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Webmatters : Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul

Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul

Location

Outtersteene is a village about 5 kilometres south-west of Bailleul. The Communal Cemetery Extension is north-east of the village on the road to Bailleul.

From Bailleul follow the D23 road to Outtersteene, the cemetery is on the right hand side of the road just as you approach the outskirts of the town.

GPS N E Wikimapia
Decimal 50.713934 2.685975 Map

Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension

 

Historical Information

Outtersteene was captured by the III Corps on 13th October 1914 but no Commonwealth burials took place there for nearly three years. In August 1917, during the Third Battle of Ypres, the 2nd, 53rd and 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Stations came to Outtersteene, and the first and last of these remained until March 1918.

The hamlet was captured by the Germans on 12th April 1918, and retaken by the 9th, 29th and 31st Divisions, with the ridge beyond it, on 18th and 19th August, but the cemetery was not used again during hostilities. After the Armistice, over 900 graves of 1914 and 1918 were brought into Plots I, II and IV from the battlefields surrounding Outtersteene and from certain small cemeteries, including :

  • Strazeele Road Cemetery, Strazeele, about 800 metres West of Strazeele, which is North-West of Outtersteene. Here were buried 18 soldiers from Australia and one from the United Kingdom, who fell in May, June and August 1918.
  • Caestre Road Cemetery, on the North side of Strazeele, containing the graves of nine soldiers from Australia, three from the United Kingdom, one from Guernsey, and two of unknown units, who fell in April 1918.
  • Vieux-Berquin Communal Cemetery Extension, on the road from Outtersteene to Vieux-Berquin. In this Extension, on the East side of the Communal Cemetery, were buried 17 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from Australia, who fell in August and September 1918.

1,147 German graves were initially concentrated into Plot III. These were later removed to Steenwerck German Cemetery.

The extension was used again in 1940, for the burial of those killed in the fighting which covered the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force to Dunkirk.

Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension now contains 1,393 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 499 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 14 casualties known or believed to be buried among them.

Second World War burials number 72, of which 23 are unidentified.

The extension was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

 

Four Australians : 22nd April 2005

In March 2003, a farmer near Merris, in northern France, discovered skeletal remains buried in a communal grave. Among the artefacts recovered were Australian pennies and Australian Imperial Forces Rising Sun collar badges suggesting Australian soldiers from the First World War.

Subsequent forensic investigation and research conducted in France and Australia identified two of the four soldiers as : Lieutenant Christopher Champion and Corporal Ernest Corby 5665.

On Friday 22nd April, two years after they were found, the four soldiers were formally buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Outtersteene, just to the south of Bailleul.

The service was conducted by Principal Chaplain Greg Flynn, RC of the Australian Army in the presence of Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, Australian Ambassador to France, HE Penny Wensley along with other Australian, French and Commonwealth dignitaries and local officials.

 

Lieutenant Christopher Champion

Was born on 15th September 1892 at Launceston, Tasmania.

The son of the Reverend Arthur and Mary Champion, he completed his education at the King’s School, Parramatta, where his father had been the headmaster.

Chris Champion was a farmer at Bungendore, New South Wales at the time of his enlistment as a private soldier on 1st July 1915. He embarked with the 30th Battalion on the troopship Beltana on 9th November 1915 for training in Egypt.

He was promoted to Second Lieutenant, transferred to the 3rd Battalion on 12th March 1916 and embarked for France, arriving in Marseilles on 28th March 1916.

On 29th June he was once again promoted, this time to the rank of Lieutenant.

Wounded at Pozières on 16th August 1916 he was evacuated to England, returning to his unit in December. He was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatch of 7th November 1917 for:

…distinguished and gallant service, devotion to duty and able leadership of his Company…

during the period 26th February 1917 to 30th September 1917.

Lieutenant Champion was commanding B Company, 3rd Battalion in the defence of Hazebrouck, defending the area between Strazeele and Merris when he was killed in action just after 1900 hours on 14th April 1918.

Lieutenant Champion’s actions at Strazeele were mentioned in despatches on 18th April 1918.

Wreath from the Corby family

Corporal Ernie Corby

Corporal Christopher (Ernie) Corby was born on 11th September 1885 at Laggan, the second son of Reuben and Catherine Corby of Tuena, in New South Wales.

A shearer by trade, he travelled to Sydney in December 1915, and visited the Sydney Town Hall Recruiting Depot on 30th December. He was enlisted on 17th January 1916 into the 18th Reinforcements, 3rd Battalion Australian Imperial Forces.

Corporal Corby completed training in Australia and embarked on HMAT A55 Kyarra on 3rd June 1916, disembarking at Plymouth on 3rd August. On 16th September 1916 he proceeded to France, and was taken on strength to the 3rd Battalion in Belgium on 5th October 1916.

Ernie Corby was promoted to Lance Corporal on 13th May 1917, and Corporal on 12th October that year. Two weeks later, on 27th October, Corporal Corby proceeded on leave to England, rejoining his unit on 10th November 1917, as a member of Lt Champion’s B Company.

Corporal Ernest Corby was killed in action near Gutzer farm shortly after 1030 hours on the morning of 14th April 1918.

Historical Context

On 21st March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive against the junction of the British 3rd and 5th Armies at St Quentin. The 5th Army was overwhelmed in the attack and Australian and New Zealand forces immediately rushed to the area to stem the German advance.

On 8th April 1918, the 1st Australian Division began to move south from Flanders to the assistance of the other Australian and allied forces in blunting the German offensive. The following day the Germans launched another major offensive against part of the allied line in the Lys Valley which was weakly held by two Portuguese divisions.

The Lys River runs about ten kilometres to the south of Strazeele and Merris. The Portuguese withdrew in disarray and the 1st Australian Division was ordered to return north to plug the gap left in the line and halt the advancing Germans.

“Randwick to Hargicourt, A History of the 3rd Battalion”, by E Wren, Sydney, 1935 describes the actions in which both Lieutenant Champion and Corporal Corby lost their lives.

At 10.20 am, taking advantage of a lull in the fighting, Lt C Champion, commanding B Company, ordered Lt C Prescott and his platoon of 20 men to attack Gutzer farm, about 100 yards out in front. A sniper posted in this farmhouse picked off Sergeant Jack Mott, Frank Guest, and Ernie Corby, but subsequently was himself killed by one of our snipers.

The last effort of the enemy to pierce our line was made at 7.00 pm A party, estimated at 150, attacked B Company on the left, but was annihilated by a withering fire from rifles and Lewis guns. The company commander, Lt C Champion…was fatally wounded during the action.

Throughout the day he had fought bravely and well, and the quick and effective repelling of the enemy attacks was due in very great measure to his inspiring leadership, coolness and initiative.

 

Some photos from the burial

Musicians and soldiers from the 43e RI The four coffins The sword on top of Christopher Champion's coffin The opening address Lieutenant General Peter Leahy Two of the graves weremarked as : Australian soldier of the Great War Lieutenant Christopher Champion A large gathering had come for the burials The four new headstones

Click on the thumbnail for a larger version

 

Other cemeteries in the area


Recent Additions

Canadian Cemetery No.2

Givenchy Road Canadian Cemetery

Petit Vimy British Cemetery

CWGC Poppy Button