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Warlencourt Cemetery

Warlencourt Cemetery https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/warlencourt-cemetery The losses suffered here by the New Zealanders show the sacrifices made by soldiers at the Somme. Ngā Tapuwae Trails https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/sites/default/files/stop/media/Western%20Front-Somme%201916-Warlencourt-National%20Army%20Museum-NAM%206000.jpg

The losses suffered here by the New Zealanders show the sacrifices made by soldiers at the Somme.

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Warlencourt Cemetery

You’re in the Warlencourt British Cemetery on the Albert-Bapaume road, and you’re standing at the grave of Sergeant Donald Forrester Brown, VC, of the 1st Otago Infantry Battalion. Brown was the first New Zealand Victoria Cross winner on the Western Front, and he won the award for his bravery in the initial attack on 15 September, by taking out the machine gun posts on the edge of High Wood. He continued fighting with his battalion, and you’ll note the date of his death is 1 October 1916. By then the New Zealand Division had been fighting for almost 20 days, and 1 October was their last major attack.

Brown, a farmer from Southland, showed the same bravery in this attack that he’d displayed throughout the battle, and near the end of the fighting he was shot by a German sniper while leading his platoon. If you look around Brown’s grave, you’ll see scattered headstones, many of them from Brown’s Otago Battalion, all dated 1 October. By now, the battalions of the New Zealand Division had been reduced from 1,000 strong down to about 400. The 200 casualties suffered by the Otagos and by the other battalions on 1 October had reduced the Division to the point where it was no longer an effective fighting force, on 2 and 3 October it was withdrawn from the battle.

If you look back down the road behind you, you can see the spire of the village of Le Sars. Just this side of the village is the furtherest point gained by Haig’s armies in the Battle of the Somme 1916. On 16 November Haig closed the battle down. By now the New Zealanders had returned to Northern France around Armentières where they reorganised, took on new reinforcements, regrouped and assessed what they’d learnt in this, their first major battle.

On the British side, there were some 400,000 casualties. For the New Zealand Division alone, in 23 days of fighting, they suffered 7,500 casualties. On top of that there were 200,000 French dead and wounded. The German casualties have been estimated at anywhere between 450,000 to 600,000. Russell, the divisional commander, not only had to replace his casualties and retrain his division, but he also had to assess what lessons they had learnt from the Somme - so that they could prepare for whatever 1917 might bring.

How to get here

Getting there

Follow the D74 (then D11) towards Le Sars for about 2.5km. At the crossroads at Le Sars turn right onto the D929 towards Warlencourt-Eaucourt.  Bypass the smaller Cemetery of Le Sars on your right.

After about 2 kilometres Warlencourt Cemetery will be on your right.

Where to stand

Enter the cemetery, walk up to the war stone on your left two rows away from the war stone is the grave of Sergeant Donald F. Brown, VC. Stand facing his grave.

GPS
50°4'49"N
2°47'59"E
Decimal GPS
50.0804
2.799862
  • Stretcher bearers in action on the Somme, 1916. The carrying party on the left appear to be German prisoners. 1916.
    Stretcher bearers in action on the Somme, 1916. The carrying party on the left appear to be German prisoners. 1916.Credits

    1992.760, National Army Museum, NZ http://nam.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/6000

  • Men taking a break at the Redoubt Advanced Dressing Station on the Somme. The ammunition belts have been taken from the wounded. 1916.
    Men taking a break at the Redoubt Advanced Dressing Station on the Somme. The ammunition belts have been taken from the wounded. 1916.Credits

    1992.760, National Army Museum, NZ http://nam.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/6095

  • Dugouts on what appears to be a rail embankment. The marked shell sitting on a log is used as a gas alarm. 1916.
    Dugouts on what appears to be a rail embankment. The marked shell sitting on a log is used as a gas alarm. 1916.Credits

    1992.760, National Army Museum, NZ http://nam.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/6118

  • Victoria Cross winner, Donald Forrester Brown, who successfully attacked German gun positions, saving many lives.
    Victoria Cross winner, Donald Forrester Brown, who successfully attacked German gun positions, saving many lives.Credits

    Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-031677-F. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23067234

  • A dead German soldier in a trench at Flers. Battle of Flers-Courcelette. September 1916
    A dead German soldier in a trench at Flers. Battle of Flers-Courcelette. September 1916Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 4273)

Stories & Insights

Wounded in no-man’s-land, Aitken had to find his way back.

Men of the Maori Pioneer Battalion take a break in a trench near Gommecourt. 25 July 1918.

Digging and repairing trenches and roads was vital work, but the Pioneers could also be called upon to fight.

As a Pioneer, Kōhere quickly developed a reputation for bravery and hard work.

Despite fierce German resistance, Inglis continued to lead his men forward during the attack.

Around one in seven of the 15,000 New Zealand men who fought on the Somme lost their lives, and many more were wounded.

Sending troops 'over the top' produced horrific slaughter.

Useful resources for those looking for more information.

A selection of First World War vocabulary and common phrases.

The Mark I, one of first tanks used in battle at the Somme, 1916.

Although clumsy and slow, the Mark I soon proved its worth in battle.

Take the next trail

The next Ngā Tapuwae trail is Somme 1918. Proceed to Euston Road Cemetery.
Link to the first stop

Decimal GPS:
58.8941060042426
-68.92675299999996
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Decimal GPS:
69.88771936385766
-69.79599625000003
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Decimal GPS:
72.7159773440205
-60.049908531250026
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Decimal GPS:
74.44287456001997
-79.14426481250001
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Decimal GPS:
75.02310249610612
-114.49017706250004
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Stop Images

Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.0262
2.791997
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Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.03975
2.80166
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Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.04978
2.813861
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Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.06261
2.813743
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Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.0804
2.799862