In the summer of 2013, I sought the First World War Memorials in France & Belgium that beared my surname. This record integrates my passion of black and white photography to illustrate the places I visited with my family on that journey.
I remember my parents taking my sister and I to France and Belgium for a fantastic holiday when I was a mere boy; a holiday that seemed to last the entire summer. We visited many interesting places; places I still remember vividly, if not for the scenery, but how we all reacted at seeing the impressive First World War memorials and the cemeteries with endless rows of white crosses, carpeting acres of seemingly-boundless land. The impact it had on me then, remains with me today.
Back in the seventies, it was my father’s reaction at finding Caleb Wolverson’s name on the Thiepval memorial that sticks in my mind:
He recalls consulting the on-site Memorial Register, discovering his name and then finding the plaque that beared it.
A simple task, yet one that yielded a revelation; perhaps a personal connection to one of the greatest world conflicts in recent history – for our family name is not a common one, and until that moment, we knew of no relative who had fought in the First World War.
That a relative fought and died for his country in the Great War was now a confirmed possibility.
It was a humbling experience for us all. Even to me as a boy.
Years later, it was my recollection of that moment and a forthcoming holiday in the same region that inspired me to seek that very plaque and those of other Wolverson casualties who have been commemorated on First World War memorials in France and Belgium.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website shows that four Wolversons were killed in active service during the First World War. Three of them have no known graves and have commemorations on First World War memorials dedicated to the missing. The fourth has a known grave and is buried in a military cemetery.
Private Wilfred Saunders Wolverson
19907, 2nd Bn., Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment who died on 3rd September 1916.
Remembered with Honour- Ypres Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium.
Memorial Reference: Panel 20
Private Caleb Wolverson
9749, 2nd Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment who died on 13th November 1916 at the age of 21 years.
Son of William and Ann Wolverson of 65, Birmingham Street, Willenhall, Staffordshire.
Remembered with Honour – Thiepval Memorial, France.
Memorial Reference: Pier and Face 7 B
Corporal Edwin (Edward) Wolverson
17392, 13th Bn., Royal Welsh Fusiliers who died on 1st August 1917 at the age of 25 years.
Son of John Wolverson of 8, Cross Street, Bradley, Staffordshire.
Remembered with Honour – Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium.
Grave Reference: II. D. 1
Gunner John Henry Wolverson
136418, “A” Bty. 160th Bde., Royal Field Artillery who died on 20th October 1917.
Remembered with Honour – Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.
Memorial Reference: Panel 4 to 6 and 162
Corporal Edwin Wolverson, is the only casualty in this list with a known grave and is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery, on the northern outskirts of Poperinge, Belgium. My only regret is that I did not get to see this cemetery. With a little more thought on my part, I could have included that visit to make this search complete.
In Search Of John Henry Wolverson, Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium
A thoroughly enjoyable visit to Poperinge’s Hop Museum.
The Yorkshire Trench, Belgium
Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium
My list indicated that I would find John Henry Wolverson’s name on panels 4 to 6 and panel 162. The panels are at the back of the cemetery site and are shown in the above photograph. They are numbered in ascending order from left to right.
Leaving my wife and young boy together, I wandered off on my own to search for the appropriate panels and to look for John’s name. I spent ages searching for his name on panels 4 to 6. When my wife met with me some time afterwards, she said “There it is! Panel six. Middle column. One, two, three… seventh name down.”, having located his name with relative ease.
Panels 4, 5 & 162 were indeed dedicated to the Royal Field Artillery. Only panel 6 beared the name, John Henry Wolverson.
In Search Of Wilfred Saunders Wolverson, Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium
Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium
We visited the In Flanders Field Museum and then I climbed the many stairs to the top of the belfry.
And what a wonderful view, despite my poor head for heights.
And then a short walk to the Menin Gate via Menenstraat.
TO THE ARMIES OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE WHO STOOD HERE FROM 1914 TO 1918 AND TO THOSE OF THEIR DEAD WHO HAVE NO KNOWN GRAVE
AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM
HERE ARE RECORDED NAMES OF OFFICERS AND MEN WHO FELL IN YPRES SALIENT BUT TO WHOM THE FORTUNE OF WAR DENIED THE KNOWN AND HONOURED BURIAL GIVEN TO THEIR COMRADES IN DEATH
Menin Gate Memorial, Panel 20: the name, Wolverson W. S.
Sanctuary Wood Museum – Hill 62, Belgium
The Spanbroekmolen Mine Crater (Pool of Peace), Belgium
In Search Of Caleb Wolverson, Thiepval Memorial, France
Our furthest drive of the holiday. But arriving at Vimy ridge, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the beauty, elegance and shear size of this monument. It truly is a work of art and difficult, I would think, to come away with poor photographs.
Hawthorn Mine Crater / Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt, France
The British cinematographer, Geoffrey Malins, filmed the detonation of the Hawthorn Ridge Mine at 7:20 hrs on the morning of 1st July 1916. I wanted to find his approximate filming location and capture my own image of the ridge; the mine crater now shrouded with trees.
Estimating the focal length of the lens he used, the terrain and the position of British trenches (now chalk-filled) I reckon that this was somewhere very close to Geoffrey Malin’s filming position.
Newfoundland Memorial Park, France
Thiepval Memorial, France
The Thiepval memorial was being prepared for the First World War Centenary when we visited. It was undergoing chemical cleaning and receiving a thorough facelift, which made photography of the plaques and memorial itself, quite difficult.
And this is why my journey started and where it came to an end. Back in the seventies, my father discovered Caleb Wolverson’s name on the Thiepval Memorial, pier and face 7B.
The Lochnagar Mine Crater, La Boisselle, France
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.