Ovillers Military Cemetery (Ovillers-La Boisselle) 1 July 1916


Ovillers Military Cemetery

This is one of the most important cemeteries for me in conducting my research for The Mad Game books. I sited William on 1 July 1916 in La Boisselle with the 34th Division, as this part of the line was the scene for terrible fighting, mine explosions and the brutality of failed attacks and the effect of slow trench movement on morale of attacking soldiers. It also marked the split in the British planning on 3 July. On the left, Gough was asked to press sparingly where the line could advance. On the right, Rawlinson began what came to be known as “bite and hold” moves, including the second phase at Bazentin-Le-Petit and the third at Flers-Courcelette, with the debut of tanks.


On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 8th Division attacked Ovillers and the 34th Division La Boisselle. The villages were not captured, but ground was won between them and to the south of La Boisselle. On 4 July, the 19th (Western) Division cleared La Boisselle and on 7 July the 12th (Eastern) and 25th Divisions gained part of Ovillers, the village being cleared by the 48th (South Midland) Division on 17 July. The two villages were lost during the German advance in March 1918, but they were retaken on the following 24 August by the 38th (Welsh) Division. 


Ovillers Military Cemetery

Ovillers Military Cemetery was begun before the capture of Ovillers, as a battle cemetery behind a dressing station. It was used until March 1917, by which time it contained 143 graves. The cemetery was increased after the Armistice when Commonwealth and French graves where brought in, mainly from the battlefields of Pozieres, Ovillers, La Boisselle and Contalmaison, and from the following two cemeteries, MASH VALLEY CEMETERY, OVILLERS-LA BOISSELLE, which was about 200 metres North of Ovillers Military Cemetery. It was named from one of the two valleys (Mash and Sausage) which run from South-West to North-East on either side of La Boisselle. It contained the graves of 76 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in July-September 1916.


Ovillers Cemetery. The Cross of Sacrifice with La Boisselle in the distance. The ground between was a hard fought battlefield on 1-5 July 1916

RED DRAGON CEMETERY, OVILLERS-LA BOISSELLE, was midway between Ovillers and La Boisselle. It was made by the 16th and 17th Royal Welch Fusiliers, and named from their badge. It contained the graves of 25 soldiers who fell in August 1918, all of whom belonged to the 38th (Welsh) Division, and all but three to the Royal Welch Fusiliers.


An unknown soldier from Lincolnshire at Ovillers. Likely to be from the 34th Division, possibly a Grimsby Chum

There are now 3,440 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 2,480 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 24 casualties believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of 35 casualties, buried in Mash Valley Cemetery, whose graves were destroyed in later fighting. The cemetery also contains 120 French war graves.


Tyneside Scottish Northumberland Fusiliers (NF), 34th Division from the La Boisselle battlefield.


Ovillers Cemetery, a large proportion of soldier casualties were unknown


Ovillers Cemetery


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