North of Ypres


La Brique CWGC
This cemetery, named after a now-lost brickworks near to the site, is divided in two by the main road. Cemetery No 1 was founded in May 1915 and used until December 1915. It is the smaller of the two. Cemetery No 2 was founded in February 1915 and was used until March 1918. Originally containing 383 graves, the cemetery was expanded by concentration of graves from the battlefield after the Armistice. It now contains 840 graves.


White House CWGC
Between the wars, before the wooden crosses were replaced and the stones standardised.
The cemetery was founded in March 1915 and remained in use until April 1918. It was on the site of forward dressing stations found within cellars in 1915; the village it is within, Bellewaerdebeek, was utterly destroyed in 1917. After the Armistice the cemetery was enlarged by concentrating graves from eight outlying cemeteries.
Among the inscriptions here, a striking one is for Sergeant Kenneth W Vear of the 37th bn Australian Infantry who died October 3, 1917:
Good Old Ken
A Man's Man.
Robert Morrow VC. At the age of 23 whilst serving as a private in the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Fusiliers, on April 12 1915, he rescued and carried to places of comparative safety several men who had been buried in the debris of trenches wrecked by shell fire. He carried out this work on his own initiative and under heavy fire from the enemy. His citation reads:
For most conspicuous bravery near Messines on 12th April, 1915, when he rescued and carried successively to places of comparative safety, several men who had been buried in the debris of trenches wrecked by shell fire. Private Morrow carried out this gallant work on his own initiative and under very heavy fire from the enemy.
Within a fortnight he would be killed in action.
1,163 soldiers of the Great War lie buried here including four men executed by the Commonwealth military authorities. Private HH Chase of the Lancashire Fusiliers was executed for supposed cowardice on June 12, 1915. On November 7, 2006, the British government announced a pardon for all soldiers executed in the Great War.

Essex Farm CWGC
One of the best known sites in the Ypres Salient is Essex Farm Cemetery and A.D.S. (Advanced Dressing Station), where John McCrae wrote his world-famous poem In Flanders Fields at the beginning of May 1915.
In addition to the cemetery and the adjacent concrete shelters of the old dressing station, the bank of the canal has also recently been opened to the public over a distance of 450 metres. It was here that the guns of the 1st Canadian Artillery Brigade stood in April 1915 and it was on this spot shortly afterwards that the Royal Engineers built a number of shelters and dugouts for the protection of the troops in the high canal bank. This bank had originally been dug in the 17th century by the French military architect Vauban as a ’retranchement,’ a large fortification alongside the canal, which for more than 50 years constituted the northern border of Louis XIV’s French empire. Shortly after the 1918 armistice, the numerous bunkers in the bank also served as temporary accommodation for many of the refugees returning home.

High on the canal bank stands a monument to the 49th West Riding Division, which was first deployed here in the summer of 1915 and suffered heavy losses. A series of information panels and photos guide the visitor on a historical voyage of discovery.

Essex Farm and the 49th (West Riding) Division Memorial between the wars.
Although only nine of the 1199 buried here are from the country, Canada felt the need to fly its current flag over the all the dead.

Among the dead lies the body of Private Thomas Barratt, VC.

His citation from The London Gazette, dated 4th September 1917:
On 27 July 1917 north of Ypres, Belgium: For most conspicuous bravery when as Scout to a patrol he worked his way towards the enemy line with the greatest gallantry and determination, in spite of continuous fire from hostile snipers at close range. These snipers he stalked and killed. Later his patrol was similarly held up, and again he disposed of the snipers. When during the subsequent withdrawal of the patrol it was observed that a party of the enemy were endeavouring to outflank them, Private Barratt at once volunteered to cover the retirement, and this he succeeded in accomplishing. His accurate shooting caused many casualties to the enemy, and prevented their advance. Throughout the enterprise he was under heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and his splendid example of coolness and daring was beyond all praise. After safely regaining our lines this gallant soldier was killed by a shell.
Private Valentine Joe Strudwick, only 15 at the time of his death.
The view of the CWGC from its base.
In front of the cemetery is this Albertina marker commemorating the date May 3, 1915 when the In Flanders Fields had been written, apparently beside the cemetery:
Just to the left of Essex Farm Cemetery is what had been the No. 4 Aid Station of Lt.-Col. Surgeon John McCrae where it is claimed that he wrote in May 1915 possibly the most famous war poem of the 20th century, In Flanders Fields.

