Belgian soldiers who died abroad and were buried in the United Kingdom
The British also fought with the Alied troops against the Germans and from De Panne, where the largest Belgian military hospital (l'Océan) was operative, the crossing to Dover or Folkestone was faster than transport to Le Havre or even Paris. Therefore Belgian wounded that needed a longer recovery were shipped to the UK.
Thousands of Belgians have been cared for in England, Wales and even in Scotland. A good three hundred never returned. They are buried in 89 different cemeteries, spread all over the island. In some larger cities they share a site on honorary parks of the Commonwealth with the British, Canadian, Australian, etc... military victims of war. In smaller cities and villages they are buried in civil cemeteries. in a few cases even in mass graves with the Commonwealth fallen. Because the Britisch authorities at the time estimated that the Belgian soldiers were devoted to the catholic religion, which they practically all did, our young men were not allowed to be buried on graveyards around the Anglican churches.
The Britisch civil graveyards and cemeteries are totally different from those on the European continent. Has it something to do with the Anglican faith? I don’t know. They bury their dead in (civil) cemeteries where the original natural features of the selected burial site is respected.
No formats, no trails, no mown lawns, no restrictions. Nothing but pure nature. The results is sometimes beautiful, sometimes hallucinatory. But finding a 100 year old tombstone is in most graveyards not evident.
Fortunately, in England also in most cases our Belgian casualties of war are buried under our standard military tombstone. Where that was not the case, my correspondents whom send me pictures of the tombstones, wrote me that in a number of cases they had to involve the local gravedigger in order to find a specific grave.
Therefore, and also because they spared no effort and time to provide me with this wonderful collection of our heritage abroad, I wish to thank all these people for their unselfish efforts. Of the 89 cemeteries where I asked for help I received assistance from 57 places. Without having to ask twice and essentially for no direct consideration, except for a series of pictures of their Tyne Cot Cemetery here in Zonnebeke.
Belgian soldiers who were buried in Commonwealth honorary parks on military cemeteries
The tourist in the Belgian Westhoek can not miss them. In the area Ypres, Diksmuide, Poperinge, Roeselare and by all means Passchendaele, nowadays Zonnebeke, Commonwealth military cemeteries are abundant.
All these cemeteries, large or small, have all the same basic architecture. When entering such cemetery, the attention goes immediately to the monumental cross with the downwards tipped sword. That cross is called 'The Cross of Sacrifice', symbolizing the soldiers willingness to die for a good cause. That monumental cross was designed by the British Architect Reginald Blomfield. Depending on the size of the cemetery, that cross will be between 15 and 30 feet high. On Tyne Cot, the largest WWI Commonwealth cemetery in the world, the cross is 30 feet high.
The second element that stands out immediately is the 'Stone of Remembrance' with the inscription 'Their Name Liveth For Ever More'. You will not find that stone on cemeteries with less than 1,000 graves. Savings, you know? The 'Stone of Remembrance' was designed by British architect Edwin Luytjens. The stone of remembrance is a solid 12 feet long stone, high and wide as an altar table. The stone stands on a pedestal with three steps, whereoff the highest step is twice as large as the two other steps.
Luytjens designed also the individual tombstone for the Commonwealth soldiers. That stone mentions the national emblem of the fallen or the badge of his regiment. His military rank, his name, his unit, his date of death, his age, the religious symbol applicable to him, and a kin chosen personal dedication. Of course, to the extend these data are available in every case.
The Cross of Sacrifice and The Stone of Remembrance of Tyne Cot Cemetery taken into one shot.
The tombstone of Charles Boeyckens from Oppuurs at the military cemetery of Folkestone.
You can read his story 'The Belgian-Canadian volunteer' here.
At the military park of Aldershot Cemetery we found three of our young men.
Behind the catholic church of Almondsbury in the churchyard we find the grave of Leopold Jules Van De Venne
from Kortrijk under a Commonwealth gravestone.
Bath - Perrymead Cemetery
At Perrymead Cemetery in Bath, Luchies and Vandermerch are buried under ordinary headstones.
In Birthley, the city where the Belgians made bombs and other munitions,
this frontal monument is in honor of the fifteen Belgian military casualties that died there
but were buried in the catholic cemetery of the city.
Thirteen of the fifteen original headstones have been replaced by temporary markers.
The headstones have been removed for renovation.
Jacques M’Bondo, born in Quaha (Belgian-Congo) died in Birthley.
In the autumn of 2015 new tombstones were placed on the graves of our soldiers.
Thank you, Valerie Graeve and Bill Lawrence from Birthley, Dirk Musschoot from Gent
and Freddy Fransen from Mol for your efforts to obtain the placement of the new tombstones.
Valerie Graeve also for transmitting the new set of photographs.
