The Blighty Project
Some Fields and Stones in France
A FIRST OF JULY BURIAL PLACE
Sucrerie Cemetery was begun by French troops in the early summer of 1915, and extended by the British. Until the German withdrawal in March 1917, it was never more than a mile from the Frontline and during the German Spring Offensive in March 1918 the New Zealand Division actually saw action in the Cemetery and area around it. As a consequence, there are sixty-two New Zealanders buried here.
Those soldiers of 31st Division who were killed during the run-up to the First of July, through so-called “trench wastage” (accidents, trench raids, shell bursts and sniper fatalities), are buried in the Cemetery, as are the remains of 163 men brought in from the battlefield at Serre. Many of these are Leeds Pals. Two battalion Commanders killed on the First of July on Redan Ridge are also buried here, side by side: Lieut-Colonel the Hon. Lawrence Palk DSO, Legion d’Honneur, who commanded the 1st Hampshires, and Lieut-Colonel John Thicknesse, Commander of the 1st Somersets. Today there are 1,103 Great War burials in Sucrerie Cemetery. Of these 219 are Unknown.
The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, one of the IWGC’s four Principal Architects, in the early 1920s.
Main picture Sucrerie Cemetery in the glory of a summer afternoon on the Somme.
Above Access to the Cemetery is by an adjacent farm track, which, during the War, ran northwest back to Colincamps and the rear areas. The British used this lane as one of the main routes to the Frontline at Serre. On the eve of the Big Push, Companies of the Sheffield City Battalion marched excitedly down this lane as they made their way to their jumping-off trenches at Serre. In passing the Cemetery they saw gravediggers, preparing the ground to receive the dead of the morrow. It was a sobering moment for the young men of Sheffield City preparing to face war for the first time
Above left The ruined sugar factory (sucrerie) in 1916, which stood at the crossroads of the Mailly-Serre road, close to the present-day site of the Cemetery. It was behind British lines but well within range of German Artillery
Below Sucrerie Cemetery entrance
The Blighty Project Some Fields and Stones in France
Pictures copyright Duncan Youel and Keith Lillis, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2015
Sources, references and further reading
Somme90, Duncan Youel and David Edgell (M2 Books 2006) battleofthesomme.co.uk; Commonwealth War Graves Commission site at CWGC.org; Battleground Europe: Serre by Jack Horsfall and Nigel Cave (P&S); The Somme: The Day-by-Day Account by Chris McCarthy (Brockhampton Press, 2002); Battleground Europe: Walking the Somme by Paul Reed (P&S); The First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook (Penguin); Official History Trench Map: Somme, First of July 1916