Established in 1796 outside the town walls along the road to Paris, the Collinière cemetery was enlarged several times, in the 1840s and 1857. In 1897 the cemetery was insufficient and the town council decided to buy 90 hectares of land next to it which belonged to the Hospice of Langres. 4,700 Francs were allocated by vote to pay for it on 1st January 1899. On 30th January a motion to fence a quarter of the land was voted, work to be carried out in November. This part was known for a long time as the « New Cemetery ».
In 1914, just after war broke out, the death of several soldiers on the front and in the hospitals of the town made it necessary to reorganise this burial ground. Thus on 17th April 1915 the municipal council decided to extend the boundaries of the cemetery « following the large number of casualties since mobilisation. » For this purpose, the decision was « to take possession of part of the land bought for this purpose (in 1899), of which M. Mailfer, nurseryman, is the present tenant, and to build a masonry wall to enclose it. »
This extension was essential, since from 19th November 1914 General Joffre prohibited the transfer of military corpses within the armed zone. As Langres was situated in this zone and was under the same laws as the towns on the front, the numerous deaths of soldiers that occurred in the hospitals of the town meant the multiplication of burials in the cemetery. The council decided during the same meeting to place an enamel plaque on the grave of each dead soldier « to enable the families foreign to the town of Langres to find in the cemetery the burial place of their family members mobilised and deceased in this town during hostilities. »
Throughout the year of 1915, the Under-prefect occasionally authorised the transport of the corpses of soldiers within the 'département'. This allowed soldiers form the Haute-Marne who died in Langres hospitals to be buried in their village of origin. We can count 13 transportations of corpses of soldiers from January to June 1915, all deceased in the hospitals of Langres. After that, the prohibition seems to have been upheld since from 1916 to 1917 no record of movement of soldiers' corpses can be found.
In 1916, increasing pressure on the land forced the town to carry out more work on the cemetery. A vote on 2nd May authorised the construction of a temporary municipal tomb. In fact, to satisfy the wishes of families foreign to the town to recover the bodies of their dead at the end of the conflict, the municipality had authorised the « temporary laying out of bodies in the municipal tomb in the cemetery, which, accordingly, is now completely full. » The architect-surveyer of the town thus proposed a project costing 2,074.71 Francs.
The school-master of the girls' school of Abbé-Cordelier Square wrote in his notebooks about the years of conflict: « A lot of soldiers died here during the war. They are given handsome burials. Their coffins are covered with a tricolour flag, there are flags on each corner of the hearse. Soldiers surround the coffin, rifles lowered at half-mast. As they pass, many eyes are wet and sorrowful words are exchanged. Some Sidis died too. Their bodies are carried, wrapped simply in a sheet, on a stretcher and all the comrades sing a lugubrious chant. »
All Saints' Day, in 1915, was the occasion to give homage to all the fallen soldiers buried in Langres. In its almanac of the 28th October, En Avant, the local newspaper, announced the programme: « Sunday at 14:00 hours, from Diderot Square, a procession will leave bearing to the cemetery, to the graves of our soldiers, a wreath donated by the French Society of Souvenir (…) About a hundred of them since mobilisation are in their brotherhood of graves, each with the same modest black cross, arranged in lines of ordered disposition, they seem to be awaiting, weapons at the ready, the day of the great awakening. »
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