August De Mesmaecker en Jules Ducene are buried in Bournemouth Cemetery,
side by side, both under a Commonwealth tombstone.
Bristol - Arnos Vale Cemetery
At Amos Vale honorary park, the Bristol military cemetery, seven Belgian casualties are buried in a mass grave.
Their names are on row 5 of the monument.
With 5,000 Commonwealth war dead and nearly 800 dead from other nationalities, the military cemetery in Brookwood is by far the largest military cemetery in the United Kingdom.
The cemetery was founded in 1917 to meet the need in greater London for a military cemetery during WWI.
During the Second World War, the cemetery was expanded to its present proportions. Therefore victims of both World Wars are buried in Brookwood. Probably that's why Brookwood is the only Commonwealth cemetery in the world having two 'Stones of Remembrance' and two 'Crosses or sacrifice'.
The US part of Brookwood is owned and managed by the United States. It was started in 1921 with 468 casualties of WWI and during World War II expanded to an area of 4.5 acres.
With the exception of American graves, all other graves are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The victims of different nationalities are buried in different sections per nation.
Section 26 is the Belgian section.
There are 45 Belgian soldiers who died in World War II and two soldiers who died in WWI.
Mathieu Callot from Borgerhout and Henri Van Damme from Markegem are the WWI victims.
Our two casualties buried in Chelmsford are Karel Steylemans and François Vrancken.
The second grave next to the white birch is the tomb of Constant Wauters from Gent.
Four in a row. That's how our war dead lie at Colchester Cemetery.
At the far left of the picture we see the Commonwealth cemetery, part of the Dover general cemetery.
In that military section two of our WWI dead are buried.
On May 25, 1917 German zeppelins and Gotha G.IV aircraft threw bombs on the major English channel port of Folkestone. Dover and Folkestone were very important because their harbors had the shortest connection to the European continent. Therefore those cities frequently suffered from German bombing. In the bombing of May 25, which went down in history as the 'Kagohl 3 Raid', two Belgian military lost their life in Tontine Street. They were buried in Scorncliffe Military Cemetery.
Later they were excavated and buried in a mass grave with the remains of 16 other compatriots who died in Folkestone hospitals. This mass grave has been replaced by a large memorial in the form of a 'Stone of Remembrance' on which the names of the victims were engraved. We could not determine whether the remains of our 18 heroes are still on the cemetery.
Charles Boeykens is buried among the other graves in the background.
The grave with the poppy cross at the base is the tomb of Georges Pieters from Gent.
Gloucester Cemetery. For the British tradition, for us... desolate.
Thank you Jim, for a job well done!
Gaston Stevens grave lies between the oak and the grave of a British soldier who died in 1920.
For Gaston Stevens no tombstone.
High Wycombe Cemetery
On August 4, 2015 a new war memorial was inaugurated in High Wycombe.
In High Wycombe Joseph Buttenaere is commemorated.
A brief ceremony was also held at the tomb of Joseph
and a Belgian family member of the fallen soldier honored him with the traditional poppy wreath.
Henri Ruyters was a militarized civilian drafted for training young recruits.
He's in Huddersfield cemetery under a Commonwealth tombstone.
This is Huntly cemetery in Scotland. What is noticed immediately?
Precisely, we are no longer in England.
In Huntly the most important part on the life of François Buslot from Lebbeke took place.
The story of soldier Benedictus François Buslot, buried here in a family tomb, symbolizes that strange things can happen to a soldier in wartime.
Benedictus François Buslot was born in Lebbeke on September 18, 1890, son of Joannes Andreas Buslot and Clementine Verberckmoes. He enlisted as a volunteer in the Belgian army on August 6, 1914 and was assigned to the 1st infantry regiment. On October 4, 1914 he lost his left index finger in Duffel as a result of a German bullet looking for a better target. From the period between October 1914 and June 1915 there is no data in its military and medical files.
On June 19, 1915, he was already in England, by the committee for the ill and wounded, he was granted leave of absence for an undetermined period of time. The reason for this ruling is indicated nowhere.
We now know that François Buslot ended up in Huntly after he was send to Leith Hall Castle in Kennethmont, as one of the first fifteen Belgian wounded soldiers that came to that place, after it having been converted into an hospital at the beginning of the war.
That castle is just 7 miles from Huntly, and after June 19, 1915 when François was granted leave of absence, he could not return to the castle. So he found board and a job in Huntley. Huntley, a good 60 km north-west of Aberdeen, has fewer than 5,000 inhabitants.
In the factory he meets Mary Gilruth Corban. On March 14, 1916 they get married in Huntly church and five days later he appears again before the committee for the ill and wounded.
Did that marriage have anything to do with the call to appear before that committee? It sure did! He is sent back with leave of indefinite duration.
