Villers-Plouich is a village in the Department of the Nord, 3 kilometres north of Gouzeaucourt which is 19 kilometres north east of Peronne on the D917 and 16 kilometres south west of Cambrai (N44/D197). The Cemetery is constructed in a corner of the Communal Cemetery which is just to the right as you leave the village on the D56 direction Marcoing.
Villers-Plouich was captured in April 1917, by the 13th East Surreys; lost in March 1918; and regained at the end of the following September, when the 1st East Surreys were the first troops to enter the village. It was later adopted by the Borough of Wandsworth.
There are now over 50, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, a small number are unidentified and special memorials are erected to two soldiers from the United Kingdom known to be buried among them.
Lieutenant Frank Purser
Nelson Bn Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Died on 27 December 1917 aged 29
Son of Frank and Marie Purser, of 1 Circus Road Mansions, Circus Rd, St John's Wood, London.
Scholar of Uppingham School and Trinity College, Cambridge
Grave: B 1
Gunner S Morgan 95187
B Bn Tank Corps
Died on 20 November 1917
Grave: A 7
Lieutenant John Edens
1st Bn Newfoundland Regiment
Died on 20 November 1917 aged 21
Son of Thomas and Margaret Edens, of 39, Queens's Rd, St John's, Newfoundland
Grave: A 9
Captain Tom Rees
11 Squadron Royal Flying Corps
Formerly 14th Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Died on 17 September 1916 aged 21
Son of Thomas and Alice Rees, of Troedyrhiw Villa, Devynock, Brecon.
Observer in the first Royal Flying Corps aircraft to be shot down by the Red Baron - Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
Grave: C 2
On the 17th September 1916 five aircraft from Oswald Boelcke's Jagdstaffel 2 took off with a view to patrolling the area around Marcoing to the south of Cambrai.
At possibly the same moment six aircraft from No 11 Squadron RFC took off ready to escort eight bombers from No 12 Squadron. Their target was the railway station at Marcoing.
Formed at Netheravon on 14 February 1915 from a nucleus provided by No 7 Squadron, No 11 Squadron are considered to be the first ever specifically organised fighter squadron. Five months later they were deployed to France with the Vickers FB5 (Gunbus) in time for the battle of Loos. In May 1916 they would be joined by a nineteen year old called Albert Ball who would go on to be one of Britain's Ace pilots.
Their motto means Swifter and keener than eagles whilst the two eagles represent the twin mounted machine guns.
On this day they were flying the rather ungainly looking FE2b which like its predecessor the FB5 was a pusher styled aircraft. This meant that the engine and propeller were mounted behind the pilot and observer's seats. This allowed the observer who was armed with a Lewis machine gun to fire directly forwards as well as backwards over the top of the wing (and the pilot's head - as he was in the rear seat).
The observer was not strapped in and had complete freedom of movement to use his Lewis gun as well as acting as operating the sights for the bombs and releasing them. When the craft was in combat it was often little more than the air pressure that stopped them from falling out.
By about 1030 hours the British pilots were encountering anti-aircraft fire (Archie as it was known) as they crossed the lines. The bombers dropped their bombs and then all hell broke loose as Boelcke's group swept in. Apart from their commander the Germans were novices but they handled themselves brilliantly driving off the British and accounting for four of the six planes from 11 Squadron and two of the eight bombers from No 12.
One of Boelcke's men was a young man called Manfred von Richthofen and who had just accounted for his first victim.
Richthofen himself recorded:
When patrol flying I detected shrapnel clouds in direction of Cambrai. I hurried forth and met a squad which I attacked shortly after 1100. I singled out the last machine and fired several times at closest range (ten metres). Suddenly the enemy propeller stood stock still. The machine went down gliding and I followed until I had killed the observer who had not stopped shooting until the last moment.
Von Richthofen had been very quick to learn that the weak point of the FE2b was underneath and had come up underneath the plane piloted by 19 year old 2nd Lieutenant Lionel Morris. Both Morris and his observer Captain Tom Rees were mortally wounded though Morris managed a controlled landing.
Quick to ensure that his first success was recorded von Richthofen landed alongside his stricken enemy in time to see Morris being pulled out of the cockpit and taken away to hospital (Where he died of his wounds).
To mark his victory the future Red Baron had a small silver cup engraved with the details. As things turned out the blockade on Germany would ensure that the jeweller ran out of silver before his client ran out of victories.
Morris is buried in the Porte de Paris Cemetery in Cambrai.
Second Lieutenant (Pilot) Lionel Morris
11th Squadron Royal Flying Corps
Formerly 3rd Bn The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
Died on 17 September 1916 aged 19
Son of Albert Morris and Lily Morris, of 46, George St, Richmond, Surrey.
Pilot of the first Royal Flying Corps aircraft to be shot down by the Red Baron - Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
Grave: I A 16
There are two other cemeteries in the village. Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery lies to the east of the village on the south side of the road to the small village of La Vacquerie. Sunken Road Cemetery is signposted near the Mairie (Town Hall).Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery