Tag Archives: CWGC

Tending War Graves in Foreign Fields

cwgc qmaac front

Interesting print in my collection of “girl gardeners” with the Q.M.A.A.C or Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Army Corps  in an unnamed  WW1 magazine, showing temporary wooden crosses, most likely  in a war hospital  cemetery in France.

The gardening and grave tending by these smartly uniformed women was  part of the fabulous English cottage style garden tradition maintained in many cemeteries by the Imperial War Garves Commission (now the CWGC).


A more realistic photgraphic image of this scene and task  can be seen in the IWM collection Q 8027 taken of the QMAAC by pioneering female photographer Olive Edis in 1919. http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194668

The Returned Project

Nick Stone and volunteers are now cataloguing  surviving WW1  wooden crosses or grave markers  (seen in the illustration) that were returned home during or after the war, when the original wooden crosses were replaced by the familiar CWGC white headstones  http://thereturned.co.uk/

Interesting BBC news story about the Returned Project and some of the known markers http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-40446229

I remember seeing one at Castle Drogo chapel in Devon (National Trust) which has already been added to their list or map of known sites, awaiting a photograph / survey.

If you know of any of these surviving wooden grave markers in local churches, museums, great houses, private collections or community halls, plaese check the map as they are trying to log and photograph as many as possible as part of the WW1 centenary.

Further details on their website http://thereturned.co.uk/

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project, 27 July 2017


Remembering Percy Sweet killed Battle Of Arras 9 April 1917 WW1

Rifleman Percy Archibald Sweet, Died 9 April 1917

In 2014 Rifleman Percy Sweet’s name was included on the additional panel to the Devoran Parish War Memorial, despite not appearing on the original Roll of Honour.


The new panel on the Devoran War Memorial, listing two new WW1 Devoran casualty names P.A. Sweet and W.J. Hoyle, thanks to work / research by Bob Richards and the Feock Parish Council.

Devoran resident Rifleman Percy Archibald Sweet 474189 of the 12th London Regiment (The Rangers) was killed aged 31 on 9 April 1917 during the battle (7-9 April) to take the French village of Neuville Vitasse by the 56th (London) Division.

He is buried at plot 1 A 35 with many other London Rangers in the London Cemetery, Neuville Vitasse.


The Battle of Arras is being commemorated by centenary events hosted by the Commonwealth War Graves commission. http://blog.cwgc.org/arras/

One famous casualty of the Battle of Arras, fought at Easter,  was the talented Country writer and poet Edward Thomas. He was killed by shellfire at Easter during the first day of the Battle of Arras two years later.

In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)
By Edward Thomas
The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

A fitting tribute to one such of the men who was a resident of Devoran and London, Percy Sweet.


Percy Sweet’s headstone, London Cemetery (Image copyright TWGPP/CWGC, The War Graves Photographic Project)

Percy Sweet’s father Francis and Louisa Sweet lived at Fernmere on Market Street in Devoran. Percy is also listed on the CWGC website as a ‘native of Hammersmith’ London where Percy and his brothers and sisters were born.
His father (a shoemaker) and mother are still listed in the 1911 census working in London but by the time Rifleman Percy Sweet was killed in France in 1917, the family were living in Devoran.

His father Francis Sweet was born in Kenwyn, Truro and his mother Louisa (nee Pridham) from Southdown in Cornwall.
Percy Sweet was born in Hammersmith, 1887 and was listed in the 1911 census as a Cordwainer (a leather worker / shoemaker) in London. This explains why he enlisted in a London regiment.

Percy Sweet’s Service Records survive and give a few personal details of his enlistment (attestation) including being issued with spectacles whilst out in France on army service.

His family chose the suitable Easter resurrection wording for the personal inscription on his headstone “He Is Not Here, He Is Risen




Rifleman’s headstones at the London Cemetery, Neuville Vitasse, Arras, France. (Image source CWGC)

The London Cemetery, Neuville Vitasse Cemetery CWGC

Neuville-Vitasse was attacked by the 56th (London) Division on 7 April 1917 and captured by the same Division on 9 April. The village was almost entirely lost at the end of March 1918 but regained at the end of the following August. It was later “adopted” by the Metropolitan Borough of Paddington.

The London Cemetery was made by the 56th London Division in April 1917 and greatly extended after the Armistice when graves were brought in from other burial grounds and from the battlefields between Arras, Vis-en-Artois and Croisilles.

Neuville-Vitasse is a village in the department of the Pas-de-Calais, 5 kilometres south-east of Arras on the D5. London Cemetery stands on the west side of the road to Arras in a shallow valley.
London Cemetery contains 747 burials and commemorations of the First World War, amongst them Rifleman Percy Sweet, one time resident of Devoran. 318 of the burials are unidentified. The cemetery was designed by famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Remembering Percy Sweet of Devoran and London, his Comrades of the London Regiment and all those of all nations who fell at the Battle of Arras 1917, remembered in Devoran, 100 years later.

James Johnson of Devoran WW1 casualty update



James Johnson, Maala Cemetery, Yemen;  Photograph courtesy of the War Graves Photographic Project.


Received today in time for our Names on The Roll talk Friday 1st July at the Devoran Village Hall are these photographs from the wonderful volunteers at The War Graves Photographic Project,  showing interesting details of James Johnson’s grave in Maala Cemetery in Aden  / Yemen.

Aden  is  where James died in April 1915 during the fight against the Ottoman Turks, hundreds of miles away from home and family in Devoran.

Not the usual white CWGC gravestone, it looks as if his original headstone “erected by his comrades as a token of esteem” has been incorporated into his grave block of “concrete and marble” so not needing the contract for the standard headstone. (The Imperial / Commonwealth War Grave Commision documents notes for Johnson that “The headstone for this grave is not included in the contract.”)

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CWGC source


Next of kin is here listed as Mr. A Johnson – maybe a typing error for his wife Alice Johnson, Belmont Terrace, Devoran?

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CWGC source


Maala Cemetery lies in Yemen, a country that the Foreign Office currently (2016) advise caution against  visiting due to regional unrest since 2011, so it is excellent that the volunteers of the TWGPP have provided such images.

CWGC notes that “The war graves, which are scattered in the different denominational plots among those of civilians, are marked by headstones or private memorials and surrounded by kerbs filled with coral chippings. Many of the graves of the 1914-1918 War have also been kerbed in conformity with the general design of the cemetery.”

It gives further interesting information such as his Company,  A Company 1st / 4th Battalion DCLI (the ‘4th battalion’ whom he volunteered for alongside several other Devoran men and served with in India, then Aden / Yemen). Even more interesting is the inscription “Who Died of Dysentery at Aden 12th April 1916 Aged 38 years”.

So we have a cause of death from disease in active service  rather than wounds or combat. 


Jmaes Johnson’s garve, image source: The War Graves Photographic Project

Maala Cemetery,  CWGC Register showing several other deaths of highest to lowest ranks dying from dysentery and sickness. Several other Cornish names or DCLI soldiers (Sergeant J Bath and Private P. Common) are buried in this cemetery and included on this range of documents.

cwgc register


General scene shot from TWGPP website at Maala Cemetery showing the usual CWGC headstones for some graves.

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Maala Cemetery,  The War Graves Photographic Project

Interesting information on James Johnson from previous blogposts:


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Devoran war memorial, names A to J , First World War

Posted on the date of the centenary of his death 12 April 1916 / 2016:


James Johnson mentioned as an early 1914 volunteer:



The final words we would all share for James Johnson  lying  so far from his home village of Devoran and his family, lying as he does in a far off and a war-torn region still, “Peace Perfect Peace”

James Johnson, Rememberd