Berks Cemetery Extension

Casualty info

Total Burials: 876 of which 3 are unknown

Designed by

H Chalton Bradshaw


History

Berks Cemetery Extension was begun in June 1916 and used until September 1917. The area remained in British hands for the majority of the war and with its position a few miles back from the front line was often seen as a ‘nursery sector’ with many new units journeying to Ploegsteert for their first taste of life in the trenches. Although not the site of any major engagements it was still a very dangerous place to be and was often targeted by enemy artillery. In addition, men based here frequently took part in dangerous raids and other tasks to support the attacks taking place in surrounding areas such as Messines, so daily casualty rates were by no means low.  The area to the right of the Memorial to the Missing was the original war time cemetery with the plots to the left not being added until much later. This was unusual, as whilst many smaller cemeteries and isolated burials had been moved in the years immediately after the Armistice, plots II and III at Berks were not added until 1930. These men were previously interred at a cemetery not far away – the Rosenburg Chateau Military Cemetery and Extension (sometimes referred to as the ‘Red Lodge’). This was used by fighting units from November 1914 right up until March 1918 and actually stood in the grounds of the chateau. After the war, when the chateau owner returned, he felt that as he rebuilt his house, the cemetery would stand too close. Despite pleas from the British and Belgian authorities, he remained firm, and eventually the 475 men buried there were exhumed and moved the half mile distance to this, their final resting place. In March 1930 The Times reported on the event:

 “Each body, as it was reverently taken from the earth, was placed in a coffin draped with the Union Jack and removed by motor ambulance to the Royal Berkshire Cemetery Extension”.


Epitaphs

12851 Private George Lawrence Holmden
5th Bn Canadian Infantry
19th August 1915
Age 20

If I fall

I shall have done

something with my life

worth doing

2nd Lieutenant Charles Chalmers Jameson
42nd Bn Australian Infantry
4th April 1917
Age 21

A gallant gentleman

A loveable comrade

And a fearless soldier


When I at last, am seen and known

Rifleman Leonard Crossley and Rifleman William Crossley – Plot I, E 20 & 21

The tragic tale of twin brothers who were born together, grew up together, fought together and died together. Leonard and William Crossley grew up in Thirsk, Yorkshire. William went on to become a bricklayer and Leonard an electrician but when the call to arms came, the twins like many young men answered, in their nations hours of need, and were recruited into the 21st Battalion the Yeoman Rifles together. The 21st Bn moved into the Ploegsteert area on 25th May 1916. As the summer advanced the front livened up and the German artillery began heavy shelling, in particular around the dangerous hour before dawn. Following a raid on the German trenches in the early hours of 30th June 1916, the battalion war diary notes that the enemy retaliated and it was during this bombardment that Leonard and William were killed. When I visit these lads, I can’t help but think not only how tragic life can be, but also how fundamentally strange. It is no wonder that many men fighting took on a ‘fatalistic’ attitude to life and death when confronted with events such as this.

Private George Lawrence Holmden – Plot III, D 36

I came across Private Holmden’s grave in September 2018 and you can read more about his story here. The young man from Canada who signed up in the first recruitment drive of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914. After a journey across the sea to undertake his training in the UK, he finally arrived in France in February 1915. After taking part in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, his battalion moved into the area at Ploegstreet where, on 19th August, George was killed by shellfire. He was 20 and his war had lasted all of 6 months. His epitaph is one of my favourites of all that I’ve seen and it through this that I came to discover his story, to ensure he is not forgotten.

Corporal Egbert Robert Midlane – Plot II, C 43

Rest on beloved

Thy work is done

The battle fought

The victory won

18 year old Egbert joined The Rifle Brigade in October 1904. After spending time in Malta and Calcutta he embarked for France with the 3rd battalion as part of the B.E.F. in September 1914. Wounded by a shell in August of 1915 he returned to duty some months later and was promoted to Corporal in March 1916. Whilst in action in June of that year, he showed remarkable bravery during an attack on a working party. Egbert was killed during this incident and posthumously awarded the Military Medal. His commanding officer wrote to his parents noting that although Egbert ‘would never enjoy it, he will have died knowing that to the best of his ability in the most trying and difficult circumstances where many others would have been tempted to think only of themselves he always put his duty first’