The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Memorial to the Missing at Loos-en-Gohelle in the northwestern corner of France bears the names of 20,615 men who were lost in the vicinity from September 1915 through November 1918. The memorial encloses the CWGC Dud Corner Cemetery, which has 684 burials.
On either side of the cemetery there is a 15 foot high wall on which are mounted name tablets. There are four small circular courts which also bear tablets at the rear of the site and between the courts are three semicircular apses, two of which carry tablets, and the central apse which contains The Cross of Sacrifice.
The site was designed by Sir Herbert Baker (1862-1946), an English architect whose most famous works are in South Africa, including the parliament buildings in Pretoria, the former presidential residence and the historic home of Cecil Rhodes. Baker also designed government buildings in India and Kenya, and working for the CWGC, he also produced the Tyne Cot Memorial and Cemetery in Belgium, the largest WW1 cemetery and the subject of a future post. The sculptures are by Sir Charles Wheeler (1892-1974) and were one of his first commissions after his war service as a designer of prosthetic limbs.
Many of those commemorated here were lost in The Battle of Loos (Sept. 25th – Oct. 8th, 1915), which was the first offensive mounted by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), in which they lost 59,247 men. A shortage of artillery shells, the ineffective use of chlorine gas and tactical mistakes resulted in an unmitigated disaster, and led to the removal of Field Marshal Sir John French as commander of the BEF. He was replaced by Sir Douglas Haig, who somehow managed to stay on to the Armistice despite two much bigger disasters at The Somme and Passchendaele.
One of those lost in this offensive was Lt. John Kipling (1897-1915) of the 2nd Irish Guards, the only son of the Nobel laureate writer, imperialist and war hawk Rudyard Kipling. The Kiplings spent many years searching for news of him, interviewing soldiers, requesting information from the Red Cross and even from the German Army through Swedish, Dutch and American go-betweens. In June 1919 the date of John’s death was finally confirmed by the British Army Council as Sept. 27th, 1915. Later his name was recorded on the CWGC Loos Memorial (Panels 9 and 10) with the missing of the Irish Guards. Rudyard Kipling died on 18 January 1936 without knowing the whereabouts of his son’s grave.
There is controversy surrounding the CWGC’s 1992 determination that a certain unidentified ‘Irish Lieutenant’ found in 1919 and re-buried at St. Mary’s ADS Cemetery, Haisnes, was John Kipling. It is theorized that the grievously wounded Kipling was picked up by the counterattacking Germans and taken to an aid station, where he died and was buried.
Many of you have probably seen the 2007 BBC show My Boy Jack or the 1997 play of the same name. At the time that these were produced some scholars had disputed the 1992 identification. However, in 2016 the CWGC re-examined the evidence and concluded once again that the remains are Kipling’s. Click here to read an excellent article about John Kipling in The New Yorker.