By the 1930s the work on the war cemeteries was almost complete, but the final cemetery was not actually finished until September 1938; one year before the outbreak of the Second World War.
This image of Regina Trench Cemetery, right out in the fields close to the village of Courcelette, had been built on a site where heavy fighting had taken place involving men of the Canadian Corps in September-November 1916. It was subsequently enlarged post-war by concentrating graves in from the surrounding area.
The headstones here look new; the trees are young and the plants which would give them the appearance of the ‘English garden’ just beginning to take hold. Today it remains a place of tranquility and reflection just as it was in those early days, and one of many Silent Cities well off the tourist route and rarely visited.
Taken at one of the many temporary photographic studios close to the Somme battlefield, this image shows three Sergeant Majors of the 20th Battalion Canadian Infantry CEF on the eve of marching to take part in the attack on Courcelette, on 15th September 1916. On this day the 20th helped capture the village and over the next month were heavily involved in the continued fighting for Regina Trench.
All three men in the photograph were old soldiers and were now senior Warrant Officers in the battalion. Bandmaster R. More (left) was the Warrant Officer Class 1 in charge of the battalion band, which played in camp when out of action and provided men as Stretcher Bearers on the battlefield. Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant A.B. Brown (right) was ‘Quarters’ the man who ensured the battalion got its quota of food, equipment and ammunition. In the centre is the ‘Regimental’ – Regimental Sergeant Major J. Collet. Having had a long career in the British Army, Collett saw the 20th through some tough battles on the Western Front and was decorated with the Military Cross for bravery in the fighting at Courcelette. All three men survived the war and were typical of the tough warriors that made up the CEF on the Somme in 1916.
The small Somme village of Courcelette was captured by the Germans in September 1914 and would remain in their hands until it was liberated by Canadian troops in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, when Tanks were used for the first time, on 15th September 1916. The Germans turned one of the village chateaux into a field hospital, built a substantial cemetery which eventually had more than 2000 burials and utilised the Sugar Factory close to the main Albert-Bapaume road as a strong point.
This image of the Sugar Factory is one of a small collection taken by a Canadian veteran when he toured some of the sites where he had fought in 1919.
Sugar Factories were commonplace in France at the time of the Great War; sugar beet was a major crop and almost every village processed them as part of the sugar trade. Today such factories are rare and the rebuilt Courcelette Sugar Factory has been a garden centre for many years.