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Royal Naval Air Service Memorial Plaque Vermelles
Vermelles village lies around three miles south of Cuinchyin in northern France and was a hot-spot in WWI. In "Goodbye to All That" Robert Graves describes the village as having been "taken and retaken eight times by October 1914". When Graves was billeted there in June 1915 he records that 'not a single house remained undamaged', being then only.75 of a mile from the front line. The proximity of Vermelles to the fighting resulted in casualties being buried in small clusters in the village. The War Graves Cemetery at Vermelles was begun in August 1915 and continued in operation during 1916 but from April 1917 to the Armistice, the cemetery was closed. Following the Armistice some graves were re-grouped and others were brought in from the battlefields to the East; today 2134 WWI casualties rest at peace at Vermelles under the watchful and caring eyes of the War Graves Commission
Our plaque clearly originates from the mid war period as it features the specific dates when the cemetery at Vermelles was in active use during 1915 & 1916. To the top of the shield is a finely worked RNAS eagle and below a stone cross, possibly made from marble. The shield itself is oak and is clearly hand carved and is safe to assume this was made in theatre as a piece of trench art. Surprisingly it is not named to an individual and we can only assume it was created as a tribute by a serving member of the RNAS to his fallen colleagues buried at Vermelles. Often overlooked, the RNAS fought with distinction and valour on all fronts during WWI, pioneering many aspects of aerial warfare, winning two Victoria Crosses and leading the way in innovation and endeavour. Naval Air Squadrons flew alongside the Royal Flying Corps in combat over the trenches, making an important contribution to the Western Front air war. At its height in WWI, the RNAS had 55,000 personnel, 3000 aircraft and 103 airships operating in theatre.
Royal Naval Air Service memorabilia hardly ever comes to market and despite it's specific origins being lost down the year this emotive memorial plaque was clearly skilfully worked by unknown hands over 100 years ago to honour fallen colleagues of the Naval Air Service. Very much a one off and not to be repeated. It retains an original hanging ring to the rear so ideal for wall display. Measures 10.25" x 8" (26 cm x20.5 cm)