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Webmatters : Béthune Town Cemetery

Béthune Town Cemetery


Béthune is a town 29 kilometres north of Arras.

The cemetery can easily be found, from any point in Béthune, by following the French signs indicating ‘Cimetière Nord’.

More precisely, from the town centre, turn right in front of the Tribunal (Rue d’Aire) and second right at the bottom of the road down to the cul-de-sac where the cemetery will be found.

I actually find it easier to come around Béthune following the D 937 in the direction of Armentières. Having passed through most of the Industrial Zone (watch your speed it is a 50kph) you come to a large roundabout. Take the fourth exit following the sign for ‘Cimetière Nord’. You have to come down to the junction and turn right to get into the car park.

Decimal50.536882.64245 Map
Bethune Town Cemetery

From the French Military plot

Historical Information

For much of the First World War, Béthune was comparatively free from bombardment and remained an important railway and hospital centre, as well as a corps and divisional headquarters. The 33rd Casualty Clearing Station was in the town until December 1917.

Bethune Town Cemetery

Early in 1918, Béthune began to suffer from constant shell fire and in April 1918, German forces reached Locon, five kilometres to the north. The bombardment of 21 May did great damage to the town and it was not till October that pressure from the Germans was relaxed.

Béthune Town Cemetery contains 3,004 Commonwealth burials of the First World War,11 being unidentified.

Bethune Town Cemetery

This includes 26 men of the 1/8th Manchester Regiment who were killed by a bomb on 22nd December 1917 while marching to rest billets.

Second World War burials number 19, 2 being unidentified. There are also 122 French and 87 German war graves, 38 of the German burials are unidentified.

The Commonwealth section of the cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Bethune Town Cemetery

The triangular topped German graves

Lieutenant Frank de Pass VC

Lieutenant Frank de Pass VC
34th Prince Albert Victor’s Own Poona Horse
Died on 25th November 1914 aged 27
Son of Eliot and Beatrice de Pass
of 23, Queen’s Gate Terrace, Kensington, London
Born in London.

Grave: I A 24

The London Gazette 29074
16th February 1915

For conspicuous bravery near Festubert on the 24th November, in entering a German sap and destroying a traverse in the face of the enemy’s bombs, and for subsequently rescuing, under heavy fire, a wounded man who was lying exposed in the open.

The headstone carries a quote from a sonnet by his Rugby school-fellow, Rupert Brooke.

“. . Loved. Gone proudly friended”

Senior Officers

Amongst those who lie in the cemetery are :

Brigadier General George Nugent

Brigadier General George Nugent MVO
Commanding 141st Infantry Brigade
Late Grenadier and Irish Guards
Died on 31st May 1915 aged 51
Son of Sir Edmund Nugent Bart.
of West Harling Hall, Norfolk
Husband of Isabel Nugent
of 34 Hans Rd, Chelsea, London

Grave: II J 1

Killed in action at Givenchy

Brigadier General Godfrey Matthews

Brigadier General Godfrey Matthews CB CMG
Commanding. 198th Infantry Brigade
Late Royal Marine Light Infantry
Died on 13th April 1917 aged 50
Order of the Medjidie 3rd Class,
Osmanieh 3rd Class and
Medjidie 2nd Class (Turkey)
Son of Charles and Mary Matthews of Bath
Husband of Mary Matthews,
of Windmill, Milford-on-Sea, Lymington
Seconded for service with Egyptian Army, 1897
Governor of the Upper Nile, 1903-1909
Commandant of Khartoum District, 1910-1913

Grave: III K 56

Lt Colonel Walter Venour

Lt Colonel Walter Venour
58th Vaughan’s Rifles
(Frontier Force)
Died on 31st October 1914 aged 50
Son of the late Lt General Edwin Venour,
HMEI Co (Indian Army)
and Jessie Anderson, his wife
of Upton-on-Severn, Worcester
Husband of Annie Venour
of 61 Warwick Avenue, Bedford.

Grave: I A 6

Lt Colonel Lord Alexander Thynne

Lt Colonel Lord Alexander Thynne DSO
6th (Royal Wilts. Yeo.) Bn Wiltshire Regiment
Died on 14th September 1918 aged 45
Awarded the Croix de Guerre (France)
Son of the Marquis and Marchioness of Bath
Member of Parliament for Bath

Grave: II L 13

Lance Corporal Oscar Green
Oscar Green left an inscription in the tunnels of Maison Blanche

Earlier in the year Oscar Green had made this inscription in one of the tunnels near Arras

Lance Corporal Oscar Green 77711
15th Bn Canadian Infantry
48th Highlanders of Canada
Died on 15th August 1917 aged 30
Son of Mrs Mary Green
of Burg St., Helsingfors, Finland, Russia

Grave: VI G 2

Hill 70, 15th August 1917

During the battle for the ridge the Canadian artillery and machine guns drove off all German counter attacks; inflicting terrible losses.

