Merville Communal

MERVILLE, Nord, France

Merville is a town 15 kilometres north of Bethune and about 20 kilometres south-west of Armentieres. The Communal Cemetery is on the north-east side of the town to the north of the D38 road to Neuf-Berquin.

OPENING TIMES: April to October: 08.00 – 20.00 November to March: 08.00 – 17.30 Disabled access possible via the large door of the Communal Cemetery. Access to the cemetery extension is also via the large door of the Communal Cemetery as the service entrance of the Cemetery Extension is too small and there are steps. For further information on wheelchair access, please contact our Enquiries Section on 01628 507200.

Merville was the scene of fighting between the Germans and French and British cavalry early in October 1914 but from the 9th of that month to 11 April 1918, it remained in Allied hands. In October 1914, and in the autumn of 1915, the town was the headquarters of the Indian Corps. It was a railhead until May 1915, and a billeting and hospital centre from 1915-1918. The 6th and Lahore Casualty Clearing Stations were there from the autumn of 1914 to the autumn of 1915; the 7th from December 1914, to April 1917; the 54th (1st/2nd London) from August 1915 to March 1918, and the 51st (Highland) from May 1917 to April 1918. On the evening of 11 April 1918, in the Battles of the Lys, the Germans forced their way into Merville and the town was not retaken until 19 August. The cemeteries were not used again until the concentration of battlefield burials into the Extension began, after the Armistice. During the Second World War the river Lys was the southern end of a deep but narrow area held by British forces at the end of May 1940. Merville is on the territory over which were fought desperate rearguard actions during the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force to the coast, for evacuation from Dunkirk. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY was used by French troops (chiefly cavalry) in October 1914, and for Commonwealth burials from that date until August 1916 (in the case of officers, to March 1918). It now contains 1,268 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, and 12 French war graves. There is also 1 non war burial. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION was opened in August 1916, and used by Commonwealth and Portuguese hospitals until April 1918. It was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields immediately north and east of Merville and from Caudescure Halte Cemetery, Morbecque. The Extension now contains 920 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 345 of them unidentified. The 92 Second World War burials (18 of them unidentified) occurred mostly during the fighting in May 1940 and are interspersed among the First World War graves. The Extension also contains 19 war graves of other nationalities. The Extension was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

No. of Identified Casualties: 1283

Courtesy of the Commonwealth Wargraves Commission.

Name Rank & Number Battalion Age Died Grave Ref Cemetery Notes



Son of Mrs. Grisewood, of 39, Cadogan St., Chelsea, London.

Francis Sydney GILLESPIE Captain 13th Bn 26 18/06/1916 VII. A. 19. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Son of John and Eleanor A. Gillespie, of 102, West Hill, Sydenham, London.

Born 26th.March 1889 in Upper Norwood, Surrey, he attended Dulwich College between 1902 and 1904.
He was a talented cricketer, averaging more than 60 for Surrey Second XI in 1912, a season in which he made his highest score of 217 not out for the Wanderers Club. He played six first class matches for Surrey in the 1913 County Championship, alongside the legendary (Sir) Jack Hobbs, averaging 22.63 with a top score of 72.
Unfortunately he was unable to dedicate enough time to the sport after that, opting instead to follow his father into the City.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War 1 he joined the Honourable Artillery Company and was clearly a talented soldier, gaining top marks on a course he attended. He joined the 13th. Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1915 (July?), gaining the commission of Temporary Captain.

Our thanks to his great nephew Nick Parnell-Smith for the above information.

Fritz CARTER L/Sgt SD/3551 13th Bn 19 02/07/1916 V. A. 7. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Uckfield 19th May 1897
Enlisted: Horsham
Son of Sarah Carter, of Nursery Farm, Chelwood Gate, East Grinstead.
Attended Danehill school.

The East Grinstead Observer – 12th August 1916 reported under Chelwood Gate: “Lance Corporal (actually L/Sgt) F. Carter of The Royal Sussex Regiment, a native of this hamlet died as a result of wounds received in France.”

The Danehill book of remembrance records that his Serjeant wrote of him:
“he was well liked by every member of the Company, being a smart and very promising young N.C.O.”.

In an album she kept, his mother wrote:
“Trained at Bexhill, Maidstone, Aldershot, Whitley Camp Surrey
Foreign Service; France 4th March 1916.
2nd July 1916 Died of wounds received on June 30th.”

