Bn. Australian Infantry, A. I. F. 28/07/1916, aged 35. Native of New Zealand.

Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 8th Sept., 1916, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery. After a Lewis gun had been disabled, he was ordered to take his gun and gun-team to a dangerous part of the line. Here he did fine work, but came under very heavy fire, with the result that finally he was the only man left. He still stuck to his post, and continued to fire his gun. When assistance was sent he was found dead beside his gun. He set a splendid example of determination and devotion to duty."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

War Damage at Villers-Bretonneux

The following images show damage to the cemetery and memorial after the Second World War

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

Regimental breakdown of burials within this cemetery

 

Compiled by Barry Cuttell

 

Australian Infantry, A.I.F 603
Royal Field Artillery 39
Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regt.) 38
Royal Engineers 37
Australian Field Artillery 35
Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regt.) 34
Australian Machine Gun Corps 32
Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force 31
Canadian Infantry (Quebec Regt.) 28
Canadian Infantry (New Brunswick Regt.) 27
Army Service Corps 25
Tank Corps 25
Australian Pioneers 24
Royal Garrison Artillery 22
Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regt.) 19
Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regt.) 16
Gloucestershire Regiment 16
Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regt.) 15
Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regt.) 15
10th Bn. London Regiment (Hackney) 14
King's Royal Rifle Corps 14
Rifle Brigade 13
Australian Army Medical Corps 12
Australian Engineers 11
Essex Regiment 11
Lancashire Fusiliers 11
Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) 11
Royal Sussex Regiment 11
3rd Bn. London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) 10
Highland Light Infantry 10
Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regt.) 9
Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario Regt.) 9
Canadian Machine Gun Corps 9
East Surrey Regiment 9
King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 9
Royal Army Medical Corps 9
Royal Scots 9
Canadian 2nd C.M.R. (British Columbia Regt.) 8
Canadian Infantry (Nova Scotia Regt.) 8

8th Bn. London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) 7
Australian Army Service Corps 7
Northamptonshire Regiment 7
Royal Army Service Corps 7
Royal Berkshire Regiment 7
Dorsetshire Regiment 6
6th Bn. London Regiment (City of London Rifles) 5
Canadian 5th C.M.R. (Quebec Regt.) 5
Canadian Field Artillery 5
Manchester Regiment 5
Norfolk Regiment 5
Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) 5
2nd Bn. London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) 4
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) 4
Cheshire Regiment 4
Hampshire Regiment 4

King's Liverpool Regiment 4
Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) 4
Oxford and Bucks. Light Infantry 4
Royal Dublin Fusiliers 4
Royal Horse Artillery 4
Royal Irish Regiment 4
Royal West Kent Regt. (Queen's Own) 4
4th Bn. London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) 3
7th Bn. London Regiment 3
Border Regiment 3
Buffs (East Kent Regiment) 3
Canadian Engineers 3
Canadian Infantry PPCLI (Eastern Ontario Regt.) 3
Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade 3
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 3
Middlesex Regiment 3
Royal Warwickshire Regiment 3
Somerset Light Infantry 3
West Yorkshire Regiment 3
Yorkshire Regiment 3
18th Hussars (Queen Mary's Own) 2
 


 

2/10th Bn. London Regiment (Hackney) 2
30th Bn. London Regiment 2
5th Bn. London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) 2
Bedfordshire Regiment 2
Canadian Army Medical Corps 2
Devonshire Regiment 2
Duke of Wellington's Regiment 2
Durham Light Infantry 2
East Lancashire Regiment 2
Gordon Highlanders 2
Leicestershire Regiment 2

Lincolnshire Regiment 2
Northumberland Fusiliers 2
Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars 2
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 2
Royal Welsh Fusiliers 2
Suffolk Regiment 2
12th Bn. London Regiment (The Rangers) 1
13th Bn. London Regiment (Kensington) 1
16th Bn. London Regiment (Queen's Westminster Rifles) 1
17th Bn. London Regiment (Poplar & Stepney Rifles) 1
17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge's Own) 1
19th Bn. London Regiment (St. Pancras) 1
1st Bn. London Regt. (Royal Fusiliers) 1
2/8th Bn. London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) 1
20th Bn. London Regiment (Blackheath & Woolwich) 1
23rd Bn. London Regiment 1
25th Bn. London Regiment (Cyclist Bn.) 1
2nd Dragoon Guards Queen's Bays) 1
2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) 1
4th Hussars (Queen's Own) 1
6th Dragoons (Inniskilling) 1
7th Dragoon Guards (Princess Royal's) 1
8th Hussars (King's Royal Irish) 1
9th Bn. London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles) 1
9th Lancers (Queen's Royal) 1
ANZAC Provost Corps 1
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 1
Army Veterinary Corps 1
Australian Army Veterinary Corps 1
Australian Cyclist Corps 1
Australian Division 1
Australian Light Horse 1
Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery 1
Australian Trench Mortar Battery 1
Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) 1
Cameron Highlanders 1
Canadian - Fort Garry Horse 1
Canadian - Lord Strathcona's Horse 1
Canadian 1st C.M.R. (Saskatchewan Regt.) 1
Canadian 4th C.M.R. (Central Ontario Regt.) 1
Canadian Army Service Corps 1
Canadian Artillery 1
Canadian Dragoons (Royal) 1
Canadian Forestry Corps 1
Canadian Infantry 1
Canadian Light Trench Mortar Battery 1
Canadian Regiment (Royal) 1
East Yorkshire Regiment 1
King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment 1
Royal Army Ordnance Corps 1
Royal Irish Rifles 1
Royal Munster Fusiliers 1
Sherwood Foresters 1
South African - Cape Aux. Horse Transport 1
South Lancashire Regiment 1
South Staffordshire Regiment 1
South Wales Borderers 1
Welsh Regiment 1
Wiltshire Regiment 1
Worcestershire Regiment 1
York & Lancaster Regiment 1

 

 

Identified burials 1533
Unidentified burials 608
Total burials 2141