Who is buried in the Orchard Dump Cemetery? (a.k.a. Finding Max)

Note: The backstory of the Finding Max series can be found on the Remembrance page.

All of the assumptions made below are based on probability. There is always the chance that Max could be anywhere in the graveyard… or not even in the graveyard; this is the truth that the CWGC and researchers face constantly: that they simply don’t know who the unknowns are. DNA is the only real identifier.

But, based on probability, I’ve uncovered a few interesting patterns.

Firstly, the graveyard contains only Canadians and British men. I did not find any other nationalities listed in the records. There are roughly 70% British and 30% Canadians sprinkled throughout. During reburials, a few smaller Canadian cemeteries were moved to this location; these men are mostly identified and in unified locations.

Secondly, one immediate observation is that soldiers were buried vertically rather than in rows (visitors walk the cemetery in rows). So, columns of men (1-10 / 11-20 / 21-30) were buried together rather than rows of men (A-K).

Thirdly, the “original” burial area from the Battle of Arleux (“VI K”) that is listed on the informational sign is misleading. There are a few “original” areas starting with the “I” section of the cemetery. Most of the men in “I” and “VI K” are known. Another area (“III”) has a large concentration of men who died in April and May 1917… and then there is a sprinkling throughout the rest of the cemetery.

I’m assuming that the areas that are symmetrical and well ordered were created during reburials; and, section “I” and “VI K” were left in a random pattern because those men were already known.

Where are the unknown Canadians buried?

In the photo above, grey coloured boxes indicate areas where no Canadians are buried… or all the graves are known. I ignored these areas.

Yellow indicates areas of unidentified Canadians who are not likely soldiers from the 10th Battalion, who were grouped with men who died much later in the war, and who did not die at Arleux. Each box contains 10-men. The number on the box indicates how many of the 10-men are known as Canadian (e.g. 2/10 means two men are known Canadians).

Red indicates groupings of unknown men from the 10th Battalion who are buried among those who died on April 28th, 1917 at Arleux.

Breakdown by details and dates

I went through all the reburial records and headstone reports for the cemetery (yes… all of the records) and grouped areas by kinship (nationality, battles, battalions) and date. After all the dust settled, there is one grouping of soldiers (in orange) that likely contains Max. This is based on the probability that like were buried with like (e.g. men who died together were buried together). From what I’ve seen in known records, this assumption was true.

The orange area contains soldiers from the 10th battalion who died on April 28th, 1917. From this grouping, I was able to identify three men from the reports.

  • Jack Cooper Riddell (#252777) was an identified soldier misidentified as coming from the 259th Battalion. He was actually from the 209th Battalion and was transferred to the 10th Battalion. He died on April 28th, 1917 and is buried in Section III B 27. There is a lot of confusion in Jack’s records because he was originally reported wounded, then reported MIA, and later presumed dead. It took the military a year to determine that he was missing. I believe Jack’s body was found during re-burials and identified using his personal effects.
  • Edward Jenkins West (#808786) is a known soldier from the 10th Battalion who died on April 28th, 1917. He is buried in Section V A 27 with other unknown Canadians from the 10th Battalion. I am waiting for his records to be scanned and put online.
  • I believe that the unidentified Canadian soldier in III-F-21 is Cecil Clement Millions from Carnduff, Saskatchewan. This soldier was found with an identity disk and a partial number was noted on the reburial records (#92595). This soldier was buried with 5-members of the 10th Battalion who died on April 28th, 1917. Cecil Millions also died on April 28th, 1917 and his regimental number is #925950. Others with the #92595 prefix either survived the war or died in a different country.

This leaves a handful of men from this grouping who are unidentified.

The next step is to track down old Belgian maps from World War 1 and map reburial Lat/Long records to areas where the bodies were found. I’m working on a scatter map.

Another trip to the archives will hopefully tell me which platoon Max was in (A, B, C or D)… so I can determine where he would likely have been when he died. If the stars all line-up, we may get close to making a match based on probability.

