Kingsley Village
in the heart of Cheshire

We have been to the Battlefields – first and second World War - in Northern France and Belgium many times over the past fifty years but our last visit at the end of June 2006 was of special significance.

Ninety years since the start of the Battle of the Somme but more personally ninety years since the fall of Hazel’s Uncle Burt in those terrible times.

James Burton Lewis volunteered in 1914 and joined the Kings Regiment at Sefton Park where “it was just like scout camp and it’ll soon be over” but soon he was in France. We are fortunate that his letters home have been carefully preserved; have been transcribed and copies are with the Imperial War Museum. His description of the conditions in the Trenches defies believe, the mud, the cold, the hunger, the rats, inhumane conditions. Another recurring theme “Leave has been stopped again” .He writes longingly of home – How is the harvest doing? How much is father getting for potatoes?


“Thank you for the chicken you sent but please don’t send eggs again!".

Amazingly in spite of the conditions, parcels posted in Frodsham were at the Front in four days.

Our prized possession is however Burt’s 1916 Diary kept by him against all regulations. From it we can trace his day by day movements around the area of Albert and Amiens even though his interpretation of village names has been testing but with the aid of a large scale IGN map (the French OS) we have succeeded.

The last entry in the diary is 23rd June 1916. Two days later he was killed.

So this was our pilgrimage, ninety years to the day – day and date - to lay a wreath on Burt’s grave in a small cemetery in the tiny village of Cerisy – about the size of “ old “Crowton. We have been twice before and never seen anyone around but this time we met a family from Stockport doing just as us, at the grave next but one to Burt. This helped but the anguish and tears are there intensified by the remoteness and the silence.

Hazel laid a wreath of poppies from his surviving seven nieces and nephews to the Uncle never known but never forgotten.

We continued our journey calling at Thiepval and the Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel to Albert and Peronne where there is a magnificent building housing l’ Historial de la Grande Guerre an interpretive centre with a difference designed to make you think.

But perhaps the most poignant memory is of seeing coach parties of 14-16 year olds arrive at Theipval and other Memorials, leave their coach laughing and joking to return later silent and solemn having aged five years in as many minutes.

British, French, Commonwealth, Belgian Cemeteries abound in Northern France and are easily seen from the roads. Quite often in middle of a field, prominent with a cross or flagstaff rising against the sky, but we should not forget the German Cemeteries. Often almost hidden, they are dark,foreboding with black grave stones, the graves often holding up to twenty bodies, certainly not uncared for but with an eerie chill.  

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We MUST remember them. May God in his mercy continue to give their Souls eternal Peace."  

Ken & Hazel White.

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