An interesting item sent to the next of kin by the Imperial War Grave Commission (became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1960) are these folios with photographs of their family members grave marker.
The Imperial War Graves commission had a team of photographers taking these photos which were sent to the family free of charge. Reading through late 1920’s newspapers it is interesting to read warnings to families not to send money to people, not approved by the Commission, advertising to take photos of headstones and place wreaths and such on the graves. There were also concerns that some unscrupulous photographers were risking damaging the headstones by rubbing mud into the carving to make the name and other information stand out in photos.
Inside the folio are two photos of the grave markers. Looks like the original marker was changed to a much more permanent marker and I guess it was just done at the right time with the photographer on hand to get shots of both.
The back of these photos shows that on at least one it could be used as a postcard.
This is the photograph of the grave of 12/3176 William Edward URWIN who was killed in action on the 03 July 1916 and buried in Cite Bonjean military cemetery, Armentieres. Urwin was part of the 1st battalion Auckland Infantry Regiment.
The Official History of the Auckland Regiments records; “1/Auckland went into the l’Epinette sector on June 21st, occupying trenches 73, 74, 75 and 76, the strong points SPX and SPY, Willow Walk and Buterne Farm. Willow Walk, Plank Avenue and Japan Avenue led to the front line, which was held by the 15th and 16th Companies. Everything went well until the afternoon of July 3rd, when the Germans commenced to range with a big naval gun. This was an ominous sign. At 9 p.m. a coloured flare went up from the enemy rear line. There was a feeling of impending danger. At 10.30 p.m. hell suddenly broke loose. Every kind of missile rained down upon the front line. The parapet was blown in, dug-outs smashed, men killed, wounded and buried alive. For an hour the noise continued, the detonations filling the night with sound, the flashes lighting up the darkness. The Huns were about to raid. It was impossible to move about, but every man grasped his rifle, crouched down beneath what shelter was left, ready to leap up and fire as soon as the barrage lifted and the raiders should endeavour to push in. The air was heavy with smoke and fumes and the smell of phosphorus.”
After the shelling came a enemy probe then when that was beaten back then there was a break of about an hour then came another shelling barrage, after the second barrage came the main raid by the Germans. The Aucklander’s managed to withstand the hour long attack but “Altogether it had been a very bloody and expensive business, 33 O.R.’s being killed, 1 officer and 63 O.R.’s wounded. and 5 O.R.’s missing.”
This first folio shows the early marker for Urwin and interestingly another filo was sent to the family later on with another photo this time showing the final headstone.
Here is a similar folio that was sent by the Australian’s. This was sent to the widow of 3266 Alfred Metcalf CAPPER who was born in Opotiki, NZ. He was a member of the 53rd Battalion and died on the 25 July 1916 as the result of wounds received on the 19 July.
The 53rd Battalion was raised in Egypt on 14 February 1916 as part of the “doubling” of the Australian Imperial Force. Half of its recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 1st Battalion, and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia. Reflecting the composition of the 1st, the 53rd was predominantly composed of men from the suburbs of Sydney. The battalion became part of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division.
The battalion arrived in France on 27 June 1916, entered the front line for the first time on 10 July, and became embroiled in its first major battle on the Western Front, at Fromelles, on 19 July. The battle of Fromelles was a disaster. The 53rd was part of the initial assault and suffered grievously, incurring 625 casualties, including its commanding officer, amounting to over three-quarters of its attacking strength. Casualty rates among the rest of the 5th Division were similarly high, but despite these losses it continued to man the front in the Fromelles sector for a further two months.
Towards the bottom of the page , just above the medals info, the service file records that the above photograph was sent to the widow on the 25 May 1920.