Ypres & Loos Sept 2005

 

Visit to Ypres and Loos. September 2005

Wednesday 21st Sept.

Up early for the 07-05 ferry to Calais.  The weather was lovely and sunny and going by the list I had, I would need every day to be the same.  

Our first cemetery was Bailleul Communal cemetery Extension.  We have visited this cemetery, just inside France on a number of occasions and with all the cemeteries I know where most of the men from earlier visits are buried.  This time it was four of my 9th Bn Sherwood Forester men who died of wounds during the Messines attack.  One of the men was buried in the same grave as an Australian Military Medal winner.  It is not unusual to find more than one man in a grave but this is the first time I have found men from different countries.

MATTHEWS ALPHONSO; BAYLISS WALTER; MACFARLANE F B; HOLMES HARRY, (BURIED WITH BRADBEE E D, MM)

I took my photos and signed the visitor’s book.  The cemetery looked immaculate and the red roses stood among the graves.  The cemeteries and memorials are always a credit to the CWGC staff.  The sun was breaking through the mist and the hills towards Kemmel were covered in a light mist.  The ground covered in early morning dew.

We set off towards the Belgian border and our next cemetery.  My long-suffering wife acting as map-reader once again and doing an excellent job.  Despite her efforts I still took a wrong turning but as usual this caused no real problem.  We just did the days cemeteries in reverse order!  Kemmel Chateau was first via Locre Churchyard. Whilst at Locre, I said hello to one of the first men I visited Stephen Annable.

 

Kemmel Chateau survived until 1918 and the cemetery was begun in 1914.  Lt Col Guy du Maurier, DSO is buried here. He was the brother of Gerald the novelist and also the uncle of George Llewellyn Davies (original Peter Pan).  It contains 1135 burials and many are Sherwood Foresters. This was our first visit to the cemetery and I took photos for my website.

LARDER TOM 9th Bn SF – Tom’s inscription says it all – ‘By their sacrifice, we live’

 

Next Lindenhoek Chalet Military Cemetery – On the way a quick stop for some excellent Belgian cakes for coffee break. 

Another first visit for us and again it is a pleasant cemetery with neat lawns and lots of flowers. Some 315 men are buried here.

BACCHUS Robert, Leicestershire Regiment. - His inscription –‘ He died for his country’

 

Next is Dranoutre Military Cemetery with some 456 burials. 

WADKIN JOSEPH; Sherwood Foresters.

 

To Irish House Cemetery and four of my 9th Bn SF men, all who died during Messines in June 1917. It contains some 117 burials.  There was a small farmhouse nearby known as Irish House.

BOND ERNEST; CLAYTON FRANK; SIBBRING ARTHUR; STRICKSON HARRY.

We then drove through small lanes with fields of crops on all sides. The sun glinting off the hills. We arrived at Wytshaete Military Cemetery (Whitesheet)

Two men here and both 9th Bn SF. The CWGC staff hard at work.  September seems a busy month for them as they prepare the cemeteries for the onset of

winter.  Re-etching, cleaning stones and memorials, lawns mowing, weeding by teams of men.  Even the brass door of the cemetery books compartment is freshly ‘brassoed’.  A family sit by the war stone having their picnic.  No doubt sitting with a long dead relative.  Wytschaete was in German hands from early November 1914 until Messines in June 1917.  It changed hands again in April 1918 before being retaken in September 1918.  The cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from small battlefield cemeteries and isolated graves. There are some 1,002 men buried or commemorated here. Some of the cemeteries brought in were - Rest and be Thankful Farm, Kemmel (23 burials); R.E. (Beaver) Farm (18 Royal Engineers and 4 Canadian Engineers); The Cemetery near Rossignol Estaminet (18); Somer Farm Cemetery No 2 Wytschaete (13) and Gordon Cemetery Kemmel (19). It is worth noting that 673 of the burials are unidentified.

GREEN Harry; his inscription – ‘Some day sometime, our eyes shall see, the face we keep in memory’ DUNKLEY A. (Formerly 24059 Leicestershire Regt)

Forward to Messiness Ridge British cemetery and New Zealand memorial.

The Memorial has 840 names of Missing New Zealanders.  Their Government decided not to name men on the Menin Gate but on memorials in cemeteries appropriate to the fighting in which the men died.  For instance the NZ Apse at Tyne Cot and the memorial at Polygon Wood.  On the Somme I have visited Grevillers, which has a NZ Memorial.

The Cemetery contains some 2200 burials and nearly half are unknown or special memorials. You walk around the memorial and in to the cemetery. Once in the cemetery you can see The Island of Ireland tower. 

I pause and recall the poem written by the Rev Geoffrey Anketell Studdart Kennedy, better known to the men as ‘Woodbine Willy’.  He was adored by the men and won the Military Cross at Messines. 

 

 

Then there spoke the dripping sergeant,

When the time was growing late

‘Would you please bury this one’,

‘Cause ‘e used to be my mate?’

