Gunstone Brothers’ graves, Luke Copse CWGC

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Gunstone Brothers Graves, The Somme.

These are the graves of two brothers from Sheffield who died together on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1st 1916. They are buried where they fell which is the tradition of British and Commonwealth armed forces. Note these two graves are not actually next to each other, this is two photos joined together.

The manner of recruitment during WW1 saw the formation of Pals Battalions where brothers, friends and workmates from one town all joined up together, trained together and, when they left their trenches and marched into a hail of machine gun bullets, they died together. The result was that entire towns and villages lost many of their young men in one day.

Two such men were Frank Gunstone and his younger brother William.

You can see their numbers 660 and 661 and can picture them in Sheffield stood next to each other in the queue to join up, the older of the two stepping forward first. It is easy to imagine them proud in their uniforms, showing off to their family and maybe their girlfriends and then going off to France to fight for their King and Country…

And visiting Luke Copse cemetary which is right in front of the remains of their trench you can, with next to no effort, picture their Commanding Officer blowing his whistle and the two brothers – who had never before been in battle – climbed the ladder out of the trench and were immediately cut down.

The Pals Battalions – working class lads from towns such as Accrington, Barnsley and Salford fell here in great numbers but didn’t gain any ground. On that first day, nearly 20 thousand British men were killed.

While it is not difficult to imagine lads like the Gunstone brothers dying in the field, the enormous casualty figures are too high to really appreciate. New Zealand, for instance, suffered casualties in 6 weeks at the Somme that amounted to 1% of the entire population of the country.

By the end of the 20 week long Battle of the Somme, nearly a third of a million men of all nationalities had been killed – and the Allies had advanced 6 miles.

Below;
Luke Copse cemetery is one of a number of cemeteries beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Like many cemeteries positioned where the men fell, it contains only a small number of graves but there are many such cemeteries in the fields all around. There are 72 graves at Luke Copse, men who died at the beginning and at the end of the Battle of the Somme. 28 of the dead are unidentified.

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This page gives a very good overview of the cemeteries and memorials in this area.

31 comments on “Gunstone Brothers’ graves, Luke Copse CWGC
  1. salfordlad1 says:

    Sad story of the two brothers..wonderfully done as usual Ian.

  2. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/25305713@N04]
    That was quick, thanks Wilf!

    Will be catching up with you and everyone soon – been AWOL again…

  3. And who am i says:

    What did Harry Patch say "War is organised Murder" Great bit of information Ian.
    How’s the withdrawl symptoms going?

  4. And who am i says:

    What did Harry Patch say "War is organised Murder" Great bit of information Ian.
    How’s the withdrawl symptoms going?

  5. cgullz says:

    NZ’s worst day in WWI was October 12, 1917 in the First Battle of Passchendale – we lost 1000 Kiwis in 2 hours. Simply due being told to fight in a knee-deep muddy battlefield, but achieving the 1900 yards we were asked to gain. Bloody sick times and sad leadership. tragic that families lost so many of their young boys. I have two great-great uncles that died on the Somme and are buried over there, and that’s only from one family line, others I’ve still yet to find out. Great to have this reminder put out there, coming up to our ANZAC day soon [April 25th] and a chance to remember again. I deeply admire the Europeans for keeping their war cemeteries the way they do, so well cared for. It’s quite reassuring knowing that the war dead are honoured in this way. I remember seeing a doco on t.v here of the Belgium town of Le Quesnoy and that it honours Kiwis every Armistace Day, due Kiwis being the ones that liberated the town in 1918.

    more here …

    "nearly 20 thousand British men were killed" !!!! both humbling, and tragic, and utterly sad.
    [edit] btw, you’ve travelled to some of these sites?

  6. Mark McKie says:

    Very well done Ian.

  7. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/markmckie] Thanks Mark, [http://www.flickr.com/photos/darkpeak14] cheers Andy.
    Harry Patch, he never bought into any of that glory crap did he. Withdrawals are fine, not even bothering with NRT stuff.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/angwickham]

    Hi Ang, thanks for the link. Something particularly galling to read of casualties right before the Armistice….

    Didn’t know that about the Kiwis at Passchendaele. 1000 in 2 hours? Can you imagine casualty figures like that being read out on the TV news now and how we would react to those numbers?

    Have visited there as well as the Somme, they are very moving places. I recall reading that the village of Passchendaele after the war was just an orange smudge in the mud from the red brick buildings that were rubbed into the ground. I read somewhere this evening that the Kiwis lost about the same at the Somme as at Gallipoli?

