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Locre (now Loker) was in Allied hands during the greater part of the war, and field ambulances were stationed in the Convent of St. Antoine. The village changed hands several times between 25 and 30 April 1918, when it was recaptured by the French. The hospice, or convent, was the scene of severe fighting on 20 May, but was not retaken until first week in July. Loker Churchyard was used by field ambulances and fighting units from December 1914 to June 1917, and it contains two Commonwealth plots.

In November 1914, following their part in the fighting of First Ypres, the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, by this time reduced to a Company under the command of a Captain, and the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards, also commanded by a Captain and reduced to sixty nine men, rested and refitted in the village. As the War continued the number of units requiring billets in the area far outweighed the number of houses available. Large military camps were constructed in the area, some took the form of huge, tented villages others had wooden huts and Nissen huts.

Cemeteries concentrated here

One grave was brought in after the Armistice from LOCRE FRENCH CEMETERY No.4

Cemetery Location

Loker (formerly Locre) Churchyard is located 11.5 Kms south-west of Ieper town centre on the Dikkebusseweg (N375). From Ieper town centre the Dikkebusseweg is reached via Elverdingsestraat, straight over a roundabout onto J.Capronstraat (for 30 metres), then left along M.Fochlaan. Immediately after the train station, the first right hand turning is the Dikkebusseweg. On passing through the village of Dikkebus the road continues for 6 kilometres to the village of Loker. The church and churchyard are located at the side of the road in the village of Loker itself.

Shot at Dawn

There are three men buried here who were executed within a ten day period in 1915.

7177 Private Andrew Evans, Grave I.A.2. 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 9th Brigade, 3rd Division. He was tried for desertion on 30 January 1915.

15576 Private Joseph Byers, Age 16. Grave I.A.1. 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 9th Brigade, 3rd Division. He was the first of the Kitchener volunteers to be shot at dawn. He enlisted in November 1914 and received rudimentary training before being sent to France.

He was tried with Andrew Evans and Joseph Byers were tried together. They were charged with attempting to desert, both men being absent from parade prior to the battalion going to the front line. Byers, who was under the age of majority, should have been represented. He plead guilty, this was later viewed with concern by both the confirming officers and the army legal advisers. This resulted in future pleas being entered as not guilty when it involved capital crimes. Despite the concerns both men were executed together at Locre on 6 February.

With the battalion War Diary recording the executions. They are buried side by side near the entrance to the Plot on the west side of the church.

It was rumoured afterwards that the firing squad had been reluctant to shoot Joseph Byers and had deliberately fired wide. This is confirmed by Gerald Burgoyne, an officer of the Royal Irish Rifles. In ‘The Burgoyne Diaries’ his entry of February 18, 1915, he wrote: ‘Our Padre (RC) came in to see us this afternoon and told us of some executions at which he had been present. Two men were shot last Monday for ‘absence from the trenches’, and the other time one of the men shot was a lad not eighteen years of age; his Battalion are very upset at this execution. It seems his father, an old Reservist in the Gordons, has just been killed, and the lad got very unhappy at hearing this and hooked it one night when his battalion was for the trenches. Stupidly and inadvertently he pleaded ‘Guilty’ and never brought this fact, which might have been considered ‘extenuating’, forward.

One poor chap required three volleys, as the firing party were very nervous, although the Padre adjured them to shoot straight as the kindest thing to do. The men on the whole, he said, met their death very pluckily.’

9618 Private George E Collins, Age 20 Grave I.B.1 Son of James and Charlotte Collins, of 2 West Dock Street., Hessle Road., Hull. 1st Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, 9th Brigade, 3rd Division.. He was executed for desertion in the village on 15 February 1915. He is buried in the next row to Evans and Byers.

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