 

 

So we groped our way in darkness

To a body lying there,

Just a blacker lump of blackness,

With a red blotch on his hair.

 

 

Though we turned him gently over,

Yet I still can here the thud,

As the body fell face forward,

And then settled in the mud.

 

 

We went down on our faces,

And I said the service through,

From ‘I am the Resurrection’

To the last, the great ‘Adieu’.

 

We stood up to give the blessing,

And commend him to the Lord,

When a sudden light shot soaring

Silver swift and like a sword.

 

 

At a stroke it slew the darkness

Flashed its glory on the mud,

And I saw the sergeant staring

At a crimson clot of blood.

 

There are many kinds of sorrow

In this world of Love and Hate,

But there is no sterner sorrow

Than a soldier’s for his mate.

 

When Woodbine Willie died in 1929, the funeral cortege from Worcester Cathedral to the cemetery was lined with his old comrades and they showered the coffin with woodbine packets. 

HAYNES WILLIAM GEORGE – 51ST BN AIF.

 

Time to move on and Strand Military Cemetery, Ploegsteert (Plugstreet). 

This is an early cemetery begun in October 1914 and it served the Dressing Station at the end of Strand trench. This trench led into Plugstreet Wood and you will not be surprised to learn that there was also Regent Street, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus.

There are over 1500 burials of which 11 are German.  It was in this area that Sir Winston Churchill came to sulk after the Dardenelles disaster.

NELSON ALFRED ERNEST, 16TH BN AIF.

Then just along the road to Ploegsteert memorial, Berkshire Cemetery Extension and Hyde Park Corner Cemetery.

This memorial should have stood in Lille but the French were as usual ‘not happy bunnies’ so the Memorial was erected here instead.  It has the names of 11,447 officers and men from nearby battles.  There are three Victoria Cross winners –

Sapper William Hackett; Pte James Mackenzie and Capt Thomas Tannatt Pryce.

Panel 1 – L/Cpl W KING, Royal Scots.

The Berks Cemetery Extension surrounds the memorial. Sadly the area in which my man lay was in ground under repair. Not to be beaten, I got as close as possible and took my photo.

MELLOWSHIP, WILLIAM BENJAMIN, 44TH BN AIF.

 We then crossed the road to Hyde Park Corner Cemetery. Hyde Park Corner was a road junction just north of Plugstreet Wood.  It was begun in 1915 by the 1/4th Royal Berks. 16-year-old Albert Edward French is buried here.    It contains 83 burials. The Berks Cem ext was begun in June 1916.  Graves being brought in after the Armistice.  It contains 876 burials.   

Some interesting men who served in the area – Bruce Bairnsfather who drew the ‘Old Bill’ cartoons and a certain Lt A.A. Milne who would later bring Christopher Robin and friends to life.

It was now time to drive across to the Poperinghe area and Lijssenthoek Cemetery.

Before taking our pictures, it was time for coffee and the lovely Belgian cakes.  Lijssenthoek is a beautiful cemetery with some large old trees.  A perfect place for a picnic.  Lijssenthoek cemetery is the second largest in Belgium and has 10750 burials from many nationalities.  The French first established a CCS (Casualty Clearing Station at Remi Sidings.  The cemetery has the dates 1914-1920 and men of the Chinese Labour Corps are buried here. Many died in Battlefield clearance. Three Americans are also buried here.  Men of all ranks, race and religion lie in this cemetery. Unlike Tyne Cot, this cemetery is seldom (if ever) visited by the various coach trips.  This alone makes it a very special place to stop.

CARRINGTON JE; LLOYD GE; TOWLE A; KEETON T; JACKSON HEJ; STEAD S, All 9th Bn SF.

WEAR AUBREY – 28TH BN AIF.

JACKSON’S Headstone had the following – ‘ Gone but not forgotten, from his loving wife and daughters’

 

Little did I know it but my camera gremlins were about to strike again.  We were doing well and the sun was shining. We decided to visit the following days cemeteries.

We drove around Poperinghe to Nine Elms Military Cemetery just off the ring road.

Two Canadian men’s graves to photograph.  The first seemed fine but on taking the second, the camera showed – ‘Card corrupt’.  This happened once before in our early days of visiting the cemeteries.  Although I had a back up camera, it had no English instructions and I could only take photos using the screen. This is normally fine but the sun seemed to be in the wrong place!  We decided to drive to the hotel via Vlamertinghe New Military cemetery. This cemetery is at the back of some houses and sits quietly surrounded by fields.

NURSE J W 9th Bn SF

To the hotel, check in and get the laptop out. Hopefully I had not lost all of the 52 photographs already taken.  If I had then the following day would be somewhat busy.  I had though bought the cigarette case owned by Fred Greaves VC and I knew it would bring me luck.  Only two photos had been lost and I quickly put the others on to the laptop and a CD.  After a relaxing bath and an excellent dinner it was time to re-plan the following days route. If the weather was on our side we could get all the cemeteries visited that I wanted to.