This photo does not do justice to the claustrophobic atmosphere that must have prevailed whilst medical personnel had to undergo non-stop surgery during barrages and shelling.
This monument to John McCrae was unveiled in October 2005 next to the first-aid station. The poem is inscribed on a bronze plaque with, I noted, incorrect punctuation that did not match with what McCrae himself used (his handwritten copy of which is also inscribed for good measure).
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
This video starts in the Essex Farm Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery on the northern edge of Ypres. Close by is the medical bunker where McCrae was stationed and is now a site dedicated to his memory. It shows the grave for Rifleman VJ Strudwick (The Rifle Brigade) who died on 14th January 1916 aged just 15. The family inscription on his grave says, 'Not Gone From Memory or From Love'
The video continues through the medical bunker area and to the start of the 'Flanders Fields' behind.

Continuing North along the the N369, are these two CWGCs:
Bard Cottage CWGC
Continuing from Essex Farm to Boezinge, is found Bard Cottage cemetery. The original Bard Cottage was the name given to a house behind the line and near a bridge dubbed Bard's Causeway; this cemetery was made nearby in a sheltered position under a high bank. The graves date between June 1915 and October 1918, reflecting the presence of the 49th (West Riding), the 38th (Welsh) and other infantry divisions in the northern sectors of the Ypres Salient, as well as the advance of artillery to the area in the autumn of 1917.

Talana Farm CWGC

This site was roughly a mile from the edge of the Salient during the war and today has 529 Commonwealth burials.

Duhallow A.D.S. CWGC
 Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station is thought to have received its name from a southern Irish hunt. The cemetery contains many graves of the artillery and engineers and 41 men of the 13th Company Labour Corps, killed when a German aircraft dropped a bomb on an ammunition truck in January 1918.
The special memorials shown in the two photos above commemorate a number of casualties known to have been buried in two of these cemeteries, Malakoff Farm Cemetery, Brielen, and Fusilier Wood Cemetery, Hollebeke, whose graves were destroyed by shellfire. There are now 1,544 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery, 231 of the burials unidentified. There are also 57 war graves of other nationalities, mostly German, and one Commonwealth burial of the Second World War, which dates from the Allied withdrawal ahead of the German advance of May 1940.

No Man's Cot CWGC
No Man's Cot Cemetery was named after a building on the south side of Admiral's Road, a little more than half way from Boesinghe to Wielje and was used from the end of July 1917 to March 1918.  79 lie buried here, more than half of whom are officers and men of the 51st (Highland) Division.

Solferino Farm 
Solferino Farm was given its name by French troops who held this part of the line early in 1915. The cemetery, which is opposite the site of the farm, was begun by Commonwealth forces in October 1917 and was used by the units fighting in this sector until August 1918.  The cemetery now contains 296 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and a small plot of three German war graves from this period. There are also five burials from the Second World War, dating from the Allied retreat to Dunkirk in May 1940.

