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R.E. Grave

Updated: May 23

This is the grave of twelve men who were killed in action in tunnelling operations beneath your feet. You can read more about the mine warfare in the Salient and in particular the cratering of the Messines Ridge in June 1917 here https://www.theypressalient.com/home/categories/craters

 

Cemetery Location

The R.E. Grave is visible on the Bellewaarde Ridge from the Menin Road and can be reached by taking the turning approximately 200 m east of the Birr Crossroads Cemetery. The road was known to the British as Cambridge Road. It was designed by A.J.S. Hutton.

 

RE Grave. Authors image

The base of the Cross of Sacrifice has this inscription:

 

Beneath this spot lie the bodies of an officer, three N.C.O.’s and eight men of, or attached to, the 177th Tunnelling Company, R.E.’ who were killed in action underground during the defence of Ypres between November 1915 and August 1917.’

 

The twelve men are:

 

Second Lieutenant Charles Geoffrey Boothby, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 28 April 1916. 147525 Corporal Roland Brindley, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 28 April 1916. 132856 Sapper Michael Carter, Age 34, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 13 June 1916. 102449 Sapper George Auty Chatt, Age 41, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, Died 14 December 1915. 155828 Sapper John Henry Cotterill, Age 37, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 22 July 1917. 25970 Private Thomas Edward Davies, Age 20, 17th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, attached 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 25 February 1917. 18795 Corporal Daniel Brookes Evans, Age 22, 16th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, attached 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 9 April 1917. 132967 Sapper Sidney Firth, Age 24, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 9 March 1917. 358513 Private Edward Poulton, Age 31, 10th Battalion, The King’s Liverpool Regiment, (Liverpool Scottish), attached 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers, Died 25 April 1917. 19105 Private Richard Roberts, Age 39, 16th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, attached 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 9 April 1917. 112505 Sapper William Spooner, Age 46, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 28 April 1916. 86601 Corporal George Arthur Wooley, Age 42, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Died 22 July 1917.


177 Tunnelling Coy showing German Gallery 28 April 1916

Talbot House connection

Second Lieutenant Charles Geoffrey Boothby, 177 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. While clearing out his late parent’s house Arthur Stockwin came across a wooden chest that contained letters written between his mother, who was seventeen, and her sweetheart Geoffrey Boothby. The letters were published as a book ‘Thirty-odd feet below Belgium’ in 2005, and a centenary edition supported by Talbot House as well as an exhibition ‘Cheerio Darling’ following the bequest of the letters to the Talbot House Museum. The book is on sale at the Museum shop. The book makes for fascinating reading and is one of few first-hand accounts of the tunnelling war in the Salient.






The 177 Tunnelling Company War Diary entry for 28 April 1916 recording the death of 2nd Lt Boothby and two other ranks.

Liverpool Scottish Memorial. Authors image.

Bellewaarde Ridge

The Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge, 24 to 25 May 1915, was part of Second Battle of Ypres and saw the Germans take the ridge from the British. The British mounted an attack on 16 June 1915, battalions from 9th Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Royal Scots, 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1st Wiltshires, 10th Liverpool Scottish, and 4th South Lancashires, attacked the ridge and managed to take a small amount of ground at a cost of 143 officers and 3,417 other ranks on a battlefield half a mile square. In the small copse on the ridge, near to the R.E. Grave, stands a monument to the men of the Liverpool Scottish who died that day. The ridge was retaken on 31 July on the opening day of Third Ypres and subsequently lost during the German spring offensive in April 1918 and finally retaken by the 9th (Scottish) Division on 28 September 1918.

During the attack on 31 July 1917, Captain Colyer-Ferguson, 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, 24th Brigade, 8th Division, won a Victoria Cross here for his gallantry when he became isolated with six men after capturing an enemy trench. He was later killed by a sniper. He is buried in Menin Road South Cemetery and you can read the details of the action here https://www.theypressalient.com/post/menin-road-south-military-cemetery


Linesman Map showing the craters on Bellewaarde Ridge
Captain Geoffrey Vaux Salvin Bowlby Memorial, Royal Horse Guards. Authors image.

Cambridge Road Memorials

This was the name given by the British on their trench maps to the road leading from Railway Wood to St Charles Potijze. The two memorials are on the right of the road some 200m apart. One is a Memorial Cross to Captain Henry Langton Skrine, 6th somerset Light Infantry, 43rd Brigade, 14th (Light) Division, who was killed in action near here on 25 September 1915. His body was subsequently lost and he is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial. 

The other memorial is to Captain Geoffrey Vaux Salvin Bowlby, Royal Horse Guards, who was killed in action on 13 May 1915. His body burial site was subsequently lost and he is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial.

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