 

Thursday 22nd September

 

The weather was fine and sunny and after an excellent Ariane breakfast we set off. Three days cemeteries to visit, which meant a 60-mile round trip and over 20 stops.  The planning and map reading had to be spot on. 

Our first visit was to Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery, so called because three batteries of Belgium artillery occupied the site in 1915.  The mist was just lifting and the dew still lay on the ground. Again a lovely little cemetery on the edge of Ypres.  There are 573 burials of which 7 are unidentified and 3 are special memorials.  The nearby cottage was used as a dressing station.  Nearly 50% of the burials are men who served in or were attached to the Artillery.

GARDINER HENRY CHARLES – 4TH DACAFA – Another Aussie a long way from home.  

At least by taking photos for other people, these men from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other countries have someone to visit them.

Again I only left my name in the book and my footprints in the dew. 

We drive on towards our next cemetery and my plans fall apart. Well maybe that is somewhat dramatic as we actually saw a cemetery not on the list. I had to stop and so Divisional CWGC Cemetery, Dickebusch Road was added to the list.  A small cemetery, which as the name suggests served the many Div HQs in the area.  I took some photos for my website and paid my respects to the men who lie here.

We then joined the main Ypres –Pop road and drove to Brandhoek. There are three cemeteries here and I will be visiting Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3. This cemetery is on the outskirts of the village and sits by a quiet road and has fields on the other sides, which are full of veg, fruit and hops.  It is difficult to imagine the scenes of destruction some 90 years ago.  It would be wonderful if all the men who lie in Flanders fields could see the land at peace, the sun gently warming it – perhaps they can. I know that when I visit the cemeteries I never feel alone. Sometimes a quote brings a tear but I feel a joy and inspiration among them.  The father of Lt A H Strutt paid for the gates in memory of his son who died of wounds on 27 April 1918. Lt Strutt was in the 16th Bn Sherwood Foresters.  There are nearly 100 men buried here including one from the British West Indies.  I always remember that on my first visit to this cemetery, some years ago, I saw my first Jewish grave and placed my first stone on it in remembrance.  Despite the fact that I have visited many of the cemeteries on numerous occasions there is always something different to look at.

SAUNDERS, WILLIAM EDWARD, 3RD ACCS (3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station, which was based here in 1918)

DOLPHIN W, 9TH Bn SF.

It is now time to drive off into the wilds!  To visit the ‘Hems’ – Mendinghem, Bandagehem and Dozinghem – Hem being the name for a Belgian village or hamlet.  So we have Dozing, mending and bandage which gives an idea of the humour of the day.  All were casualty clearing stations and unless you know where they are you have problems ‘findinghem’.  With fields of Corn Cobs six feet high even a seasoned visitor has difficulty picking them out.  The other problem is that Mendinghem is at Proven, Bandagehem at Haringhe and Dozinghem at Westvleteren. 

All three were used during 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele).  Mendinghem is our first stop and it lies at the end of a track, which leads to two houses.  The cats sit on the cemetery walls eyeing us but decide we are not of interest and stroll off.  Numbers 12, 46, 61 (Staffed by Americans) and 64 CCS was here.  Men ‘shot at dawn’ lie with their comrades and there are some 2400 burials.  Nothing tells the visitor how any of the men died.  They all lie together and like the land at peace.

BETTS J E; GREEN A L  MM;  THROSSELL W MM, who has on his headstone ‘ Thy will be done, from Sorrowing mother, brothers and sisters’ All men of 9th Bn SF.  All wounded during the battle in which their comrade Fred Greaves won his Victoria Cross.  The first Derbyshire man to do so.

We leave and travel to our next ‘Hem’

Bandagehem at Haringhe.  One man here to visit. The sun glints off the Portland Stone and all is quiet. 20 deg C at the end of September – lucky us.

HARPER FH, Royal Engineers. 

We drive on to our third ‘Hem’ and the one I visit the most – Dozinghem – I have a number of my 9th Bn SF men here and also other photos to take.  You drive along a small track through the wood to get to this one. Then the land opens out with fields on two sides.  My friend’s family owns the land that surrounds this cemetery.  His uncle often strolls down for a chat with the gardener.  I also always stop for a chat with him.  He has a great pride in his cemetery and always wants it to be immaculate.  I notice one headstone – A man born in Moscow in 1894, who joined the Canadian Army and died in Flanders Fields.

ROE J T; HINKLEY ALFRED THOMAS; MOTTRAM FREDERICK; DORAN JOSEPH; GREATOREX ERNEST.

Today’s cemeteries have all been visited and it is time for coffee and cake. Dozinghem is another lovely quiet place to stop for coffee or a picnic. There is also a pleasant hostelry down the road.

