Cemetery of accidental deaths

I slept in this morning. It’s something I rarely do and, generally, I have no idea why. There’s no real consistently to it. Normally I wake up at around 6am regardless of when I went to bed the night before. Then, there’s the occasional 07:30.

The difference with this morning is I think I know why.

I was in the middle of a dream. In the dream I was a DCI investigating a very important crime. I don’t remember what it was. In fact, apart from the preceding sentence, I know nothing about it, except, perhaps, the reason why I slept in.

I figure it was because I wanted to see the end of the investigation, and the only way I could do that was to stay asleep. Maybe it was a duty thing; maybe it was my brains way of getting me a bit more sleep; maybe it was a prescient message from another dimension for what was waiting for me in my inbox.

I had a message from a fellow in France on this blog. His name is Jeremy, and he asked if I knew anything about three soldiers buried in Houlle graveyard, his local village churchyard. He’d read my blog entry of 17 November 2019 regarding Robert John Waters Ross, who blew himself up trying to catch fish, and Jeremy wondered about the other three graves situated next to his.

I did a quick trawl across my various research assets and came up with a surprising fact. All four Commonwealth Graves in the graveyard at Houlle were for soldiers who died accidentally.

There was Walter Slater of Brighton who was found drowned, Dolphis Thivierge of Quebec who was killed accidentally and Thomas Chapman who drowned.

At first I thought that, maybe, they all died at the same time, possibly from Robert’s defective hand grenade but, no. The four men had nothing connecting them except for the fact that they were soldiers, they were buried in the same place, and they all died accidentally during the Great War.

The dates they died, for instance, were miles apart.

  • Slater: 11 December 1915
  • Ross: 23 June 1916
  • Thivierge: 3 September 1916
  • Chapman: 29 October 1917

It would appear that the soldiers all died in Houlle while their battalions were resting between marches. I’ve discovered this by reading the war diaries for three of them. Slater still evades me because I can’t find a digitised version of the Sussex Regiment for the day in question. I’m going to email someone at the records office and see if they can send me the entry for the day he died.

Meanwhile, the war diary for Thivierge’s battalion has this entry for the day of his death: “Sunday – Church parade. Preparing to move. Rain. 417015 Thivierge, Delphis [sic] died of accident.” But that’s it. Apparently, Houlle was used by quite a few regiments for billeting of soldiers on the move. Perhaps that’s what links them.

Robert Ross has an entry for the day of his fishing escapade. It merely states that “Ross was accidentally killed by a bomb.

Looking up the village of Houlle gave me nothing of any substantive, investigative value. Mind you, it sounds like a lovely little French village which I’d love to visit one day. In fact, it’s only five miles from St Omer, a regular Weasel visiting spot which I’ve managed to miss out on visiting a number of times over the years.

Houlle is possibly best known for the gin it distils. Apart from simply being drunk, the gin is also used in the preparation of Maroilles cheese. Maroilles is particularly pungent and would definitely be a lure for a Weasel.

Not that any of that helped me in my search for what these soldiers shared.

One thing they do share is a burial plot. Here’s the Commonwealth Graves Commission photograph of the four graves in that plot.

HOULLE CHURCHYARD - CWGC

I don’t know what connects them (apart from dying accidentally). Maybe one day, like Jeremy, someone will reach out and comment on this post. Until then, this will remain an unsolved mystery.

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