    Gallipoli is one of those places that gets under my skin because of the history of the Lancashire Fusiliers and the portrayal of it now especially from the Australian point of view where people like Charles Bean and many others since who have written that the British were not to be trusted, especially the Lancashire Fusiliers. They are often described as being of a different race, puny little working class men from the slums, shaking in their boots and not capable of fighting compared with the fine, barrel chested, bronze skinned ANZACS who bailed them out and fought their war for them.

    That view is perpetuated today but certainly isn’t the view in Bury. It is a pity really, because on April 25 (famously the day the Lancashire Fusiliers won "6 VCs before breakfast" at Gallipoli) as ANZAC Day is celebrated down under, here in Bury we celebrate Gallipoli Day. Even in the UK most people now associate Gallipoli only with Antipodean suffering.

    However the Lancashire Fusiliers particularly suffered and the home of the Lancashire Fusiliers is Bury though the regiment drew men from all over the place. It is a similar statistic to that of NZ; 1% of the entire population of Bury was killed at Gallipoli.

    Naturally the impact of Gallipoli was keenly felt in NZ and Australia because of the percentages and the distance those young lads travelled and because there was subsequently and rightly a recognition of the Aussies and Kiwis as not being coloniaIs but independent and sound allies.

    Not that it is a pissing contest but according to Geoffrey Moorhouse (Hells Foundations) at Gallipoli those killed number;

    Australia 8,709
    New Zealand 2,701
    India 7,594
    France 9,874
    Britain 21,255
    and of the Turks at the very least 86,692 dead….

  8. nondesigner59 says:

    War Sucks.!!

  9. Mustang Koji says:

    How tragic, Ian… Very tragic… For love of country, it seems. But the parents must have grieved for many a night. May they all be in peace now.

  10. SolarScot. says:

    my son has a book called Charleys War which was a comic strip in Battle comic and i believe he learned as much about The First World War from it,Lest We Forget is still poignant today

  11. bazylek100 says:

    A moving picture, Ian. I read somewhere that it could be calculated that at Somme every single metre of the gained terrain had costed the lives of two men.
    The casualties numbers of the WWI battes are shocking! On the Eastern Front, during the Battle of Gorlice (a town 100km SE of Kraków) in May and June 1915, the casualties were ca. 190,000 (dead and badly wounded) on both sides. However, in contradistinction to the bloody battles fought in France, that one resulted in the effective breaking the frontline by the Central Powers, and a general retreat of the Russian troops, a blow from which the Russian Army had never recovered. Today the battle is somewhat forgotten event in Poland, although Lesser Poland is dotted with the military cemeteries from the time of the Great War.

    The Pals Battalions… a fine example how at first glance a good idea can turn into catastrophe. Obviously, no one could have ever expected that an infantry battalion could suffer casualties of 90%! (how it actualy happened at Somme)

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/angwickham] Interesting reading, Ang.

  12. Jessicasrider says:

    very moving and a lovely tribute.

  13. mick cooke says:

    a sorry thing to see ian , they gave there lives to make a better world ,

  14. amyrey says:

    Always desperately sad to hear of brothers dying together. Wasn’t there some rule that prevented families from losing all their sons. Or was that just the plot of Saving Private Ryan (and a different war). Really did know that about entire villages – in the context of such futile efforts to make such small gains it is no surprise that such decision were made. But where would we be without thier sacrifice. …

  15. crusader752 says:

    It’s sad enough when you see the numbers Ian, but by putting ‘flesh’ on their bones is even more poignant. What a waste of all those young lives but no doubt they went to war willingly and in the spirit of good comradeship too – right to the bitter end.

    If it wasn’t for them and their ilk and for all those that have fallen since for the freedom we now enjoy, I probably would not be writing this, being that July 1st was my Birth day …36 years later ………..

  16. stickotopia says:

    Lions led by donkeys.
    I love history programmes but don’t get on much with Dan Snow as I feel there’s a lot of nepotism going on and older (more experienced) historians have therefore been bypassed.
    However a few years ago I started watching one show where he looked into his grandfather’s past. At the beginning he almost jokingly said that he hoped he wasn’t one of the ‘donkey’s’. It turned out he was – enjoying life in a French Chateaux while sending men to their deaths at the Somme. It was very sobering for Dan Snow but someone has to be related to these men – just relieved I’m not!

    The saddest part was a northern man at the end who had been Dan Snow’s guide. In one of the cemeteries he went to one of the huge panels and pointed to a name the same as his (so far up on the panel it was difficult to see). He then told Dan that this was his uncle – one of the men Dan’s grandfather had sent to his death. I did feel a bit sorry for him then. Have just found a newspaper review of the programme:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/19/somme-haig-snow-brit...

  17. cgullz says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/29288836@N00] "It’s sad enough when you see the numbers Ian, but by putting ‘flesh’ on their bones is even more poignant" well said that man!!

