‘Some vast dolls’ housing estate’

This blog was submitted by UKNIWM office volunteer Richard Graham.


Generally, the CWGC cemeteries in France and Flanders get a favourable press, their beauty and tranquility compensating to an extent for the enormity of the sacrifice which they commemorate and contrasting with the sombre setting of the German cemeteries (see our blog of 1st December 2008).


Not all the bereaved shared this view. In 1920 a schoolboy, Osbert Lancaster, accompanied his mother to Arras to visit his father’s grave. The boy, later to become Sir Osbert Lancaster (1908-86), the brilliant cartoonist, author and designer was to write:


     ‘Confronted with the war cemeteries it was difficult, even then, to experience any but piously induced sentiments. The scale was far too large for personal feelings; in the long perspectives of identical headstones, stretching away across the uplands like some vast dolls’ housing estate, the individual message was successfully blanketed by the general testimony to man’s ruthlessness and folly…When, finally, after much consulting of maps we located my father’s resting-place it evoked, in that neatly laid-out valley of bones, hardly more than an entry in the telephone directory.’  

                       With an Eye to the Future, Osbert Lancaster, 1967.





Feuchy Chapel British Cemetery, Wancourt (Image courtesy of CWGC)

Feuchy Chapel British Cemetery, Wancourt (Image courtesy of CWGC)


Osbert Lancaster’s father, 2nd Lieutenant Robert Lancaster of the Norfolk Regiment, is buried at Feuchy Chapel British Cemetery, Wancourt. He is commemorated on the war memorial of his school, Charterhouse, which Osbert also attended.    



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