La Ville-aux-Bois British Cemetery lies south of Laon and north of the city of Reims. La Ville-aux-Bois British Cemetery can be reached from the direction of Laon via the D1044, Laon to Reims road. After about 18 kilometres from leaving the Laon ring road, the road goes through the village of Corbeny. After a further four kilometres, La Ville-aux-Bois British Cemetery is visible on the right side of this busy road.
A CWGC sign gives an early indication several metres before the cemetery. Alternatively, the cemetery can be reached from Junction 14 of the A26 motorway (Berry Au Bac). Take the D925 and continue for 3 kilometres and then join the D1044 and follow above instructions, but noting that the cemetery approach will be from the opposite direction.
La-Ville-aux-Bois-les-Pontavert village was captured by the French, after severe fighting, in April 1917; and on the 27th May 1918, the 50th Division was driven from the high ground behind it, in the Battle of the Aisne.
The 2nd Devons and the 5th Battery, 45th Brigade, R.F.A., won the Croix de Guerre for their devoted courage on this occasion, and a granite cross, erected by the Devonshire Regiment, stands on the main road near the place where the Battalion was annihilated.
The village was completely destroyed. The British Cemetery was made after the Armistice by the addition of isolated graves from a wide area and from the following cemeteries :
One further burial was made in 1920. There are now 564 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-18 war commemorated here, of which 413 are unidentified. There are also two burials of the 1939-45 war, 1 being an airman of the United Kingdom and 1 being a French Foreign National.
Special memorials are erected to four United Kingdom soldiers, known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of 18 others, buried in certain German Cemeteries, whose graves could not be found.
The cemetery covers an area of 1,700 square metres and is enclosed on three sides by a low rubble wall.
Lt Colonel Christopher Buckle DSO MC
2nd Bn Northamptonshire Regiment
Died on 27th May 1918 aged 30
Son of Maj General Christopher Buckle
CB CMG DSO, and Elizabeth Buckle
of Iffley, Oxford;
Husband of R Buckle
of Overstrand, Cromer, Norfolk
Grave: II A 10
Lt Colonel Bertrand Gibson DSO
4th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers
Died on 27th May 1918 aged 42
Croix de Guerre avec Palme (France)
Son of Colonel and Mrs W Gibson
of Hexham, Northumberland;
Husband of Margaret Gibson
of the Lodge, Snainton, Yorks
Grave: I E 15
Major The Hon George Boscawen DSO
116th Battery Royal Field Artillery
Died on 7th June 1918 aged 29
Son of the late 7th Viscount Falmouth
KCVO CB DL JP, and
of 11, Stanhope Place, Connaught Square, London
Notre Dame-de-Liesse Memorial 9
Lieutenant Meredith Lewis
54 Squadron Royal Air Force
Died on 15th July 1918 aged 22
Son of Grace and Charles Lewis
of 1000, Spruce St Philadelphia, USA
Born in Philadelphia, USA
Grave: III B 2
This area is at the eastern tip of the Chemin des Dames which was the scene of an immense battle in 1917.
If you came in from the autoroute you will already have seen the French Tank Memorial at Berry au Bac, a few minutes drive away.
There are numerous monuments as well as British and French Military cemeteries throughout the area. The British had also fought here in 1914 and there is a monument to the 1st Loyal North Lancashires at Cerny en Laonnois.
The Plateau de Californie at Craonne is only a ten minute drive away and offers superb views over the countryside as well as acting as a monument to the futility of the French assault and its heroism.