FROM 4 BLACK WALK, TO ROW 11, TEN TREE ALLEY
MILITARY CEMETERY, THE SOMME
David T. Loynes
IN MEMORY OF
PRIVATE ARTHUR HOULDER 30980
KING’S OWN YORKSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY
DIED ON 11TH FEBRUARY 1917 AGED 27
by DAVID T. LOYNES
Many of the World War One cemeteries bear the nicknames
given to that particular sector where the soldiers served and in many
cases died. Ten Tree Alley Cemetery is situated in the Somme region,
north east of Albert. In comparison with the myriads of other Somme
Cemeteries it is relatively small and contains 67 graves, 43 of which
contain identified casualties. The remaining 24 unidentified graves
bear the chillingly poignant inscription, "Known Unto God".
Stalin said, "The death of one man is a personal tragedy, the death
of one million men is a statistic."
Private Arthur Houlder is buried in the impeccably maintained Ten Tree
Alley Cemetery. Literally translated, the word ‘Somme’ means ‘snooze’.
Arthur lies sleeping in Row 11 of a small plot of ground in a field
in the middle of the tranquil Somme countryside.
Arthur was one man and he was also a statistic of the one million killed
in World War One. I confess that I don't know whether he lived there
at the time of his death but according to official records, some time
in Spring 1917 a telegram boy must have cycled along a Pontefract lane
bearing the War Office telegram in his pouch containing the dreaded
words - "missing, believed killed in action."
The telegram would have been delivered to 4 Black Walk, Pontefract.
Black Walk is a nondescript lane sandwiched between the Railway Public
House and Carleton Furniture (formerly Wilkinson's Woodworks.) Black
Walk connects Mill Dam to Skinner Lane, via Denwell Terrace.
The unwilling recipients of the telegram would have been Arthur's legal
next of kin, John and Sarah Houlder. Arthur was their son. He had two
brothers, George and John, and two sisters, Florence and Ada. Apparently
Arthur's Dad was a railway plater. His brother George was a maltster's
carter, while his sister Florence was a liquorice factory hand.
My link to Arthur is somewhat tenuous. I do not know the Houlder family
nor do I have any connection with them. The sole connection that I have
with Arthur Houlder is that 30 years after his death I was born at the
same 4 Black Walk, the grandson of Frederick Hoare, who together with
his two brothers Alfred and Joe, served and survived the holocaust of
World War One. My grandmother Lizzie Hoare was herself a war widow.
Her first husband William Henry Garforth was killed on the Somme on
the 11th August 1918, three months before the war ended. The latter
was even less fortunate than Arthur, in that he has no known grave.
He is commemorated on the Vis en Artois memorial just east of Arras
- yet another statistic of the "war to end all wars".
For an amateur military historian this somewhat tenuous link was irresistible.
As I was passing through Northern France in December 2006, and as an
act of personal remembrance, I resolved to try to find Arthur's grave.
My guide to Arthur's grave was the Cemetery directions
provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website. The directions
were somewhat confusing. Eventually after many false turns, I sought
the assistance of an aged flat-capped Frenchman who, somewhat bizarrely,
was pushing a barrow full of vegetables at the side of the road in the
middle of nowhere.
In broken French I explained my problem. His face
warmed immediately and he gave me exact directions to the Cemetery which
was approximately one mile distance in the opposite direction in which
I was travelling. I found Arthur's last resting place outside a small
hamlet called Serre les Puisiex. His grave is situated in a field 500
metres from a main road and is accessible only on foot. This hamlet
was finally captured on the 28th February 1917 in the aftermath of the
initial British Somme offensive and so Arthur obviously was one of the
casualties of this action.
Statistics can be manipulated to prove anything. In his wildest dreams
Arthur could never have imagined that his short journey in life would
have taken him from a small mining town in West Yorkshire to Row 11
of a Military Cemetery in the northern French countryside. As with so
many others, he probably set out on a journey of adventure, enthused
with patriotic spirit. He now lies off a nondescript lane in the middle
of the Somme, bone dry in summer and mud clogged in winter, drenched
with the horizontal, skin piercing, Somme rain.
Black Walk too is an unmade lane. In my youth it was lined with elderberry
trees. In summer dry and windblown and in winter pitted with deep frozen
ruts filled with water. Compared to Arthur's, my passage through life
has been relatively easy. Without his, and so many other's sacrifice,
perhaps it would never have happened.
Photograph David T. Loynes
Thank you Arthur for giving all your tomorrow's for
all our today's. Remembered.
David T. Loynes.