Behind that long and lonely trenched line

Week 3 of 52 ancestors in 52 weeks Long Line

The phrase has so many meanings – but for me, it epitomizes our trip to the French war graves and the long line of headstones stretching in every direction.


Our destination – the grave of my husband’s great-uncle – Private Stanley Palmer, 1/8th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. who was killed in action on the 15th of September 1916 at the Somme. We were the first of the family to visit and on that beautiful, summer’s day, the peace and tranquillity of the setting was slightly unsettling.

All the more so in the knowledge that Stanley’s journey to his final resting place had involved two exhumations and untold distress to his recently widowed mother back home in Middlesex. In 1919 Stanley’s remains had been exhumed and re-interred at Bois Bouleaux , a mile north-west of Combles then a year or so later Stanley’s second grave was deemed “unsuitable for permanent retention” and he was finally interred at Combles, one of the long line of white headstones.

Behind that long and lonely trenched line

To which men come and go, where brave men die,

There is a yet unmarked and unknown shrine,

A broken plot, a soldier’s cemetery.

From A Soldier’s Cemetery

by John William Streets (killed and missing in action on 1 July 1916 aged 31)