Everything was given up to the army - food, farm animals, carts and machinery. Detailed searches were carried out of every home noting things which could be taken, usually without payment.

Requisitioning of animals


Requisitioning of flour, potatoes and animal feed

Food was centrally distributed with permission needed to kill livestock. Coal soon became scarce and people had to forage for fuel in nearby woods. They needed permission to go, often withheld due to gunfire in the area. Food was short throughout. 

In December 1915 the mayors of 70 villages in the area met in Gouzeaucourt to discuss food supplies.


The War

A downed German plane being inspected by British Troops
Reproduced with kind permission from Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 11895)

The war itself was never far away. Firing and explosions from the front line could be heard. Aerial dog fights were continuous as were German troop movements through the village – an important communication point due to its position on the railway.

Gouzeaucourt, behind the lines during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, was aware of the battle, the increased troop movements and the constant return of dead and wounded soldiers. The church was changed into a hospital and another one was set up in the Rue de Villers-Plouich. Many were buried there.

In July 1916 the German General Von Stein moved his HQ from Bapaume to Gouzeaucourt. The following month Gouzeaucourt was bombed by the British. It isn’t recorded if the attack on the German HQ was successful, but a baby was killed as she slept in her cot.

Sir William H.S. Chance CBE recounts a memorable raid on the railway line at Gouzeaucourt on 15 September 1916. Having dropped their bombs on a troop train “over the village of Gouzeaucourt I realised that I was being machine-gunned from the ground . . . so . . . as I passed over the village let fly with my Lewis gun”

Worcestershire Soldiers

Private Herbert Harvey Clarke of Leigh Sinton joined the 2nd battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment and was killed on 29 September 1918 at the age of 20 while fighting on the St Quentin Canal.

Edgar Langford of the Worcestershire Regiment. Langford, who came from Worcester and had been a pupil at Worcester Royal Grammar School, joined the Worcestershire Regiment. He died at the age of 21 at the St Quentin Canal. His life is commemorated in a Cloister window in Worcester Cathedral.

Both these young Worcestershire soldiers died trying to take the St Quentin Canal, which was heavily defended by the German army. The British attack went ahead although it was known that their numbers were not sufficient to the task. The conditions were poor - it was very muddy following heavy rain. Soon after the attack started a heavy mist fell. The battalion took very heavy casualties in the face of a close range barrage of machine gun fire and did not succeed in driving out the enemy. Survivors had difficulty in regaining their earlier safe positions.

By drawing German reinforcements to the canal the sacrifice of so many may have served to lessen their numbers elsewhere along the line.

Photographs by Martin Addison

Pigeon Ravine - really just a shallow depression in the flat landscape
- where both men are buried. Photo by Martin Addison