The area has another interesting secret – Its local beer was voted the best in the world. Sadly you can only but two cases at a time now, as it is so popular.  It is brewed by the monks at St Sixtus Abbey.

We had made good time and decided to start on Fridays list of cemeteries. We also stopped at some other cemeteries on the way. Many are rarely visited and I find it difficult (if not impossible) not to stop and pay me respects.  The first we stop at is Ferme Olivier and this perhaps shows that no area of the Salient was safe.

38 graves of men of the Monmouthshire Regiment are here. They were on parade 29/12/1915 when a shell from a German Naval gun at Houthhuilst forest landed amongst them.  One can only imagine the carnage.

Canada Farm is our next stop. It is about 1 Km from Dirty Bucket Camp where men would assemble before going up the line.  The cemetery took its name from a farmhouse used as a dressing station during 3rd Ypres. There are 907 burials in this cemetery.

HODGES ERNEST WILLIAM  ‘ We’ll read the meaning of our tears, and then someday we’ll understand’

We then cross over the front line and into the battlefield of 3rd Ypres.  Artillery Wood were Pte Evans, better known as the Bard Hedd Wynn lies. He was killed on 31 July 1917 when the 38th (Welsh) Division attacked.  There is no wood left today.  Here as in many of the cemeteries the CWGC teams work tirelessly. Much is done in September as the teams work their way around the cemeteries. The roses still flower, as do the shrubs. It can be dangerous though as on a number of occasions acorns have bombarded me. 

BYFIELD I; EADES Joseph both 9th Bn SF men

Joseph has on his stone – ‘Of Baslow, Duty Well done’

Artillery wood had at the time of the Armistice 141 burials but was enlarged to 1,307. 506 of these are unidentified and there are 12 special memorials.  It was a front line cemetery during the war.

We then drive up the ridges towards Cement House Cemetery near Langemarck.

Cement House was a fortified farm building and the cemetery was begun in August 1917 as the Allies slowly fought their way up and along the ridges towards Passchendaele. Being a clear day, we could see the spires of Ypres and the Kemmel hills beyond.  The cemetery has some 3000 burials.

SCOTT JOHN GEORGE ‘ A place is vacant in our home, which never can be filled’

WIDDOWSON EDWARD; NICHOLLS JERIMIAH; STOCKWOOD LAWRENCE F ‘ He being made perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long time’

We then drive across the battlefield of 4 October 1917 where Fred Greaves won his Victoria Cross.  Through Poelcapelle to the cemetery beyond.

We meet our first coach load of tourists at Poelcapelle Cemetery. The supposed youngest war casualty is buried here aged 14 years.  Men in this cemetery could have die almost anywhere on the Salient.  The numbers of unidentified is mind numbing. There are 7478 burials and of these only 1248 are identified. 

The area was lost by the French on 20 October 1914 and it was not until 4 October 1917 that the British reclaimed it.  The 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters and the other battalions of the 11th Division taking it. It was left once more to the Germans during their Spring offensive in 1918, only to finally retaken by troops under The King of the Belgians on 28th September 1918.  I take my photos. Men of the 58th Bn Canadians who lie a long way from home.

BAKER WILLIAM JOHN; CRABB HUGH JOHN; PARKER NORMAN McKELVIE; WRIGHT ARTHUR HAROLD.   Norman Parkers headstone has on it ‘ God said, The first born of they sons shalt thou give unto me’

We then drive through the lanes towards Passchendaele. The crops are ready and the farmers busy in the fields.  Despite the sun and heat the ground still feels wet. The slightest indentation soon fills with water. We arrive at Passchendaele New British Military Cemetery.  It starts on the top of the ridge overlooking Passchendaele and falls down into the valley.  Across the road preparations are under way for the pony club meeting at the weekend.

I enter the cemetery and take my photos. We had done well but after 7 hours in the sun visiting cemeteries we are waning slightly.  My spirits are lifted though by one inscription on a stone. The simplest but probably most poignant I have seen – a 28 year old Aussie and the inscription – simply – ‘My Hero’

BEER HAROLD RUSSEL; TORRANCE LINCOLN GRIMM; WIGHTMAN CHARLES IVAN – All 58th Bn Canadian.

WARREN LEWIS STANLEY – The young Australian who was ‘My hero’

Harold Beer has the inscription ‘ He is not dead, but still lives in the realm of Divine love’

Time for another coffee break whilst watching the work progress for the Pony Club event. 

We then drive through Passchendaele and Zonnebeke to Tyne Cot.  As we round the corner we see – 7 coaches, a number of mini buses and numerous cars.  So much for peace and quiet!  I have 15 graves to photograph and names on the memorial. I thought that 4-30 in the afternoon would be quiet – wrong.  I always carry my own cemetery plans, which in cemeteries such as Tyne Cot is invaluable.  Tyne Cot is the largest British Cemetery in the world. The memorial has British (and New Zealand) names on it.  The pillboxes still stand in the cemetery. They looked to the men of the Northumberland's like Tyne Cottages and this is how the cemetery got its name.

