September 4, 2017. After making the journey from The Netherlands to France, we stopped at our first French cemetery in the village of Aubigny en Artois, 15 km north-west of Arras. Don’t let anyone tell you that the road between the Dutch border, through Belgium, and into northern France is quiet. It isn’t! It’s a madhouse on the highway!
And the names of places can get confusing. We wondered why the GPS kept telling us to go in the direction of Rijssel – until we saw that the French name for Rijssel was Lille!
Then, just outside of Aubigny en Artois, we stopped at a parking spot off the highway, sort of like a rest stop but without any conveniences. Pieter wanted to stretch his legs, but didn’t get very far when I saw a sign saying ‘Défense de déposer des ordures’.
Memo to self… next time, bring a French-English dictionary! (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)
I saw the word ‘Défense’ and remembered all the stories about unexploded mines in the area. While I had no idea what the rest of the sign said, I knew ‘Défense’ was a warning of some kind. “Don’t go there”, I shouted, “it’s a mine field!” Of course, Pieter paid no attention to me, and it wasn’t until we got to the hotel and I looked up the translation that we could laugh about it. It says something along the lines of “Don’t dump your garbage”!
We reach the village of Aubigny en Artois. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)
Directions to the cemetery are clearly marked. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)
Entrance to the Aubigny Communal Cemetery. The Extension is behind the cemetery, and has 2,771 Commonwealth burials from WWI and 7 from WWII. There are 227 French burials prior to March 1916, and 64 German war graves. The original cemetery land was given to the commune of Aubigny in 1909 by former mayor Emile Delombre. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)
After the excitement of the parking spot sign, we finally reached the Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, and left the car to find the grave of Private Ellis Moyse HOOPER. Hooper was born October 20, 1895 in Central Bedeque, son of Charles Frederick Allison Hooper and Bessie Marie nee Moyse. Hooper enlisted in the 105th Battalion, C Company on March 4, 1916, and later transferred to the 14th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. On March 30, 1917, he died at No. 30 Casualty Station of gunshot wounds to his leg and left arm.
Left: Private Ellis Moyse Hooper. (Photo credit: Lana Churchill family collection)
Right: Pieter by Hooper’s grave, after placing the flags of Canada, PEI, and Canada 150. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)
Hooper’s cousin, Ernest Shaw MARSHALL, of Ontario, who died May 3, 1917, is buried nearby.
Marshall’s grave was a few rows down from his cousin Hooper. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)
As we left the cemetery, which is very well kept, we signed the guest register book. Each of the Commonwealth cemeteries has a register listing each soldier’s burial location, and there is a guest register. If you visit, don’t forget to sign the register yourself!
The register is in a compartment on the pillar by the entrance to the cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)
This special visit was a prelude to our next stop on the memorial trail, the Vimy Memorial. Comments or stories? You can share them by emailing us at email@example.com or by commenting on this blog.
© Daria Valkenburg