Ovillers Military

Location

Ovillers is a village about 5 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert off the D929 road to Bapaume. The Military Cemetery is approximately 500 metres west of the village on the D20 road to Aveluy. The Cemetery is signposted in the village.

Travelling from Albert you will see this large cemetery just over to your left as you reach La Boisselle.

Ovillers Military Cemetery

Historical Information

On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 8th Division attacked Ovillers and the 34th Division La Boisselle. The villages were not captured, but ground was won between them and to the south of La Boisselle.

Ovillers: 1st July 1916 Ovillers: 1st July 1916

On 4 July, the 19th (Western) Division cleared La Boisselle and on 7 July the 12th (Eastern) and 25th Divisions gained part of Ovillers, the village being cleared by the 48th (South Midland) Division on 17 July.

 
Mash Valley and towards La Boisselle

Looking down across Mash Valley and towards La Boisselle

 

The two villages were lost during the German advance in March 1918, but they were retaken on the following 24 August by the 38th (Welsh) Division. Ovillers Military Cemetery was begun before the capture of Ovillers, as a battle cemetery behind a dressing station. It was used until March 1917, by which time it contained 143 graves, about half the present Plot I.

The cemetery was increased after the Armistice when Commonwealth and French graves where brought in, mainly from the battlefields of Pozières, Ovillers, La Boisselle and Contalmaison.

There are now 3 439 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 2 479 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 24 casualties believed to be buried among them.

Other special memorials record the names of 35 casualties, buried in Mash Valley Cemetery, whose graves were destroyed in later fighting. The cemetery also contains 120 French war graves.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

 
John Walls's new headstone

Inside the cemetery and running along the roadside boundary you will find a small memorial to 35 soldiers who had been buried in Mash Valley Cemetery only to have their graves destroyed in later fighting.

Maintaining the cemeteries is a continuing process and it is not only the lawns and flower beds that have to be renewed from time to time. Headstones also need to be looked after.

The headstone in place

Private John Walls G/586
7th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment
Died on 7th July 1916 aged 21
Son of Mr W and Mrs F Walls, of Elmcroft, East Rd, Selsey, Chichester

Mash Valley Memorial 5

John Walls was only 21 when he was killed in 1916 and he was one of the Mash Valley burials: on a return trip to the cemetery I found his new headstone in place.

Captain John Lauder

Captain John Lauder
1st/8th Bn Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Died on 28th December 1916 aged 25
Son of Sir Harry Lauder and Dame Annie Lauder, of Laudervale, Dunoon, Argyll

Grave: 1 A 6

Just up to the right in the cemetery you will find the grave of Captain John Lauder from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

His father was Sir Harry Lauder a famous entertainer of the time. Sir Harry was so distressed by his sons death (at the hands of a sniper on 28 December 1916) that having visited his son's grave at Ovillers he composed the popular song: Keep right on to the end of the road.

 
Mash Valley from the British Lines

Looking down Mash Valley from the British Lines
On the left you can see the Cemetery, then the village church spire
On the right along the ridge is the main Albert to Bapaume Road

 

Burial of an unknown soldier

On the 29th April 2008 an unknown soldier from the Gloucestershire Regiment was laid to rest in the cemetery.

Captain Philip Stoner RN represented the British Embassy and Lieutenant Colonel Tim Lerwill OBE the soldier's regiment which now forms part of The Rifles.

In the afternoon a second unknown soldier from the regiment was buried at London Cemetery Longueval.

An unknown soldier An unknown soldier An unknown soldier London Cemetery London Cemetery