Nearly 12,000 burials of which only 30% are identified.  The memorial has almost 35,000 names on it.  Despite the cemetery being the most popular on the ‘Battlefield tour’, I still find it moving.  12,000 men on parade represented by the white Portland stone.  Luckily the coaches depart and for the final half hour all is quiet. I take my photos. 

CHAMNEY , HAROLD GLENDENING; ESSON, EDWARD; FOSTER, JOHN; LAUDER, ALLISTER; MAYHEW, ALBERT; All 58th Bn Canadian.

John Foster has –‘ Faithful until death’.

OREO, DANIEL – Aussie – ‘Sleep on beloved, sleep and take thy rest’

CLAY, JOHN EDWARD; COAN J; TAYLOR JOHN CLIFFORD; CAUNT L; BURTON JOHN GEORGE; LOCKE, C; - All 9th Bn SF.

We had finished the day’s visits and it was time to head back to Ypres, the hotel and 21st century comforts.  We could now have a couple of days cycling in the area.  Once back it took until 7-30 to check and save all of my photos. As there could be up to 20 coaches of people at the Menin Gate, we decide to visit on another evening.  We stroll, through Ypres chatting with the friends we have made during our visits. Back to the hotel to plan the cycle ride and cemeteries to visit.

 

Friday 23 September

Up early and another lovely day.  After another good Ariane breakfast (how do they get perfect boiled eggs every day?)  We packed up the bike bags and off we went. We cycled along the canal, which during WW1 was a hive of activity and a dangerous place to be.  Past Duhallow ADS Cemetery and to Essex Farm.  We meet a mini bus full of people who had been at the Ariane for a couple of nights. They were impressed by our dedication!  I took a photo of an Unknown Sherwood Forester. I think I can identify this man because only the 9th Bn where near here in June 1917. Only one died on the day mentioned on his headstone.  He is listed on the Menin gate but hopefully I can get his name on the headstone.  Along the canal some more before cutting through to the road and across to Bard Cottage Cemetery. I can remember most of the men already visited and I always stop and say hello.  One such is in Bard Cottage. 

PHIPPS, T – 9th Bn SF

We then cycle on to Talana Farm or as it turned out – Not! Occasionally in the car cemeteries are difficult to find.  As we cycled along the road we saw the Great Cross of Talana Farm in the fields. We could not though find the path leading to it.  We decided that we would turn left through Boesinghe and cycled on. After a few Ks it dawned on us that we were going away from the Cross and turned left again.  There had to be a left turn to get us back again – no there wasn’t. So we cycled through the countryside, which was pleasant and reached the road, which led back to Essex farm.  Once there we cycled along the road again and passed Bard Cottage for a second time. Unsure how many ‘laps’ we may have to do before getting to Talana Farm.  The path was in the middle of a field of cabbages and as both the path (grass) and field (Cabbages) were green, it was easy to miss J

That was our excuse anyway.

We walked up the path through the cabbages and then the corn to the lovely Talana Farm Cemetery. It is much easier to visit the area when the crops are not so high.  Talana Farm was a battlefield cemetery and got its name from ‘episodes of the South African War’ there is a farmhouse nearby which is possibly the ‘Talana’ Farm.  A quiet and peaceful cemetery with hundreds of butterflies.

The French began the cemetery in early 1915. In June 1915 the 1st Rifle brigade and 1st Somerset Light Infantry took it over. There are 529 burials of which 515 are identified.  There are 6 special memorials and one of these is

RADFORD, ARTHUR Sp.mem A 3 1/5th KOYLI whose headstone has the following –

‘Known to be buried in this cemetery’ – ‘ His country called, He gave his life, That others might live.

We have a water and cake stop with Arthur and enjoy the tranquility.  Then to Boesinghe and back along the canal to Ypres.  Time for lunch in the town square.

Fully restored we set off again.  We stop at the Menin Gate and I take some photos –

OSBORN, WILLIAM ALBERT JOHN; SHARPE, SAMUEL; WINTERHALTER, GUSTAVE ADOLPH; YULE, JOHN HENRY – All Aussies.

McILROY, JOHN.

 

We then cycle towards the ridges surrounding Ypres from which the Germans could see every movement the British made.   You see much more cycling the battlefields and can imagine just how difficult life was with the little dips and hollows towards the ridge.

We cycle to St Jan and Wieltje, which is, were I want to take another photo.  There is tape across the path and ‘no entry cemetery under repair’ Undaunted I walk along the path and find the cemetery. It has just been reseeded but my man is in a special memorial and these are always against the walls. I get as close as I can and take my photo. Sadly I cannot reach the visitors book.  There are 116 burials of which 1 is a Canadian, 1 a New Zealander and 1 a German. Many men from the 2/4th Gloucester's lie here.  The cemetery was used during 3rd Ypres.