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/maycontaintracesofnuts]
    I have a very untrustworthy memory, so much so that not much stays in anymore:

    "•A total of 18,500 New Zealanders died in or because of the war, and nearly 50,000 more were wounded. More than 2700 died at Gallipoli and 12,500 on the Western Front. " – WWI info from:
    http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/first-world-war-overview/introdu...

    Down here Gallipoli gets alot of attention, I don’t know why the Western Front isn’t the same – it deserves the attention. Perhaps I need to read more, but the general appreciation of the importance of Gallipoli is that that is where Kiwis and Aussies first stepped ashore together to fight [hence ANZACs] [Australia New Zealand Army Corp] so I guess in a way it’s reaffirming an neighbourly alliance. In saying that, the Lancashire Fusiliers shouldn’t be shafted in any way. Poor bugger anyone who was there, including those from there. It was a stupid battle in a stupid location made more stupid by the fact that the top brass persisted with it for so long. Which, on reading that sentence over pretty much sums up the Western Front too. I think I may be harbouring a bit of anger …

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/bazylek] yes! likewise interesting reading too Robin! .. I read some of the British companies started out with 1000 men and ended up with only 30 left – and still fighting. fuck that!, comes to mind.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/stickotopia] "Lions led by donkeys" how wonderfully worded. I still have yet to visit, and apologise for being such a slack arse in doing so.

  18. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/nondesigner] What is is good for? Absolutely nothing!
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/p47koji] Indeed Koji. They are gone but not forgotten.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/solarscot] Yeah I am so pleased we maintain the tradition of remembrance.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/bazylek] Thanks Robin. I shall have to look up the Battle of Gorlice. Never heard of it, though only today I saw a dreadful photo of Russian soldiers torturing a Polish prisoner back in 1915. I naiively imagined that sort of cruelty only happened with the political extremes of the 1930s but clearly not.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/88409432@N06] Thank you.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/mick_cooke_wildlife] Thanks Mick
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/amybigkiss] Thanks Amy. I don’t know of any such ruling. I am also not sure what they gave their lives for. The main thing WWI did was set the world up for WW2.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/29288836@N00] Thanks Rob. WW2 was a just war, the men and women were fighting for something and that generation did make the world we live in now. Not sure about WWI though. It broke down some boudaries, there were technologcal advances and it challenged militarism but that clearly didn’t stop Hitler… But I can’t think of how anything that came from WWI was worth the life of one soldier.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/stickotopia] Interesting insight into Dan Snow. It reminded me of Blackadder Goes Forth and Geoffrey Palmer as Field Marshall Haig sweeping up toy soldiers with a dustpan and brush.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/angwickham] Nice round-up Ang, thank you!

  19. stickotopia says:

    I ‘got on me bike’ as old Norman Tebbitt said and in the late 1980’s early 1990’s was working in London in the Civil Service. My window looked straight out onto Whitehall and the Cenotaph and all sorts of parades and disruptions went on outside – we got a good view of everything. There were only 3 of us working in the office together and one morning some ‘event’ was going on at the cenotaph. Our friend, Joan who delivered the mail was there too – making four of us, all women. Someone said it was the 75th anniversary of Galliopoli but at the time I only knew of it because of the film even though I had visited the War Memorial on a trip to Canberra in the mid ’80’s.

    On each corner of the Cenotaph there was an Aussie (or Kiwi) – we knew because of the ANZAC hats and then some really old men were pushed in their wheelchairs to lay wreaths. Apparently these were British old soldiers.
    We all looked at each other at the same time and were all overwhelmed and quite emotional – it wasn’t something we were expecting to see.

    I’ll never forget it, more so now as they have all gone.

  20. stickotopia says:

    A question – Ian – you may know. A friend of mine says they won’t buy poppies because their mum who was Scottish told them the Haig family made money off them. I’ve always bought them but now tend to go for the Help for Heroes as we aren’t really told about the number of boys needing help after Afghanistan – you only hear about the deaths not the injured.

    Just wondered if you’d heard anyone else with doubts about the poppy fund?

    It’s funny – I always thought it was an international thing – it was only when I saw an American comedian on telly ask what they were for (as one had been pinned on him) that I realised it’s probably just a British thing.

  21. Jessicasrider says:

    Stickatopia; below a useful link to the Wikipedia summary of the poppy appeal, of note are of its origins in the US. I know our Canadian colleagues also wear the poppy.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_poppy

    Regards Pete

  22. Jessicasrider says:

    Stickotopia, apologies for the misspell!

  23. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/stickotopia]
    Nice memories to share of Gallipoli veterans, thank you. You made me laugh with your comment about Tebbit – I felt and did the same, I got on my bike and travelled south, looked for work and found work!

