Sunday, 8 November 2009

Etaples Military Cemetery, France

Etaples Military Cemetery, Etaples, Pas de Calais, France
Etaples (near Le Touquet) is the largest Commonwealth war Cemetery in France. There was a large military hospital there where the wounded were removed to, and of course many died, hence it is so large. 8,819 UK troops are buried here.  1,145 Canadians, 464 Australians, 260 New Zealanders, 68 South Africans and 17 Indian.  There are also 658 Germans buried here.

Étaples was the scene of much Allied activity during World War One due to its safety from attack by enemy land forces and the existence of railway connections with both the northern and southern battlefields.The town was home to 16 hospitals and a convalescent depot, in addition to a number of reinforcement camps for Commonwealth soldiers and general barracks for the French Army. Of more than 11,500 soldiers interred in Étaples Military Cemetery, over 10,000 of these men were casualties of World War One who died in Étaples or the surrounding area.

The abundance of military infrastructure in Étaples gave the town a capacity of around 100,000 troops in World War One and made the area a serious target for German aerial bombing raids, from which the town suffered heavily. The combination of withstanding these attacks and giving over their homes to the war effort led to Étaples being awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1920.

The Second World War once again saw Allied hospitals stationed in Étaples, and with them the reopening of the cemetery to cope with the casualties of another war. 119 men were buried in Étaples Military Cemetery in World War Two, this low number attributable to the fact that the hospitals were only in place from January 1940 until the British withdrawal from the Continent in May of the same year.

Our photographs taken by Edward Paxton.

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