This article looks at Brown’s Copse Cemetery near the village of Roeux. It is one of a series of articles I’ve written on First World War memorials and cemeteries in France. In addition, I have created a series of guides to help you research those who served in the British Army during the First World War:
I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.
Brown’s Copse Cemetery Roeux
Brown’s Copse Cemetery contains the graves of over 2,000 British and Commonwealth service personnel who lost their lives in the area during the First World War. Of this number, only 1212 men are identified. The cemetery also contains special memorials to eight soldiers who are believed to be buried in the cemetery but whose graves are now lost. In addition, there are two special memorials, shown below, for two soldiers who were initially buried in the Vitry-en-Artois Communal Cemetery German Extension whose graves could not be located after the war.
The cemetery is named after the Bois Rossignol (Nightingale Wood) which runs on its eastern side and was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The village of Roeux was the scene of fierce fighting in April 1917, when it was attacked by the 9th (Scottish) Division and 51st (Highland) Division. The majority of the burials date from this period, with 740 from April 1917 and 198 from May. During the summer of 1917, the cemetery was used to bury soldiers exhumed from the nearby battlefields and more exhumations arrived after the war. Brown’s Copse Cemetery has a large percentage of unidentified burials due to these exhumations. It was very difficult to identify a soldier who was buried on the battlefield if his grave marker had been lost or damaged, and his identity disc removed.
The cemetery is located between the villages of Roeux and Fampoux and can be accessed from a road off the Rue de la Herse. You’ll be able to park your car at the cemetery which is signposted. There are a lot of other cemeteries from the war in the area, including the Sunken Road Cemetery to the north of Fampoux, Crump Trench British Cemetery and Roeux British Cemetery. All are within walking distance of Brown’s Copse Cemetery. Arras is six miles away. The two headstones below commemorate Lance-Corporal William Henry Rowe and Private Joseph Stanton who were buried in the Vitry-en-Artois Communal Cemetery but whose graves were subsequently lost. William Rowe was killed in action with the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment on 28 March 1918 while Joseph Stanton died as a prisoner of war on 25 April 1917. Stanton was serving with the 7th Battalion The Border Regiment when he was taken prisoner.The cemetery also contains the grave of Lieutenant Donald Mackintosh, who was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for gallantry on 11 April 1917 while serving with the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany’s). Mackintosh’s citation was published in the 8 June 1917 London Gazette:
For most conspicuous bravery and resolution in the face of intense machine gun fire. During the initial advance he was shot through the right leg, but though crippled he continued to lead his men and captured the trench. In the captured trench Lt. Mackintosh collected men of another company who had lost their leader, and drove back a counter-attack. He was again wounded, and although unable to stand, he continued, nevertheless, to control the situation. With only fifteen men left, he ordered his party to be ready to advance to the final objective, and with great difficulty got out of the trench and encouraged his men to advance. He was again wounded and fell. The gallantry and devotion to duty of this officer were beyond all praise.