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At my great-uncle's graveside, exactly 100 years on

The day dawned misty and cold but the cloud soon dispersed over the gently rolling hills and the autumn sun was shining and bringing some warmth to the air.

This was the morning of the day which I had been anticipating for many long months, a day I had told countless people about: family, friends and strangers alike. It was 20th October 2018, one hundred years to the day since my great-uncle had died.

Our small party, consisting of my two sons - the eldest just turned teenager - my father's cousin and myself, set off from our base in Cambrai the few miles eastwards down the road towards Cattenieres to the turn off for the small village of Carnieres. We followed the green signs towards the village cemetery and parked up outside.

The cemetery had a number of graves - seemingly the Catholics - and another section with the ashes and commemorative stones of some Protestants. And then there was the 'cemetery extension' itself, just as I had seen it in many photos online, but perhaps more compact and with a side entrance giving immediate access without the many steps of the main entrance.

There are 54 graves in the cemetery set out in 5 rows of 10, with 4 set off to one side - without an obvious reason as to why this should be. Constructed by the Scots Guards in October 1918, a substantial proportion of the graves in the cemetery contain the remains of soldiers from the Guards.

The graveyard is well tended and many headstones look as if they are new, contrasting with the few which have not been replaced and are now looking a little weather-beaten.

There is a large cross monument at the south end and a single oak tree to the west which looks as if it is about 90 to 100 years old - so probably planted around the time of the cemetery's construction.

The cemetery entrance contained a small space inside the wall with a visitors book to sign. It seemed only a small number had been to the site all year - except on the 12th October when about two dozen had visited, seemingly also to mark the centenary of another soldier's burial.

Walking slowly amongst all the graves we found the one for Frederick Watkin Cowling. This was a long way from his home in the north of England but a peaceful setting nonetheless for the resting place of my great-uncle after his three and a half years' service and fighting as a soldier in France in the First World War.

I had brought with me a jar of sand, taken from the South Bay beach at Scarborough earlier in the month, the town where Fred had grown up and, as a youth, worked in the fishing industry. I placed the jar at the gravestone, with a note in the visitors book to explain what it was.

Admiring the large oak tree, it was evident that many acorns lay on the ground underneath it, so we decided to take some away for planting back at home.

The ambition of paying our respects to Fred was fulfilled. We said our goodbyes to him, safe in the knowledge that his grave is being well looked after and he is at rest in a very peaceful setting.

* Rest In Peace *

Frederick Watkin Cowling

2nd Lieutenant, 1/5th, attached 1/9th, Durham Light Infantry

31st January 1889 (Scarborough) - 20th October 1918 (nr. Carnieres, France)

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