 A student visiting the gave of her great uncle. Having already served four years as a Territorial rifleman, Robert Noel (Robin) Mountfield rejoined his regiment immediately on the outbreak of war in August 1914.  That autumn found his unit billeted briefly in Sevenoaks (in the house of a clergyman whose wife spoke highly of him); he wrote to his little brother Stuart on a long picture-postcard of Sevenoaks (much of it still recognisable today) which has been preserved. The unit then moved to Canterbury. Here he was interviewed by a Board and recommended for a commission. His letters to his father show that he hoped for recommendations from others (including Lord Derby, then in charge of the local Territorials, who Robert may have known slightly) and he wanted to remain in a Territorial battalion (‘there is something about the Regulars I don’t care for’) . He was also anxious to avoid being posted to the 8th Battalion King’s Regiment, the Liverpool Irish ( ‘that is the one Liverpool Battn I should object to be in’) but he finished in another of the Liverpool Irish battalions. (It was, as it happens, also the battalion in which Peter’s father-in-law Walter Smithies served as a Private, but not at the same time.) Robin was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the 6th Territorial Battalion of the Kings Regiment on 24 February 1915, having been drafted to France a week earlier.

It is not clear how soon he went into the trenches. His battalion was engaged in the battle of Festubert in May and June of 1915, and he saw continuous service, apparently without any home leave, for about a year. That October he wrote to his sister from his dugout ‘The general position here does not seem to be very much changed and in this quarter they are evidently settling down for the winter and making everything as comfortable as can be for all concerned’. This was probably a reassuring idea designed to keep the family happy.  Later in this letter he discusses the failure of the Dardanelles campaign, and goes on ‘Winston Churchill is said to be longing to come out to the front. I am sure he is welcome to it’. He describes some of the young soldiers serving with him: ‘How much they long to be home again. Poor laddies, many of them are terribly young to be out here’. Despite his comforting words in such letters, conditions in the waterlogged  trenches were awful, and he was badly affected, despite the new top-boots his loving family had sent out from England.  0n 15 January 1916 he was invalided home for an operation on varicose veins (‘trench fever’, as it was known).  Several photographs show him in hospital at this time. After convalescence, but still not fit for thee trenches, he was based in North Wales, and he left a notebook in which he sketches an exercise he ran for some of the troops there. He then went on leave, and rejoined his regiment in France at the end of March.  Later that year he was promoted Lieutenant, then Acting Captain, and seconded from his own 8th Battalion to the 9th Battalion, soon amalgamated with the 2nd as one unit.  He seems to have been a popular but effective officer. A field notebook has survived from July 1917, describing in detail a night-time reconnaissance of  the no-man’s-land in front of their sector of the front line; he countersigned it but does not seem to have been across himself (no doubt he had done similar patrols himself when a more junior officer).  One fellow officer later said: I cannot tell you how much I shall miss Mounty - he and I were always together …’ and the regimental magazine had a light-hearted list of ‘Things We Want to Know’, including ‘Why Capts Holland and Mountfield used so often to be seen standing in the doors of their respective Orderly Rooms, watches in hand?’ (Perhaps they were trying to see which company got on parade fastest).  But there was a serious side too. One of the last letters he received in the trenches (October 1917) came from a regimental chaplain, Norman Lycett, telling him ‘How thankful I am & pleased that you feel called to enter the Ministry of the Church’.  It is not clear whether he told his family about his intention at the time, although they found this letter among his papers after his death, and many years later CBM showed it to Lycett (by then a vicar in Sussex).

The end came on 4 November 1917 near Ypres, in the last days of the battle of Paasschendaele. The regimental history tells the story: ‘Until 4 pm, there was comparative quietude, though Boche aeroplanes were very active. From 4 pm onwards, however, the enemy put down a very heavy bombardment between Langemarck Corner and Au Bon Gite. Unfortunately the 2/10th were due to take over the line from the 2/9th at 5pm. The result was that both battalions caught the blast of the bombardment and suffered casualties. The 2/9th lost Captain R N Mountfield killed and Lieutenant-Colonel E V Manger [the commanding officer] and Capt and Adjutant J Wright wounded.’ In fact, Robin was ‘hit by a piece of shell low down’ and died next day in the Main Dressing Station at Brielen.