Charles CLAYTON L/Cpl SD/4144 “A” Coy. 13th Bn. 22 02/07/1916 V. A. 8. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: New York, USA
Enlisted: Hastings
Son of Robert and Rose Clayton.

Henry PETTITT L/Cpl SD/2998 13th Bn. 07/07/1916 V. A. 17. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Millwall, Surrey
Enlisted: Hove

William Alfred BENNETT Private SD/3288 13th Bn. 30/06/1916 IV. P. 6. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Steyning
Enlisted: Hove
Son of Alfred Bennett, of 15, St. George’s Place, Steyning, Sussex.

Sidney CULVER Private SD/1302 12th Bn. 30/06/1916 V. A. 1. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Wadhurst
Enlisted: Tunbridge Wells
Son of Mrs. H. Culver, of 3, Derwent Cottages, Wadurst, Sussex.

Mark LONGHURST Private SD/2958 13th Bn. 32 01/07/1916 V. A. 3. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Cuckfield
Enlisted: Haywards Heath

Robert Henry LUCAS Private SD/1772 12th Bn. 23 01/07/1916 V. A. 4. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Brighton
Enlisted: Bognor
Son of Robert and Mary Lucas, of Brighton; husband of Lily May Lucas, Laburnum Cottage, North Bersted, Bognor.

Charles RABSON Private SD/3671 12th Bn. 01/07/1916 V. A. 11. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Wadhurst
Enlisted: Hastings
Son of Robert and Mary Lucas, of Brighton; husband of Lily May Lucas, Laburnum Cottage, North Bersted, Bognor.

William “Billy” REED Private SD/4938 12th Bn. 29 01/07/1916
died of wounds

Born: Fletching, Sussex
Enlisted: Hove 20/09/1915
Son of James and Julia Reed, of Fletching, Uckfield, Sussex;
husband of Alice Annie Reed, of Bank Passage, Steyning, Sussex.

Billy REED died of gun shot wounds to the hip and arm.

Our thanks to Malcolm Hole, his great nephew, for the details above, and the photograph of Billy.

George SHORE Private SD/3022 12th Bn. 24 01/07/1916 V. A. 11. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Linton, Cambs.
Enlisted: Hastings
Son of Walter and Annie Shore, of Six Mile Bottom, Newmarket.

Frank Gurr SOFTLEY Private SD/3958 11th Bn. 38 01/07/1916 V. A. 14. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Godalming
Enlisted: Guildford
Son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Softley, of Godalming, Surrey; husband of Margaret Darby Softley, of 28, Whitton Rd., Hounslow, Middx.

Edward Charles TAYLOR Private SD/864 11th Bn. 01/07/1916 VI. Q. 73. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: St Pancras, Middlesex
Enlisted: Hastings

Clement TRILL Private SD/2803 13th Bn. 29 01/07/1916 V. A. 2. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Brighton
Enlisted: Hove
Son of Elizabeth Trill and the late Henry J. Trill; husband of Violet J. A. Trill, of 40, Marlborough Place, Brighton.

Arthur Clifford TWITCHETT Private 5/2506 5th Bn.
Secondary Regiment: Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Secondary Unit Text: Attd. 2nd/6th Bn.

Enlisted: Uckfield

Percy Leonard WILLMER Private SD/3712 13th Bn. 20 22/06/1916 VI. P. 67. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Hove
Enlisted: Hove
Son of Arthur and Eliza Willmer, of 47, Shakespeare St., Hove, Brighton.

Sidney Arthur WOOD Private SD/553 11th Bn. 29 26/06/1916 VI. Q. 67. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Chichester
Enlisted: Worthing
Son of Mrs E. Wood, of 8, Corsehill St., Streatham, London.

Alfred Montague FOLEY Second Lieutenant 11th Bn.
(Attd 2nd Bn)
20 CWGC 03/08/1916
S/D 09/09/1916

Son of Alfred Edward and Alice Edith Foley, of 7, Chambercombe Terrace, Ilfracombe.

John James LEE Private SD/3917 11th Bn. 25 28/07/1916 XI. A. 18. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: Blackburn
Enlisted: Blackburn
Son of William and Mary Alice Lee, of 3, Wensley St., Blackburn.

George Henry PITCHER Private SD/1435 12th Bn. 20/06/1916 VI. P. 64. MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Born: All Souls, Sussex
Enlisted: Eastbourne
Brother of John A. E. Pitcher, of 95, Bourne St., Eastbourne.