    Re; Poppies.
    As [http://www.flickr.com/photos/88409432@N06] points out it was an American thing originally but not now I don’t think and Commonwealth forces are remembered by them too. I never heard of money going to Haig’s family though I suppose the idea arose from poppies (in England and Wales at least) having the words HAIG FUND on the black bit in the middle. That has now changed, it says POPPY APPPEAL.

    I buy a lot of poppies and poppy crosses because I use them when taking photos of crash sites, partly because a splash of red often lifts a photograph but also as a means of remembering the dead. I do wear my poppy with pride but that’s just me. I personally don’t feel people should be forced to wear them, I think that whole poppy fascism thing actually mocks the dead – for instance, an American appearing on a BBC Sports TV programme having to wear a Poppy is just meaningless. That is about the producers scoring points not remembering the dead.

    For all the politics about poppies -should we wear them, shoud we not wear them – at the end of the day it is about remembering the dead. It doesn’t matter to me that the name of Haig was on the poppy or that some people are opposed to them because of one reason or another, it is about the dead serviceman, that is all that counts. I don’t believe in god and am certainly not a christian, yet I plant poppy crosses all over the place and photograph them often with the crew man’s name on it and the date of his death. It is all the same, the cross, the poppy, it doesn’t matter what it is, so long as we remember these chaps and what happened to them.

  24. pasujoba says:

    Great reportage Ian .
    This scale of destruction has seldom been equalled in war .
    My own towns recruited men were sent into the Accrington Pals brigade . It is said that every family here lost at least one family member . Many fell in Gallipoli alongside the Anzacs.
    It was a futile war fought for little good reason and with a largely unsatisfacory outcome for all countries involved.
    Very emotive shot Ian, with the two brothers side by side .
    For my money i think the Poppy appeal is good as is Help the Heroes too ( except that we shouldnt have to help the heroes they should be looked after in full by the Government that has sent em out there ) . I,m not sure about Poppy facism , I wouldnt want to say that people in the public eye are only wearing them cos they feel they must do so . It may well be that many of them would wear them regardless of being ‘famous’ and on telly. About 50% of the people I know (over a certain age) wear a poppy.
    It really is though more of an expression , a visible sign of remembrance that everyone can understand . Like you Ian , I am a non believer . The symbolism is open for all to use and not just for believers because it transcends belief and faith . Its about remembering those who have given thier lives for us all and really has little to do with religion except for the use of religious symbolism.
    Thankyou for sharing

    with the War Stories Group

  25. stickotopia says:

    Thanks everyone for all the information!

  26. bazylek100 says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/maycontaintracesofnuts] Here’s a brief wiki note regarding the battle: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorlice%E2%80%93Tarn%C3%B3w_Offensive Since it was fought in a hilly and in some parts rough terrain, some traces of the trenches have preserved here and there until now. You can also still come across a rusty barbed wire which dates back to 1915.

  27. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/bazylek] Yeah I saw the wiki thing. Interesting to hear you can still find traces of the battle today.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/pasujoba44] It’s that everybody on TV wears them and even having them on football shirts too, it just seems that it is being rammed down people’s throats. People should choose to wear and remember the dead and if they don’t that is their right. I can’t stomach people who take the moral high ground even when I agree with the principle.

  28. Tech Owl says:

    Sombre reminders

  29. bazylek100 says:

    A kind of post scriptum to this post…
    http://www.cwgc.org/media/105717/20130409-amc_bullecourt_news_re...
    How many soldiers of both sides are still lost in the Flanders fields?…

  30. Nicholas1963 says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/amybigkiss] Yes you are right it is extra sad when brothers are lost – sometimes in one incident the most famous the five Sullivan brothers in one US cruiser going down. Know of one Canadian bomber with two brothers – both air gunners wireless operators who had volunteered to enlist in the RCAF but only if they could serve in the same aircraft. The did but sadly were lost together. And in British service there were the Garland brothers. After several cases of brothers being lost the US government implemented the sole survivor policy
    [ see : en.wikipedia.org /wiki/Sole_Survivor_Policy ]. The popular Saving private Ryan film script is loosely based on the case of the Niland brothers.
    Britain retained it’s policy to have units with a strong regional character, which is a risk when things go terribly wrong.
    Brothers were usually talked out of joining together and in the same units. In some cases permission was granted though. Famous are the twins Timothy and Claude Gronert who volunteered, served and died within hours of each other in the fighting at Oosterbeek on September 21st. 1944. They had volunteered on the stipulation that they would serve in the same unit, a proviso is something military authorities are notoriously reluctant about. Sadly the twins did not survive and lie buried side by side at the Oosterbeek war cemetery. [ see: http://www.arnhemoosterbeekwarcemetery.nl/# ].
    It is a while since I last visited, but it is only 60 or so miles away, the Arnhem battlefield.

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