CROWSON, WALTER - RFA

I return to the road and my wife tells me that a CWGC van had slowed down and checked us out. No doubt hoping that I had not walked on their newly seeded ground.  We then cycle along ‘Paradise Alley’ to ‘Oxford Road’, we pass Oxford Road Cemetery, which we have visited before. Then passed the 50th Northumbrian Division Memorial and a right turn and through the quiet Flanders countryside once more.  We emerge on to the Zonnebeke – Ypres road, opposite the French National Cemetery. Left and up the road to Aeroplane Cemetery.  This was in No Mans land prior to 3rd Ypres and contains 1105 burials.  Three men ‘Shot at dawn’ are buried here.  On this clear day the views of Ypres are amazing. 

ORR, JOHN EDWARD; is one of the 208 Aussies buried here.

We return to the French cemetery, pay our respects and sign their book.  Then left and another quiet road towards Railway wood and Hooge.  We stop at two private memorials – Captain Geoffrey Vaux Salvin BOWLBY, Royal Horse Guards aged 21 and Captain Langton SKRINE of the 6th Somerset Light Infantry along with the men who died with them.  We can see from here the 50th Div memorial from which we recently came and the Bellewaarde Ridge. We cross the main road and cycle past Railway Wood and the RE Grave on our left. We emerge on the Menin Road and cycle to Birr Cross Roads cemetery.  Over 800 men are buried in this cemetery including Capt ACKROYD VC RAMC who was killed on 11 August 1917 tending the wounded.

RAWSON, EDWARD HENRY; 14th Brigade Australian Field Artillery.

We have had a lovely day cycling through the countryside and really getting a grip on the battlefield area. We cycle back to Ypres via ‘Hellfire Corner’ (now a dangerous roundabout for cyclists) and Menin Road South Cemetery.

It is time for a reward, which is a large ice cream full of fruit and covered in warm chocolate.

Tomorrow we will cycle in the Hooge area and the line around Hill 60.  One or two more cemeteries to visit as well.

Another lovely day with excellent weather.

 

Saturday 24th September

 

Once more a lovely Ariane breakfast and off we went.  We cycled through the Menin Gate and along the Menin Road. Then up the ridge to Hooge – strange I had never noticed before that the road climbs slowly towards Hooge!  It certainly cleared the cobwebs and exercised the lungs.  We stopped at Hooge Crater Cemetery. This cemetery is best viewed from the Sanctuary Wood road. It climbs up the hillside and crests the ridge.  Battalions of men never reaching the top.  The cemetery has 5922 burials and one of the 513 Australians is –

GORMAN, CECIL CLAUDE ; 28th Bn Aussies. Alongside lies his friend –

ANGOVE, OSWALD CLAUDIUS ALBERT.

From Hooge the road continues to climb and we pass the Hotel were the Hooge Crater is situated.  Then past the Bellewaarde theme park and up to Clapham Junction. Here is the Gloucestershire Memorial – In first Ypres the 1st Battalion fought near here and in 2nd Ypres the 2nd battalion.  The 18th Division memorial is opposite.  We then leave the Stirling Castle area and cycle alongside the various woods to Hill 60.  It was here that the worst of the fighting took place in and around Ypres. A 60-metre spoil heap, which changed hands on a number of occasions.  Was mined extensively and men still lie beneath it. Nearby one of the mine craters can be visited.  The railway cutting still runs next to it.  The Hill would see many acts of heroism and a number of Victoria Crosses.  There are also a number of memorials and an unusual museum!

We have our coffee break and have excellent views over Ypres.  We then cycle through the Palingbeek Nature Reserve and along the canal side (now unused and partially filled in). This is the old Ypres-Comines canal and not a healthy place in WW1. We emerge by Spoilbank Cemetery, which has some 500 burials, and beyond we see the spires of Ypres once again.  Up the road is Chester Farm cemetery and another photo stop.  Again this is a small cemetery with some 420 Commonwealth burials and 2 others. Only 7 are unidentified and 6 special memorials are to men ‘Known’ or ‘believed’ to be buried in the cemetery.  Plot I contains the graves of 92 officers and men of the 2nd Manchester who died April to July 1915.

BERRY, EDWARD, 21 May 1915 – 2nd Bn Manchester Regiment.

We now only have one cemetery to visit on our cycle ride and decide to make a slight detour to three cemeteries not often visited.  All are near Ravine Wood and the vicinity of ‘The Bluff’ – Woods Cemetery, 1st DCLI and Hedge Row Trench Cemetery. The grassed paths stretch a fair way from the road and we first reach the Woods Cemetery. This was started in April 1915 and is an unusual shape. There are 326 burials here and its sits against the Wood.  We retrace our steps a few hundred yards and turn left and up to the 1st DCLI Cemetery, The Bluff.  Here are only 76 burials all UK men and obviously from the name, many Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry men.  We continue our walk up the gentle slope and around the wood, between the crops and trees to Hedge Row Trench cemetery.  98 men are buried here or actually near here. The cemetery was begun in March 1915 and used until August 1917. The name Ravine Wood Cemetery was also used. Sadly the cemetery was heavily shelled and the individual graves could not be found. That is why this cemetery has the Cross of Sacrifice in the centre with the headstone arranged symmetrically around it. It makes it a very impressive cemetery.

We stopped here for our picnic. In the middle of the woods and crops with hardly a sound we could not have found a better place.

We retraced our steps and pass the 1st DCLI and then back to the road.  Up the hill (who said Flanders was flat) to the main road.  A pleasant cycle down the hill and to Railway Dugouts (Transport Farm) Burial Ground.  It has been said that Railway Dugouts has an interesting irregular design but when searching for a grave I would use a different description!

It was begun in April 1915 and there are 2461 burials. Advanced Dressing Stations used the Dugouts and the cemetery.  Many of the graves were lost to shellfire.  After the war small cemeteries were concentrated here.  There are also 4 graves from men of ‘undivided’ India and 3 German.  Arranged around the Stone of Remembrance in a circle are 258 men whose original graves were lost.

ORR, GEORGE WOOD; One of the 164 Aussies buried here.

We then cycled past Zillebeke Lake, which is the water supply for Ypres and also supplied the men in WW1.  In fact a friend of mine Arthur Daulman worked on the water supply here in 1916 and 1917.

Lunch in the town centre before retiring to the hotel.

A lovely days cycling again. The weather has been very kind to us.

In the evening we decided to attend the Last post at the Menin Gate.

On Saturdays the names of men are read out to represent all of their fellows.  A Pipe Band was also there as where singers from a school. Many ‘official’ wreaths were laid. I recoiled though at the call for the singing of the National Anthem.  This unique ceremony seems to be high jacked more and more by ex-service associations and the British Legion. To many ‘extras’ spoil this ceremony. Thankfully it is still possible to attend in winter with the buglers and a handful of people.

I fear that with all the visitors the area will be turned into a Great War Disneyland. 

 

Sunday 25th September

 

Today would be a long day and after a hearty breakfast we set off at 8 am.

We drove down to Loos and arrived at the Loos British Military Cemetery. We got there in plenty of time and I took my photos. All men of 9th Bn Sherwood Foresters in this cemetery.  As I took my photos the various people gathered for the 90th Anniversary drumhead service.  A Pipe band, regular soldiers, men dressed in WW1 uniforms complete with very heavy rifles!  Local services, Dignitaries form Britain and France.  The service itself was simple and a fitting tribute.  Pity about the ignorant F*** teenagers talking loudly throughout it.  Strange that Loos is the only place that I have found a visitor’s book and Cemetery book missing and come across ignorant Teenagers.  Considering I have only visited there twice, it does tend to strengthen the view of our French cousinsJ

The Men of the 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters –

WHITWORTH, L; ADLEY, TJ; BROWN, W; SIMPSON, W; HOOLE, W;

GILBERT CE; POTTS, J; SHEPPARD C L; DYAS, R; ROWE, J; FOSS, F;

ROBINSON, F; HOWELLS, W G; MORRIS, J; ANDREWS, J; CRAWFORD, TB;

GRICE, A G; WILKINSON P;

2ND BN Sherwood Foresters – STEVENSON , ALBERT.

 

We then returned to the town centre and watched the parade pass after it had stopped for a short service at the town’s war memorial.  Very impressive it was too.

We then moved off to visit the rest of our cemeteries and hopefully get to the Beating the Retreat Ceremony at 4-30 pm in Auchy.  We drove to Dud Corner Cemetery, which incorporates the Loos Memorial.  A number of photos to take here. The cemetery has excellent views over the old battlefield.  It sits on a rise and it is possible to pick out the various points of the battlefield. A few people stroll around the cemetery and despite the main road that it sits besides, it still feels a peaceful place.

All the men are commemorated on the Memorial –

 

9th Bn Sherwood Foresters – HUNT, G; HUDSON H E; DAVEY J S; TILLEY T;

2nd Bn Sherwood Foresters – ATTENBOROUGH F;

2nd Bn Leicestershire Regt – GOODACRE, F; MOORE P;

BEVAN S R;

PEALE W G; Welsh Regt.

 

We drive on to Mazingarbe and firstly the Philosophe Cemetery.  The Notts and Derbys men no doubt feel at home in this cemetery with its slagheap and mining.

All the men whose photos I take here are 9th Bn SF.  From March to June 1918 the battalion occupied the trenches nearby.

GRIFFIN D; BISHOP F; SMITH G J; LOWE G  DCM; SCHUR P – This Lieut was a Jewish lad and born in Cape Town South Africa.