13 comments on “Who is buried in the Orchard Dump Cemetery? (a.k.a. Finding Max)Add yours →

  1. Looks like you are getting close. Would there be any additional information in Maidenhead, UK? I noticed they have started putting records on line. I’ve started doing some eliminating in the Courcelette cemetery records. There are also Australians there. But there is nothing to say for sure that Cecil Mckinnon is there. All I know is that all the smaller makeshift cemeteries in the area were moved there.

  2. If you plan a trip to Maidenhead, let me know. The only “things” that we don’t have access to at this point are the personal effects or details of these personal effects. During the reburials, they may have been listed as having: a disc, photo or sheet of paper. But they don’t tell you what is on it.

  3. Also, the logic behind the mapping is driving me nuts. I need to find a WW1 mapping expert. I have maps… but which ones were used when? These maps changed constantly throughout the war… there are dozens of “44a” versions from 1917. And, none that I’ve seen go to the lowest level: for example, Sheet 44a.T.29.b.3.7. Nothing after the “b” is shown on the maps that I’ve seen.

    For reburials they used later maps from 1919 and 1921 (e.g. 51b.B.10.b.80.45.); luckily, there are only a few of these.

    Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

  4. Have you communicated with the Brit we met in Ypres. He would probably have a good idea of that stuff being as he Id’d several unknown soldiers.

  5. I did email him… and I didn’t get a response. There is still one bit of basic work to do but I need to go to the archives in Ottawa, which is nearly impossible given the weather. And, I’m still waiting for the S-Z records to be digitized. The mapping will be incomplete until both of these things are done.

  6. Have you contacted CWGC about Cecil Clement Millions ? Seems to me that would be enough information to have a rededication cermony for him.

  7. The “W” records are not out yet so I haven’t been able to verify some records. Also, there were multiple campaigns in the area on that day (all downhill from Vimy). I’m only focusing on Arleux (but there’s still a trip to the archives needed to determine where people were… and then where they were found).

    Per other conversations… note that online records for Cecil Millions show him dying in September 1917. However, service records show him dying on April 28th 1917. Ironically, Cecil Million was born on the same day as Max… and died on the same day.

  8. Also not online yet is # 925957 Gilbert Charles Thompson. I suspect he returned to Canada like most of the others on the list. The only two that haven’t been sorted out is Willis and Millions. I suspect that CWGC were also faced with the problem of who of those two is actually buried there. It in no way affects your search for Max because whoever is there can be eliminated but it would sure be nice to give one of those families closure.

  9. Now on line : # 925957 Gilbert Charles Thompson was discharged at Camp Hughes for being medically unfit for military service (Tuberculosis). Therefore didn’t go overseas.

  10. I have a great uncle who is probably buried in this cemetery. He would be an unknown soldier from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Can Division killed on May 3, 1917 in the battle of Fresnoy. He was also probably reburied here from a smaller church cemetery, along with two others from the same battalion. Their names are Pte E. Hodson (my uncle) 785033, Pte Donlevy 788876, and Cpl Greenway 63385. Their bodies were found at approximately noon of May 3 and a burial party was to be sent later in the day. Their names are on the Vimy Memorial. Can you shed any light on a possible gravesite plot?

    1. Hi Brenda. Thanks for visiting! I can see in my database 9 known people and 1 unknown person from the 3rd Battalion who died at Fresnoy… in 4 separate groupings.

      The first grouping is Arthur Couillard and Edward Ignatius from III-A-47 and III-A-48.
      The second grouping is Wilfred John Jones and R.H. Middlemass from III-C-24 and III-C-33.
      The third grouping is Thomas Hackett, William George MacDermott and Frederick George Buckland from III-E-11, III-E-15, and III-E-17.
      The fourth grouping is Jack Welsh and an Unknown Soldier from III-J-17 and III-J-45.

      My recommendation is to get to know these people and see if there are any interactions/collisions with your folks. From there you may be able to narrow down which grouping your men would have likely been buried with.

      Does this help? I’m totally happy to help you dig into this further. If you let me know if any of the names above are within the circle of your men, I can tell you if there is a correlation with any of the unknown soldiers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *