Montauban village was taken by the 30th and 18th Divisions on 1 July 1916 and it remained in Commonwealth hands until the end of March 1918. It was retaken on 25 August 1918 by the 7th Buffs and the 11th Royal Fusiliers of the 18th Division.
945 Casualties: 124 Australians; 2 New Zealanders; 1 Irish; 813 UK; 4 South Africa; 1 India
(417 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 11 soldiers known or believed to be buried in this cemetery. Other special memorials commemorate 12 soldiers buried in Bernafay Wood North Cemetery whose graves were destroyed by shell fire).
The Bernafay Wood is frequentely mentioned as an evil place by Australian soldiers writing home. In the middle of the Australian sector of the Somme battlefield of 1916, Bernafay Wood had been heavily fortified by the Germans, and thier machine-gunners, concealed by the shelltorn tree stumps, inflicted many casualties.
The cemetery was established on the very edge of the wood and British soldiers were being buried there by 8 July, only a week after the beginning of the British Somme offensive. The first Australian dead, of the 124 Australians now there, were buried in September 1916 and the last in May 1917 but the greatest number arrived there during the dreadful winter of 1916-17. The physical strain at that time is indicated, for example, by the death from"heart failure" at the age of 39, of Private William Watson, 6th Field Ambulance (Grave J.58).
The Bois De Bernafay is a pear-shaped wood close to the east end of Montauban village. It was taken on 3 and 4 July 1916 by the 9th (Scottish) Division. On 25 March 1918, in the retreat to the Ancre, the same Division was driven from the wood but recaptured it for a time. On 27 August 1918 it was finally regained by the 18th Division.
The cemetery was begun by a dressing station in August 1916 and used as a front-line cemetery until the following April. It contained at the Armistice 284 burials but was then increased when graves were brought in from Bernafay Wood North Cemetery and from the battlefields immediately east of the wood.
BERNAFAY WOOD NORTH CEMETERY was opposite the North edge of the wood, a little East of the Longueval - Maricourt Road. It was begun by an Advanced Dressing Station, and used from July to October 1916. It contained the graves of 80 soldiers from the United Kingdom and 1 German prisoner.
Submitted by Nicholas Egan (2015) and Julianne T Ryan 01/02/2017. Lest we forget.