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Saturday 23 February 2008

Battlefield cross of Lt Col CG Buckle DSO, MC, 2nd Northamptons

The degree of interest in the Great War in recent years is quite staggering. As a child my family and I used to visit my grandfather's grave on The Somme and I remember my father's sadness in the 1950s & 1960s that so few people paid their respects to the legions of dead in France & Flanders. Now it is quite different. Indeed, it is an industry.

This vast interest, coupled with the internet, is a great boon to the historian, be it professional or casual. Many people are producing quality research on every aspect of the conflict and the goodwill between such folk means much of it is freely available.

A case in point relates to this rather forlorn battlefield cross displayed in the porch at Warcop church. It originally marked the grave at Juvincourt, Chemin des Dames of Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Galbraith 'Garry' Buckle DSO, MC who was killed on 27 May 1918, aged 30; By coincidence my grandfather was killed the following day. Buckle is now buried at La Ville-Aux-Bois British Cemetery, near Rheims. It is a concentration cemetery established after the armistice and many isolated battlefield graves such as Buckle's were brought here.

The cross bears a roughly inscribed plaque with his name, rank, regiment, decorations and the date of his death. The Debt of Honour Register at the CWGC website provides the names and addresses of his father, mother & wife.

However, a search on the Great War Forum using the searchwords 'Buckle' or 'Warcop' produces a huge amount of information on the man's life and his career both before and during the war that has been researched by individuals and including this photograph....

Buckle was the son of Major General CR Buckle, CB., CMG., DSO, (Royal Artillery). Educated at Marlborough he was commissioned to the Northamptonshire Regiment from Sandhurst in 1907. In 1914 he was a Lieutenant, seconded to the Colonial Office in West Africa and was only posted to France after Aubers Ridge in 1915. He soon rose to become Brevet Major and acting Lt Colonel commanding the 2nd Northamptons. He was wounded three times and mentioned in dispatches three times. A married man, the family home was at 'Steelbacks', Overstrand, Cromer, Norfolk. Steelbacks was the nickname of the Northamptonshire Regiment. His son, Christopher - 'Dickie' - , became a stage designer and ballet critic.

Buckle's mother visited the Western Front after the war and found her son's grave beside the dug-out where he was killed and subsequently wrote a book about him, A Kingly Grave in France.

There are quite a number of battlefield crosses in the county. They were offered to the relatives of the dead by the IWGC when permanent cemeteries and headstones were erected during the 1920s, their transport to the UK undertaken by the Church Army.

While writing this post I put a query on the Great War Forum & within 24 hours there were two replies. One guy photographed 4 pages of Dickie Buckle's autobiography, describing the events surrounding his father's death another posted a brief piece from Edward Short's autobiography, 'I Knew My Place' describing events at the unveiling of Warcop War Memorial....

.....Garry Buckle ..[was].. a popular, dashing man. His young and beautiful wife who lived at The Fox, a cottage over the beck from the war memorial and who was related to the Chamley's at Warcop House, was there with her son Dickie, and her husband's parents. Great and obvious was Mrs Garry's embarrassment when 'old' Mrs Buckle stepped forward and kissed her son's name. It was a moment of drama and anguish such as Warcop, an undemonstrative place, had rarely, if ever, known before....

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