SHERRARD A; KILNER T R B – This 2nd Lieut must have rose through the ranks. He was awarded an MM.

FULLER R E C; KNIGHT J; KNIGHT W; WRIGHT J T; SWINDELL B;

CHURCHILL P; PINKNEY L; WILSON W F; SHAW W A; KEEBLE P E;

SWANN P; SMEDLEY H A; BROWN J; TRUMAN E; SPITTLEHOUSE A J;

ILLSLEY J W F; REDFEARN S; PARR W; MORTIMER E, MM; CAMPBELL D;

JACKSON E; WITHERBED W; GRIMSHAW F.

17th Bn SF – BUXTON E.

There are 1,996 burials of which 277 are unidentified.  Many of the Sherwood Foresters lie next to each other.  After the war isolated graves were brought in from the Loos battlefield. As I was quietly working in the cemetery, a gentleman appeared and asked what I was doing. I explained and he said ‘well done’ and left me to carry on. 

Soup and a sandwich before moving off.

Next was Mazingarbe Communal Cemetery Extension.  There are two separate plots. One a typical CWGC which is separate from the local cemetery. Here lies a 9th Bn SF man –

WHEATLEY ERNEST – A native of Tamworth Staffs.

I then visit some graves that are part of the Local cemetery. Here lie the friends of my friend Arthur Daulman. They had just arrived in France and were sitting, chatting when a shell smashed amongst them.  Six of his friends died instantly before their war had really begun.

I quote from Arthur’s recollections – Mazingarbe Feb 1916 ‘ We could see the mine shaft towers of Loos, one with the top blown off’.  We had been in Mazingarbe just one week when we had our first casualties. It was on the Sunday night, ten minutes to nine, February 6th. Some were lying down, four were playing cards, when a German shell scored a direct hit. We lost seven killed and quite a few wounded. Here are the names of the dead.

SAPPERS- BARRIER 91818; JACOBS 91819; COPSON 92715; HARVEY 92726;

MARSTON 92735 (The last three all from Nuneaton)

PIONEERS – WARD 91700 AND KERWOOD 91813.

216th Fortress Company RE

 

We drive on to Hersin and the Communal Cemetery Extension.  This again is at the back of the local cemetery. There are again excellent views across the countryside.

This cemetery has 224 burials. Many are Sappers from Tunnelling Companies.

One is Private A BRIGGS 9TH Battalion Sherwood Foresters.

Our final visit is to Bethune Town Cemetery and we are unlikely to reach Auchy by 4-30pm.  Again the CWGC cemetery is at the back of a large local cemetery.

It is though a lovely cemetery and has a total of 3181 burials.

Bethune was an important railway and hospital centre, which was rarely shelled until the German offensive of 1918.  There are 26 men of the 1/8th Manchesters who were killed by a bomb on 22 December 1917 while marching to rest billets.

There are also 19 World War 2 burials, 122 French and 87 German from WW1.

SPENDLOVE HM; 16th Bn Sherwood Foresters.

We decided to drive back along the route, which took in the Nieppe Forest, and along the route are many cemeteries. Through Hazebrouck and Steenvoorde to Kemmel and then Wulverghem and our last cemetery of the day – Linderhoek Road Military Cemetery.

RATCLIFF, ARTHUR – 16th Bn AIF.

 

After a long but fruitful day it was time to return to the hotel. We drove along the Messines Ridge and back to Ypres.

Despite my fears that the task taken on was too great, we had covered every cemetery and taken nearly 300 photos.  The sun had shined on us, which made things much easier.

 

Monday 26th September

Today was given over to R&R.  A leisurely breakfast before strolling around Ypres.

Shopping for Granddaughters presents and then around the city ramparts. We stopped at the Lille Gate and an excellent hostelry were the ‘peace’ beer is most pleasant.  We visit the ramparts CWGC Cemetery. It slopes down to the lake and with the sun glinting on the headstones is probably the most beautifully situated cemetery to be found anywhere. Again many Royal Engineers lie here. We continue on our walk and pass two machine gun posts.  Eventually returning to the hotel for an excellent lunch. 

 

Tuesday 27th September

Time for home.  We decided to go via the coast and drove out of Ypres towards Dixmuide and Nieupoort.  On reaching Dixmuide we encountered our first rain of the week.  We drove to Ramscapelle and the Ramscapelle Road Military cemetery. There is also a Belgium Military Cemetery nearby.

POTTS J – Royal Berkshire Regiment.

Finally to the Nieupoort CWGC memorial and more Berkshire Regt men.

ISSAC B A; BUTLER J; HOUGH A; ROBERTS H; TURNER W H.

 

We then decide to walk along the Prom at De Panne and despite the rain it is a pleasant stroll.

We drive to Calais and to the Ferry. A good drive through England and home.

Another good visit to Ypres. 

In memory of all the men who’s graves we have visited.

We will remember them

 

Steve and Barbara Morse

September 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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