In July 1915, the North-English steel manufacturor Armstrong-Withworth build two ammunition factories in Birthley. On February 11, 1916, a month before the marriage, the Belgian and British government signed an agreement. Our country would deliver the management and the workers for those factories, the British would guarantee payment and housing. Sufficient workers were not found soon enough, therefore our government decided to send about a thousand, mostly wounded soldiers to Birtley.
If François Buslot could not have proved that he had roots in Huntly, other than just a job, he would have been send to Birthley, and he preferred to stay in Huntly.
A birth certificate shows that in January 1917, his son Francis Henri Buslot was born.
He appears one last time before the Committee for the ill and wounded in London on February 26, 1917 and he becomes a dismissal without compensation. Unfit for service because of a crushing of the left knee under a wagon wheel. Where and when this happened, not a trivial piece of information, is not on file.
Four months later, on June 21, 1917, François died of tuberculosis in Huntly. That disease was nowhere mentioned in his previous medical records. Mary never remarried. She dies in Wandworth, London as Mary G. Buslot, at the age of 70. She has eternal rest in the same grave has her husband in Huntly.
A well deserved word of THANKS !
Here we see Willem and Max Ross, the two sons of Marijke Stallaert (now Marijke Ross) from Buggenhout-Opstal (Belgium) giving the tombstone at the family tomb of the parents of Mary Gilruth Cobban a good cleaning.
Marijke is married to a Scotsman, Stephen Ross, they live in the town of Banchory.
In the summer of 2013 they offered spontaneously to make the trip from Banchory to Huntly to bring us these images whilst giving the family tomb a much needed cleaning.
A return journey of 100 miles, but through the Scottish Highlands, 3 hours back and forth.
THANK YOU, Marijke, Stephen, Willem and Max!
During the weekend of October 24 and 25, 2015, in the entrance of this beautiful castle of Leith Hall,
an exhibition and memorial moment dedicated to the more than 500 wounded soldiers of WWI
who got treatment here, took place.
The first fifteen wounded, with François Buslot among them, were all Belgians.
The exhibition was focused on three specific soldiers, one of them was François.
He really stood 'in the picture'.
Marijke Ross lived for a while in Leith Hall’s mill house. She was pictured at the exhibition next to Catherine Coursey, former neighbor and friend, whom did the first searches for the tomb of François Buslot in Huntley, two years ago.
The grave in the foreground is the family tomb of the in-laws of George Deleau, born in Arquennes.
Hurdsfield has seen a true drama on November 29, 1918. Two weeks after the end of the Great War George was back in Hurdsfield. During the war he had married Mary Hardern in Hurdsfield. On Friday November 29, 1918, he was involved in an automobile accident in Garden Street. He was killed instantly. The curious thing about the story is that his wife and her sister, without knowing why, (were they also involved in the car accident?), died within three days of the accident.
Edith Hardern, his sister-in-law, died on Saturday, November 30th and his wife, died on Monday, December 2nd. Whatever the circumstances of the dramatic weekend, George Deleau is buried behind the church of Hurdsfield in the family tomb of his wife’s family. However, the circumstances of his death make that George Deleau technically is a war-veteran rather than a war-victim of the Great War.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI in Ilfracombe a parade was held on August 4, 2014.
In front of the parade three commemorative plaques were carried
for non-Commonwealth soldiers whom died in Ilfracombe.
Two of them are Belgians. Emiel Vrancken from Antwerp and Kamiel Kerckvoorde from Assenede.
They were buried at the local cemetery.
John Nettles (where have we seen him before?) also made an appearance
along with (left to right) the local organizers Jane Dendle, museum manager Sara Hodsen and Sue Garwood.
Sue is my correspondent and photographer on site. Thank you Sue, for a job well done!
In Lambeth, there is no longer a tombstone for Gilles Gielen born in Ans.
Again local people went through incredible difficulties to prove to us that his stay there has not gone unnoticed.
Witness hereunder the report by my correspondent and photographer on site.
The burial register above says that Gillis Gielen was buried in plot 434 A3.
Just ask the gravedigger and with him and a wooden beam go to the cemetery
and localise as precisely as possible the plot, mark the beam with the plot number and drill the beam in the soil.
As simple as that! But how to find people that want to do all that?
Thank you Geoff, for a job well done!
It didn’t fail to impress me what you did to get me these pictures.
Fortunately, Gilles Gielen' name, age, date of death and gravenumber are on the side of the monument.
On this monument in the cemetery of Leicester seven names of Belgians are listed who are buried there.
The eighth Belgian is listed as 'An unknown Belgian Soldier'.
We managed to trace the identity of the eighth man. Jules Degotte from Dochamps was the stranger.
They promised us that his name, service number, military rank and date of death also will be placed on the monument.
