WW1 Photos Centenary Website: 2014-2018 By Paul Reed

Aftermath: Clearing The Dead at Ypres

This unusual image from the early 1920s shows a British party from one of the Graves Registration units involved in clearing the dead from the Great War battlefields.

Few photos of this work survive, and the caption for this says it is at ‘Nieuport’ but that seems unlikely given the nature of the ground and the fact that British soldiers were only there a short period.

A Sergeant sits on the edge of a trench while people work in the background and another civilian helping stands in the remains of a Great War defence work. There are no evidence of any bodies but it does demonstrate to some degree the sort of work that went on under the watchful eyes of an NCO in charge of such a unit. The work continued for some years after the war and many thousands of soldiers were found and reburied, albeit it often as unknown soldiers. What the work must have been like for those carrying it out we can only imagine.

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7 responses

  1. Geoffrey Dickson

    This picture, being a quite rare glimpse of the scale of the destruction, shows the unenviable work of the graves registration units, death and destruction to such a degree, that even as we speak, munitions, equipment, fortifications as well as human remains are still being unearthed. We should never forget the price paid, by all sides, in the War to end all Wars.

    12/04/2013 at 11:16

  2. Reblogged this on audrarayne14.

    17/04/2013 at 14:30

  3. This has always been a subject which is fascinating for me, are there any books or sites you can link to that cover the post-war searches in detail?

    I’ve struggled to find information for years now.

    Thanks

    17/04/2013 at 22:17

    • sommecourt

      No, there is very little in print or on the net, as I mentioned in the Blog post.

      17/04/2013 at 22:31

  4. I find it remarkably sad so many men have no known resting place. Thiepval Memorial is a suitable alternative, but there must have been thousands of relatives left even more grieving with the uncertainty and unfortunate closure. I read that it took five months to start the burials of the July 1916 Trones Wood casualties.
    I’d never considered that exhumation of unknown soldiers to permanent graves sometimes arose because original crosses will have been lost. These men will have had ID, but I assume it will have been taken from them when they were first buried.

    16/05/2013 at 11:51

  5. Pingback: Aftermath: Clearing The Dead at Ypres | 17th Manchester Regiment on the Somme

  6. Ted Huscher

    This ground looks sandy, not chalky, which might be reason to lend credence to it being at Nieuport and not Ypres.

    24/05/2016 at 19:07

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