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Forces War Records Blog

AN ENGLISHMAN, IRISHMAN, SCOTSMAN AND A WELSHMAN.

The village cemetery at Nouvelles on the outskirts of Mons is like any other in this part of Belgium and yet within it, there are nine white headstones, which tell a remarkable story.

These headstones are British war graves of an Englishman, Irishman a Scotsman and a Welshman who all share one thing in common, all of them died on the last day of the war, 11th November, 1918. The other five British War Graves are those who died at the very beginning of war in Aug 1914.

Nouvelles Communal Cemetery - Wiki Image
Nouvelles Communal Cemetery - Wiki Image

At 11 am on the 11th of November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous bloody warfare. This conflict had brought about the mobilisation of over 70 million people and left between 9 and 11+ million military personnel dead, statistics state as many as one-third of these have no known grave.

Despite November 11th 1918 being the last day of the war, on many parts of the Western Front fighting continued as normal. This meant, of course, that casualties occurred even as the people of London, Paris, and New York were rejoicing for the end of the fighting. However, on the Front the rejoicing was far quieter. Every man there had seen things he would never forget, watched friends die, or lost family members. Every man had experienced far and misery such as he hoped never to see again. Amongst the soldiers, there were no winners.

At Nouvelles Communal Cemetery near the village of Nouvelles, located south of the town of Mons off the N6. The cemetery contains just nine war graves, of which 8 are named, the other, a Known Unto God.

Four of the named graves are men who died on the 23rd or the 24th August 1914, barely three weeks after the outbreak of World War I, they are:

  • Private 4820  DANIEL JAMES CARTER
    Died: Monday, August 24, 1914 Age 24
    20th Hussars -United Kingdom
  • Captain WALTER RICHARD ASTON DAWES
    Died: Sunday, August 23, 1914 Age 36
    Wiltshire Regiment - United Kingdom
  • Gunner 69821   E. NELMS
    Died: Monday, August 24, 1914
    Royal Field Artillery - United Kingdom
  • Private 8386       G A W HIBBERD
    Died: Monday, August 24, 1914
    Wiltshire Regiment - United Kingdom

The other 4 named men all died on the last day, 11th November 1918. These are the Irishman, Welshman, Scotsman and Englishman. What was found so tragic is that in the space between those two rows are four years and the deaths of nearly one million British soldiers.

  • Private John Stoneham 16586
    Died: 11th Aug 1918. Age 19
    Royal Irish Regiment 2nd Btn.
    Son of Joseph and Sarah Stoneham, of 3, Railway Terrace, Blaengarw, Bridgend, South Wales.
  • Able Seaman David Battes
    Died: 11th Aug 1918 Age 32
    Anson Bn Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
    Son of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Battes of 28, Dura St., Erskine Place, Dundee, Scotland.
  • Private John Joseph Murray 16285
    Died: 11th Aug 1918
    Royal Irish Regiment 2nd Btn.
    Son of John Murray, of Granard, Co. Longford. Ireland
  • Able Seaman R/6329 Harold Edgar Walpole
    Died: 11th Aug 1918 Age 19 Anson Bn Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
    Son of Henry Francis and Mary Ann Walpole, of 26, Wood St., Geddington, Northants.
Nouvelles Communal Cemetery - Wiki Image
Nouvelles Communal Cemetery - Wiki Image

What was found so tragic is that in the space between those two rows are four years and the deaths of nearly one million British soldiers.

Nouvelles Communal Cemetery - Wiki Image
Nouvelles Communal Cemetery - Wiki Image

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) states that their records show that 863 Commonwealth soldiers died on November 11th 1918 – though this figure also includes those who died on that day but of wounds received prior to November 11th.

The last British soldier killed in World War One was Private George Edwin Ellison of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. He was killed at Mons (where he had also fought in 1914) at 09.30am, local time, Nov. 11, 1918 – George Edwin Ellison perished in a firefight while on patrol in western Belgium. His death came just four hours after the war-ending Armistice was signed at Compiègne; but 90 minutes before the 11 o’clock ceasefire was to go into effect. Ellison was laid to rest in a small military cemetery near the town. By a freak coincidence, his plot is adjacent to the grave of the very first British soldier to be killed in the war — A 16 year-old private from the 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment named John Parr.

There were 10,000+ casualties of which 2,738 men died on the last day of the war, more than D-Day in 1944. In particular, the Americans took heavy casualties on the 11th November 1918. This was because their commander, General John Pershing, believed that the Germans had to be severely defeated at a military level to effectively ‘teach them a lesson’. Pershing saw the terms of the Armistice as being soft on the Germans. Therefore, he supported those commanders who wanted to be pro-active in attacking German positions – even though he knew that an Armistice had been signed.

Another, somewhat strange, display of last-minute action came from the final U.S. casualty of the war according to ‘The First World War: A Miscellany’ by Norman Ferguson, Private Henry Gunther. Killed at 10.59am, in his last act he stormed a German machine-gun position single-handed. Despite being frantically waved back by German soldiers, who really had no intention of killing him, he kept coming and forced their hands.

The last German casualty was conversely killed by Americans, and had even less intention of killing the nervous soldiers that he approached after 11am to greet as friends. Unfortunately for both parties, they had not yet received the order to disarm and were unaware that the war had ended. As Lieutenant Thoma approached their position they panicked and shot him.

“Rest in Peace to all those who have died in service of our country.”

Remembrance Day is a time of reflection, respect and gratitude as we remember all those who have fought and died in war. This is a time to pause our own busy lives to remember all those who have given their lives for our freedom. People across the nation will pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by the brave service men and women who have fought for our country, selflessly and courageously.

So, don't forget to post (and share) a lasting commemoration to your ancestors, or loved one's on our Dedication Wall today. It's completely free to use, plus you can search for other relatives too!

(SEE HERE)

Lest We Forget
Lest We Forget
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