Silent Cities


There are literally thousands of cemeteries on the Western Front where British and Commonwealth soldiers are buried. Out of that once-ravaged terrain ‘The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ conjured resting places. Visiting the cemeteries is a serene and even uplifting experience.

Why on November 11th did I choose CWGC Tigris Lane and CWGC St. Venant-Robecq Road?

CWGC Tigris Lane is situated a little bit uphill, near the village of Wancourt, not far away from Arras. A 2½ hours’ drive for us, living in Antwerp (Belgium). Here Lt. G. E. Sellers, Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion has his final resting place. Lt. Sellers was killed on September 2nd, 1918. He was the great-grandfather of a good friend, Glen Forster. Glen and his wife Gill lived near Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. Over there, we spent many lovely holidays. Sadly, Glen died early 2013. Since that day, November 11th became an annual tradition to visit Lt. Sellers’ grave to pay tribute. Sometimes we planted heather or put a wreath on the grave. Nowadays it is not so easy to find a poppy wreath, so this year we opted for a skimmia, very nice and tough to survive wintertime.

Tigris Lane is on a side road with little traffic. Hence the cemetery has not a frequent number of visitors as it is also a small one (119 stones). The only noise you hear is the passing of a HST (high speed train) or in this season, hunting in the surrounding fields.

After visiting the cemetery, it is also a tradition having a meal at A l’potée d’L’eandre, a local restaurant with delicious, traditional food. It was nicely situated at the foot of the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and the 164-metre-high ridge with the French national memorial. Unfortunately, the owners decided to close the restaurant in September 2021. Not that bad, we found a good alternative in Au Relais de la Fontaine at Noeux–les–Mines, on the way to our second cemetery visit. Half an hour later, we stopped at the busy D 937, the main road of Béthune.

Here at CWGC St. Venant-Robecq Road we paid tribute to Private Clifford Bethell, from Wedmore Somerset. He was the great-uncle of Clive, a friend from Somerset. Due to Covid-19 it was impossible for residents of the UK to cross the Channel coming to the Western Front. So, with great pleasure, this brave soldier was added to our list. Clifford was attached to the 12th. Bn. Somerset Light Infantry and died on July 25th, 1918.

Through the Lys area we crossed the border at Steenwerck and came back home.

Tekst en foto’s: Gust Charrin.