London - Saint Mary's Kensal Green Cemetery
Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Kensal Green is the catholic section of Kensal Green cemetery,
the largest cemetery in London.
In front of this monumental tomb 77 Belgian military casualties are buried.
Most of them died in the King Albert I hospital, Store Street, London.
The 77 names of our hereos buried here are engraved in the outside support pilars of the monument.
Following texts are engraved on the central plates of the tomb:
On the left, in Dutch:
Hier rusten Belgische soldaten die, nadat ze in den strijd voor ‘s lands onafhankelijkheid werden gekwetst,
in Engeland werden opgenomen en in die (dit) gastvrij land stierven.
God schenke hun de eeuwige rust. België beware trouw hun aandenken.
On the right in French:
Ici reposent des soldats Belges qui, après avoir été blessé en combattant pour l’indépendence de leur pays,
ont été accueillis en Angleterre et sont morts sur cette terre hospitalière.
Que Dieu leur accorde le répos éternel et que la Belgique conserve pieusement leur souvenir.
Both texts translate to the same in English:
Here lie the Belgian soldiers whom, after being wounded in the fight for the independence of their country,
were welcomed to England and died on this hospitable land.
May God grant them eternal rest and may Belgium retain their godly remembrance.
Under the central sculpture in English:
Greater love than this no man hath. That a man lay down his live for his friends. (John XV.13).
Our thanks go to John Curtis from Chester whom made these great images
and unselfishly made them available to our website.
Victor De Martelaer from Massemen has a lonely grave in Mickleton.
On August 4, 2015, he was honored as the hero he had been.
Here at his grave my correspondent and photographer on site Maureen Shears.
Thank you Maureen, for a job well done!
Under this green turf in front of the war memorial is a mass grave with a hundred victims of the Great War.
Eleven of them are Belgian soldiers.
It was John Curtis, my correspondent and photographer in Moston,
pictured here next to the detail plate with the names and data of our military,
who discovered that corporal Corneille Stallaert from Wolvertem is not buried in Cannock Chase but in Moston.
Thank you John, for a job well done!
A view of the church of Nechells and at the same time the back of the tomb of Auguste Durieux, born in Nivelles.
In its immediate neighborhood, four Commonwealth comrades.
New Southgate Cemetery
At New Southgate Cemetery we find the graves of two Belgian heroes from WWI.
Gaston Deygers born in Gits and Jean Willaert born in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, a Brussels suburb.
At the cemetery of Saint-Nicolas Church in Norton lie four Belgian casualties of WWI.
One of them is buried below a Commonwealth gravestone.
Luitenant Albert De Keyser from Izegem would have imagined his last resting place in a better spot.
In this beautiful Commonwealth cemetery lie five Belgian soldiers.
They all died in Oxford within five months of the beginning of the war.
Fortunately, they are all on the proper side of the fence...
The grave in front is a 'mass grave'. The plate contains four names.
Our very Octave De Cra lies with Private John Grant, private Donald Cameron and private Peter Tolland
under one and the same stone.
In Poole Cemetery our soldiers Isidoor Mollen from Westerlo and Hubert Dandois from Charleroi
lie fraternally side by side.
Preston New Hall Cemetery
Preston, Lancashire, is situated 28 km. east of Blackpool.
In New Hall, Edouard Van de Velde from Sint-Amands at the river Scheldt
is the only Belgian among the citizens in this cemetary.
Nobody, but nobody, is so lonely and deserted as Peter Vermote from Lo out in Sedgefield Cemetery.
In a 'mass grave' six Belgian soldiers are buried at this Sheffield Cemetery.
Southhampton Old Cemetery
At the old cemetery of Southampton 25 Belgian casualties of WWI are buried
scattered among ancient tombs of British citizens.
Southhampton Stoneham Cemetery
At Southampton Stoneham Cemetery we find the tombstones of private Jan Loos from Zonhoven...
...and Willem Lorret from Dendermonde isolated from each other.
They are the only two Belgian soldiers who were buried here.
The tree stump replaces the tombstone on the grave of Jean-François Vermeulen from Hofstade near Mechelen.
His name and other data are inscripted on the monument that has replaced the individual tombstones.
On November 11, each year, poppy crosses are placed for each hero in front of the monument.
At Twickenham Cemetery the remains of four Belgian heroes are buried.
The grave to the right with the trunk cross is the tomb of Jean Thonnard from Liège.
The rear tomb in the picture is the tomb of Peter De Witte from Sint-Niklaas.
The grave in front is the grave of Karel Van Wetering from Antwerp.
Do not look for the tomb of Joseph Van Wetering from Antwerp. It is in neither one of the pictures.
At Wrexham Cemetery
in North Wales
two Belgian soldiers
are buried under the same tombstone.
Joseph Verbeke from Waregem
and Philemon Van Beveren