The  news reached the family a day later, in one of the thousands of similar telegrams which came to families that year (preserved, in its original orange envelope, among the family papers). ‘I deeply regret to inform you War Office reports Captain R N Mountfield 8th Kings Liverpool Regiment died of wounds Nov 5th. The Secretary of State for War expresses his sympathy’. ASM later recalled being met, on his return from school, by his sister, who told him ‘We have had some bad news’.

He was buried next day in the Solferino Farm cemetery, nearby, and about three miles from Ypres, where his family visited his grave in 1922 (as did his nephew and namesake Robin, with his own family, fifty years later).


La Belle Alliance
 This small cemetery, named after a nearby farmhouse, was established by the 10th and 11th King's Royal Rifle Corps in February 1916. It was used until March, then opened again in July 1917 before closing in August later that year
 Surrounded by fields

Artillery Wood CWGC
Established in 1917 after fighting in the immediate area - the Battle of Pilckem Ridge - had moved away and used for burials until March 1918, when the Armistice took place there were some 141 graves in this cemetery. Concentration from the battlefields and three smaller cemeteries (Boesinghe Chateau Grounds, Brissein House and Captain's Farm) enlarged this to the present 1,307.
 It is the location of the graves of two notable poets- Hedd Wyn, posthumous winner of the bardic chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod, has his own memorial at the back of Dantzig Alley cemetery. His recognition came from his poem "Yr Arwr" ("The Hero"):
Ni all pellterau eich gyrru yn ango
Blant y bryniau glan
Calon wrth galon sy’n aros eto
Er a wahan

Distance cannot take away your memory
Children of those dear hills
Heart and heart remain together
Even though you are far away
The grave of Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, the so-called "poet of the blackbirds." A stone tablet commemorates him in the Island of Ireland Peace Park, Messines with his lines
It is too late now to retrieve a fallen dream, too late to grieve a name unmade, but not too late to thank the Gods for what is great. A keen edged sword, a soldier’s heart is greater than a poet’s art. And greater than a poet’s fame a little grave that has no name.

Dragoon Camp CWGC
 Just east of Boezinge is this quiet sanctuary, away from the growing industrialisation around it. It is  accessed via a track leading from a point near Dragoon House, past the Villa Gretchen. The site was taken by the 38th (Welsh) Division on 31 July 1917 and the cemetery, called at first the Villa Gretchen Cemetery, was begun by the 13th Royal Welch Fusiliers on 9 August. It continued in use until October 1917 and today contains 66 First World War burials, ten of them unidentified.

Oxford Road CWGC
 
The cemetery, named after the nickname of a nearby road behind the trenches, was established as two cemeteries. The first was laid down in August 1917. The second, nearby, was begun in 1917. After the armistice, battlefield graves were consolidated between the two, creating one enlarged cemetery.  There are now 851 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 297 of the burials are unidentified and special memorials commemorate three casualties known to have been buried in the cemetery, but whose graves could not be located.
South African-born Captain Clement Robertson VC is buried in this cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for valour:
On 4 October 1917 at Zonnebeke, Belgium, Captain Robertson led his tanks in attack under heavy shell, machine-gun and rifle fire over ground which had been ploughed by shell-fire. He and his batman had spent the previous three days and nights going back and forth over the ground, reconnoitering and taping routes, and, knowing the risk of the tanks missing the way, he now led them on foot, guiding them carefully towards their objective, although he must have known that this action would almost certainly cost him his life. He was killed after the objective had been reached, but his skilful leading had already ensured success. 
The grave of Sergeant Colin Blythe of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, an exceptional spin bowler who had played for Kent and England and was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1904. Regarded as a sensitive and artistic person, and a talented violinist, Blythe suffered from epilepsy yet enlisted as a soldier in the British Army when the war broke out in 1914. He soon announced he would be playing no more first-class cricket. Blythe joined the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Sergeant Blythe was serving with the 12th (S) Battalion when he was killed by random shell-fire on the railway between Pimmern and Forest Hall near Passchendaele on 8 November 1917. Blythe is buried in the Oxford Road CWGC Cemetery in Belgium.