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Webmatters : Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension

Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension


Barlin is a village about 11 Kms south-west of Bethune on the D188, between the Béthune-Arras and Béthune-St Pol roads, about 6.5 Kms south-east of Bruay. The Communal Cemetery and Extension lie to the north of the village on the D171 road to Houchin.

Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension


Historical Information

The extension was begun by French troops in October 1914 and when they moved south in March 1916 to be replaced by Commonwealth forces, it was used for burials by the 6th Casualty Clearing Station.

The French Military Cemetery at Barlin

The French Military Cemetery

In November 1917, Barlin began to be shelled and the hospital was moved back to Ruitz, but the extension was used again in March and April 1918 during the German advance on this front.

Memorial and graves from the mining disaster

Memorial and graves from the mining disaster

The extension contains 1,095 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 2 being unidentified. There are 63 French and 13 German burials including 2 unidentified. Some French civilians killed in a colliery accident at Fosse 9 on 16th April 1917 are also buried in the extension.

The extension was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Canadian graves abound

Canadian graves abound


John Cunningham VC

8916 Corporal John Cunningham VC
2nd Bn Leinster Regiment
Died on 16th April 1917 aged 29
Son of Johanna and the late Joseph Cunningham
of Stradavoher St, Thurles, Co Tipperary
The second son lost to a widowed mother in the war

Grave: I A 39

The London Gazette
8th June 1917

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in command of a Lewis Gun section on the most exposed flank of the attack. His section came under heavy enfilade fire and suffered severely. Although wounded he succeeded almost alone in reaching his objective with his gun, which he got into action in spite of much opposition.

When counter-attacked by a party of twenty of the enemy he exhausted his ammunition against them, then, standing in full view, he commenced throwing bombs. He was wounded again, and fell, but picked himself up and continued to fight single-handed with the enemy until his bombs were exhausted. He then made his way back to our lines with a fractured arm and other wounds.

There is little doubt that the superb courage of this NCO cleared up a most critical situation on the left flank of the attack. Corporal Cunningham died in hospital from the effects of his wounds.


Lt Colonel Vernon Eaton

Lt Colonel Vernon Eaton
Royal Canadian Horse Artillery
Commanding 8th Bde Canadian Field Artillery
Died on 11th April 1917 aged 46
Son of James and Annie Eaton
of Truro, Nova Scotia
Husband of Myra Eaton
of 69 Grosvenor St, London, England

Grave: I H 70

Great hearts are glad
When it is time to give

Private Franklin Thorsteinson

Private Franklin Thorsteinson 252283
10th Bn Canadian Infantry
Alberta Regiment
Died on 14th March 1918 aged 29
Son of Gudni Thorsteinson and Vilborg Arnardottir
of Gimli, Manitoba

Grave: II E 28

Thorsteinson and Sapper George Cumbers (Grave: II E 37) were the two members of the Winnipeg Falcons Hockey team who died in action during the war. One of only three 10th Bn fatalities due to gas during the Great War.


Shot at Dawn

CQMS William Alexander

CQMS William Alexander 20726
10th Bn Canadian Infantry
Alberta Regiment
Died on 18th October 1917 aged 37
Brother of Archibald Alexander
of 266 Hargrave Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Grave: II D 43

Shot at Dawn for desertion

Born in London (England) in 1880, Alexander had served eight years with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps much of it during the South African campaign from where he returned in 1904. In 1912 he emigrated to Calgary in Canada where he took up employment.

On the outbreak of war he enlisted in the 10th (Alberta) Battalion CEF on 24th September 1914 at Valcartier, Québec. With previous service he was promoted to sergeant and as one of the first to go to France in 1915 fought during all the early battles at Ypres and Festubert. This was followed by the Somme and Vimy Ridge in April 1917.

At Hill 70 (15th August 1917), however something seems to have snapped. He participated in the opening attack in which his battalion suffered heavy casualties and was then ordered on the 16th August to lead his platoon in another assault on a quarry which had withstood the initial assaults.

Instead of doing so he went absent which left one of his corporals to lead the platoon. The quarry was carried but there was still no sign of Alexander. Two days later he was found at Les Brebis behind the lines. He clung throughout to the story that he had been knocked down by a shell despite carrying no signs of injury.

Despite his previous good service he was placed under arrest; sent for Court Martial on 29th September and condemned to death. The execution took place near Houdain at 0610 hours on 18th October 1917.

His story highlights the lottery of the system. Others of far lesser stature were often given second chances.


Recent Additions

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CWGC Poppy Button