Colne Valley Cemetery
10.00am Wednesday 22nd June 2016
Boezinge is located north of the town of Ieper on the N369 road direction Diksmuide. The Cemetery is located in Kleine Poezelstraat East of the village. From the N369 turn right into Brugstraat, over the bridge and bear right into Langemarkseweg. Carry onto the crossroads and turn right into Kleine Poezelstraat. Carry straight on and the cemetery is on the right hand side 500 metres along this road.
For most of the First World War, the east side of the village of Boezinge directly faced the German front line. Colne Valley, Skipton Road and Huddersfield Road were names given to trenches by the 49th Division. Colne Valley Cemetery, a little south of Caesar's Nose, was begun by Territorial battalions of the West Riding Regiment of that division in July and August 1915. It remained in use until February 1916. The cemetery contains 47 First World War burials. 30 of the graves are of officers and men of the West Riding Regiment. The cemetery was designed by Wilfred Clement Von Berg.
The cemetery was built at one of the lowest points in the sector and suffered badly from flooding, so much so that in 2005 the rear wall and the brick tool shed collapsed. The cemetery was often completely submerged and inaccessible to visitors. In 2014 it was decided to solve the problem that became a combined project between the CWGC, The Province of West Flanders and the City of Ypres Council. All the architectural elements above the ground were dismantled down to the foundations, and the ground level was raised by an average of around 1.2 metres. Every feature of the cemetery was measured and numbered by a surveyor. The architecture and horticulture of the cemetery were then methodically reconstructed using historical plans, with respect for the original materials and techniques used in its creation. Support for this project was provided by the Province of West Flanders, which granted a subsidy for the works and an associated public heritage project. The City of Ypres supplied a pumping installation to help prevent flooding in the future.
The ceremony began 10.00am with Carl Liversage, CWGC Head of External Engagement, welcomed everyone the introduced Her Excellency Ms Alison Rose, British Ambassador to Belgium. He excellent speech, delivered first in Dutch and then in English, was informative and interesting. She was followed by Jef Verschoore, Deputy Mayor of the City of Ypres and lastly by Richard Nichol, CWGC Area Director (Operations).
Mrs Jenny Timmins and Mr Richard Evans who are great-grandchildren of Rifleman Cornelius Sullivan who is buried in the cemetery read the Act of Remembrance and the Exhortation. The Buglers from the Last Post Association sounded the Last Post, then followed a one minute silence and Reveille.
HE Alison Rose led the wreath layers, followed by Commander Emma Gaudry on behalf of the Australian Ambassador to Belgium; Brigadier General Macdonald Letsholo on behalf of South African Ambassador to Belgium; Petry Gunter on behalf of the Province of West Flanders, Jef Verschoore on behalf of the City of Ypres and lastly Mrs Madeleine Evans and Stuart Evans granddaughter and great-grandson of Rifleman Cornelius Sullivan.
Trevor Evans then read the personal story of Rifleman Sullivan that included the following information: Cornelius was born in London on 1th February 1886 and he was married with a son, who sadly died in infancy and a daughter. He volunteered served with 7th Battalion Royal Rifle Corps. Cornelius was killed on 9th February 1916.
Michel Decru read a story of Lance Corporal James Riach on behalf of Maureen Riach, his granddaughter. James was born in Scotland in 1871 but moved to Yorkshire with his family a couple of years later. He married on 26th March 1894. After serving in the Boer War he remained a member of the Territorials, being mobilized in March 1915. He was killed on Saturday 14th August 1915 the circumstances being: “About 4.45pm, an enemy shell landed in dugout F30, about 700m from the cemetery, on the crossing of Kleine Poezelstraat and Moortelweg. Three men were killed immediately, James with Corporal Norman Hirst and Private John Aked. Three other men were wounded, one of whom died shortly afterward, Private Charles Lee. It was difficult to get Private Lee to the communication so Captain Maynard Percy Andrews went over the parapet to help but was almost instantaneously was killed by a bullet in the head. All of them were buried in the next day in the cemetery. By coincidence both James and Charles Lee worked together in M & S Sharp’s Dyeworks and lived in the same road. They were killed by the same German shell and remain together in the cemetery.
The ceremony was completed by the laying of an individual rose on each grave, this task being undertaken by the infants of the Gesubsidieerde Vrije Basisschool, Boezinge, and the students from St John’s Catholic Comprehensive School, Gravesend, Kent.
A reception was held close by that everyone thoroughly enjoyed even though, like the cemetery, it was dry! Congratulations to all concerned on a job well done and an excellent ceremony.
The photographs below follow the sequence of events detailed above.