A small party of Germans did however manager to infiltrate its way down Meath Trench as far as the Highlanders’ Battalion Headquarters. This trench had previously been vacated by the neighbouring British battalion to ensure its safety during the barrage.

Lt Colonel Charles Bent was within the dug-out and talking to the Brigadier on the phone. He suddenly interrupted himself shouting down the phone :
They’re here, really here ! Outside.

In the trench Oscar Green raised the alarm and charged the Germans with nothing more than a broken rifle (without bayonet). He killed his first adversary but was bayoneted by the second. His courage however had given enough time for the remaining signallers, runners and orderlies to grab grenades and bomb the Germans back out of the position.

The commanding officer had been saved but Oscar Green died of his wounds.

Under age Soldiers

There are thirty-one soldiers who were under age in the cemetery. Amongst them are :

Private H York

Private H York 18660
10th Bn Cameronians
(Scottish Rifles)
Died on 15th May 1916 aged 15
Son of Harry and Annie York
of 105, Percival Rd., Bush Hill Park, Enfield

Grave: V C 59

Rifleman Edward O'Reilly

Rifleman Edward O’Reilly 5592
1st Bn Royal Irish Rifles
Died on 29th July 1916 aged 17
Son of Michael and Alice O’Reilly
of 4, Moore’s Terrace, Dublin Rd.
Stillorgan, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

Grave: V G 48

Private Alfred Hill

Private Alfred Hill 26653
15th Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Died on 11th April 1916 aged 17
Son of Joseph and Rose Hill
of 8, Goldsmith’s Square, Hackney Rd., London

Grave: III G 58

Captain Sydney Cesari

Captain Sydney Cesari
Royal Army Medical Corps
No 6 Field Ambulance
Died on 3rd September 1915

Grave: II K 4

Private Willie Dionne

Private Willie Dionne E/10645
Le Régiment de la Chaudière, RCIC
Died on 15th November 1944 aged 23
Son of Eugene and Berthe Dionne

Grave: III LL 1

Le Régiment de la Chaudière has a small monument in the village of Regnière-Écluse near the coastal D 1001 to the north of Abbeville. It commemorates the liberation of the area by Canadian troops and in particular this francophone unit. The mains street is also named in their honour.

Private Robert Botting

Private Robert Botting SD/2857
13th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment
Died on 30th June 1916

Grave: V F 13

Robert’s brother Jesse (SD/2858) serving in the same unit was killed on the same day during the fiasco at the Boar’s Head near Richebourg. Jesse’s body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

Shot at Dawn

Private Ernest Bryant

Private Ernest Bryant 20104
10th Bn Cheshire Regiment
Died on 27th October 1917 aged 33

Grave: VI H 3

Executed for Desertion

Bryant had been wounded on the Somme in 1916 and following a period of convalescence returned to his unit in February 1917. In March he went absent and remained at large for four months until he was caught in Boulogne sur Mer. He was sent back to his unit but before they could return him back to the front line he made off again – only to be found in Bailleul less than two weeks later.

With multiple cases against him he was found guilty and sentenced to death.


On the 20th January 1915 the 2nd Bn Welsh Regiment had been engaged in preparing trenches near Béthune. In the evening Privates Price and Morgan got themselves drunk and, either by accident or deliberately, shot their Company Sergeant Major: CSM Hughie Hayes.

Hayes died the following day and is also buried in the cemetery (Grave: III B 62). The two soldiers were sent for trial at Lillers on the 6th February. The verdict was guilty of murder for the two and the death sentence was passed in each instance.

The graves are organised in date order which is one of the reasons why fortuitously the three soldiers are not buried together.

Private W Price

Private W Price 12942
2nd Bn Welsh Regiment
Died on 15th February 1915 aged 41

Grave: IV A 18

Executed for Murder

Private R Morgan

Private R Morgan 11967
2nd Bn Welsh Regiment
Died on 15th February 1915 aged 41

Grave: IV A 17

Executed for Murder

CSM Hughie Hayes

CSM Hughie Hayes 5019
2nd Bn Welsh Regiment
Died on 21st January 1915 aged 32
Son of Mary Hayes
of 31, Ashdown Rd., Kingston-on-Thames
and the late Edward Hayes
Entered Duke of York’s R.M. School, 1892
Served 18 years in the Army
Also served in the South African Campaign
Born at Hounslow, Middx.

Grave: III B 62

Other cemeteries in the area