Two Special Visits

We like to visit the graves or the memorials of our Dovorian casualties as often as we can. Towards the end of 2007 there were two very special occasions, when we were privileged to accompany the relatives of casualties as they paid their respects. Here is one of those special times; for the other see the Relatives of John Cork 


George Bates died on 3rd October 1917, during the Third Battle of Ypres - or Passchendaele. On the 90th anniversary of his death we went with his grandson, Peter, to spend a while by his grave, and to retrace as best we could what had happened to him on that fateful day in the Ypres Salient.

While Maggie and Peter stopped at the archives of the "In Flanders Fields" museum, and worked through their pictures and maps of the battlefields at the time of Private Bates' death, Simon visited to the St George's Memorial Church. This was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, as part of the post-war commemorations, and was built between 1927 and 1929.

It's filled with memorial plaques. Earlier in 2007, Peter had dedicated one there to George Bates. It reads:

"George Bates 1st QORWK
Born 27th July 1885 Elmsted Kent
Killed 3rd October `1917 near Hooge
Sorely missed by Amelia, Leslie and
his loving family in Dover"

George Bates is buried at Bedford House cemetery.  Right is an early view of the cemetery, from a book of postcard images of the military cemeteries around Ypres (published by Maison Van Winsen, Ypres). 

There are now over 5,100 people commemorated at Bedford House. Just over 3,000 of them are not certainly identified, as bodies were brought in after the Armistice from the battlefields, from hastily dug graves, and from cemeteries destroyed by bombardment after creation.

George Bates lies in the largest enclosure, number IV, which grew from 400 graves to around 3,700 between 1921 and 1926. The graves either side of George are amongst those unidentified. It was the signet ring he wore which ensured that George Bates was buried with his name. Who gave it to him, we wonder.

The book that Peter is placing on his grandfather's headstone is a copy of David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.

It was given to George by, we believe, his future wife, on his 17th birthday. The inscription reads: "George Bates. A gift from his friend, "Milly". July 27th /02"

letter from IWGCOn 15th December 1925 Mrs Bates received a letter from the then Imperial War Graves Commission.

"I am directed to inform you that in accordance with the agreement with the French and Belgian Governments to remove all scattered graves and small cemeteries containing less than 40 graves, and certain other cemeteries which were situated in places unsuitable for permanent retention, it has been found necessary to exhume the bodies buried in certain areas. In the process of exhumation the grave of Private G Bates was located at a point South East of Hooge, and his remains which were identified by means of a portion of a Gold Signet Ring, engraved with the initials "G.B." have been re-interred in Bedford House Cemetery ... 

The reburial has been reverently and carefully carried out.".

From his death until his body was recovered, George Bates lay here, on the corner of Sanctuary Wood. It is still possible to see shell holes and remains of trenches beneath the trees.

The wood lies in a dip in the terrain, and we believe George was killed up on the Menin Road ridge and brought down here where the burial party could work in relative safety.  

(see Memorial and  George Bates for more)
pictures: Simon Chambers

Copyright 2008/0 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved