Langemark and NW of Ypres

Langemark German Military Cemetery
The Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof when officially inaugurated on July 10, 1932 and during one of my visits.


The total number of soldiers buried or commemorated in this cemetery is 44,234, situated north of Langemark village, about 6 kilometres north-east of Ypres. The cemetery started as a small group of graves in 1915 and was officially inaugurated on 10 July 1932. Roughly 3,000 graves are of the Student Volunteers who died in the battle of Langemark in October and November 1914 leading the cemetery to be dubbed Der Studentenfriedhof- the Student Cemetery.


Belgians hardly wanted Germans, dead or alive, on their land forcing Germany to economise. Here eight bodies lie under one stone.

The so-called Kameraden Grab ( 'Comrades Grave') where the remains of 24,917 unidentified German soldiers are interred.


Bronze statue of four mourning soldiers, by the Munich sculptor Professor Emil Krieger. Apparently it "was inspired by a photograph taken of soldiers from the Reserve Infantry Regiment 238, mourning at the grave of a comrade in 1918" shown on the right. The second soldier from the right was killed two days after the photograph was taken.
Holding a picture of Hitler and assembled Nazis standing in the same spot.
f
The entrance between the wars


Memorial to the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers of the 34th Division
The bunker behind the German cemetery was captured in September 1918 and was used as an Advanced Dressing Station. The man put in charge was Lawrence of Arabia's brother. Apparently more men died of drowning than through artillery.
War debris found nearby.


When farmers find artillery they place it on the side of the road (or in this case, within an electricity pole) and alert the military who then collect it and eventually gather them together to detonate.

20th Light Division Memorial

Between the wars and today, now surrounded by suburbia
This memorial, commemorating the 60th and 61st Brigades of the 20th Division which engaged the Germans on August 16, 1917 is found in Langemark village. During this action, Private Wilfred Edwards and Sergeant Edward Cooper won Victoria Crosses.
video

Cycling just west of Langemark I visited the next two military cemeteries:

Cement House CWGC
"Cement House" was the name given by the Army to a fortified farm building on the Langemark-Boezinge road. The original Cement House Cemetery (now Plot I, an irregular group of 231 graves) was begun here at the end of August 1917 and used by the 4th and 17th Division burial officers, by field ambulances and by units in the line until April 1918. In the years immediately following the Armistice, most of Plots II - XV were added when Commonwealth graves were brought in from the battlefields and small burial grounds around Langemark and Poelkapelle, mostly dating from the Autumn of 1917. Almost 500 French graves were removed in 1922, and the space vacated has been filled in the intervening years by graves brought in from communal cemeteries and churchyards in the area when their maintenance in these locations could no longer be assured. The cemetery is still used for the burial of remains that continue to be discovered in the vicinity, and a number of plots have been extended to accommodate these graves. There are now 3,566 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 2,398 of the burials are unidentified. Of the 22 Second World War burials in the cemetery, five are unidentified.
Very unusual stone which boasts a paragraph instead of the usual half-dozen lines. Especially unusual when one considers the cost at the time for each additional word inscribed; families were told that the maximum number of letters and letter spaces allowed was 66 and the charge was three and a half pence per letter. Most families paid the charge though there was much grumbling at the time that the soldiers had already paid it many times over with their blood. the charge appears not to have been enforced. (From John Laffin's AIF Epitaphs of World War 1)
This is possibly the only example where a man's final action is described on his gravestone.Captain Knowles- with a date of August 23, 1914 given for his death, he is one of the first British officers to die in the Great War.
The marker for A. Sutherland- I had the honour of being escorted around Lijssenthoek CWGC by his nephew George Sutherland, one of four generations of CWGC workers. When his uncle was killed George's father returned to the UK from Canada to fight and ended up marrying a Belgian.
Buried side-by-side here are two best friends- Privates Frederick George Rogers and Albert Ernest Lovatt, both of the 8th Bn. South Staffordshire Regiment. According to a letter sent to Lovatt's widow by a member of their platoon, the two were last seen helping each other during an attack and had never made it to the dressing station.
New Burials at Cement House CWGC (from http://www.greatwar.nl)
Burial of three unknown soldiers, November 2005
http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/flanders/langemarck.html
Ruisseau Farm CWGC
82 men lie buried here, named after a farm taken by the Guards Division on 8th October 1917.

Poelkapelle

Poelkapelle is a small town 2.5 km from Langemark that was briefly found within the British Cavalry area in October 1914. From then on until 1917 it was within German lines and effectively became a fortress.
 
By autumn of that year after terrific shelling it became a ruin. It was finally liberated by the 53rd Brigade of the 18 Division on October 23; what happened in the meantime can be gauged by these photos.
 
The church during the war and after

Memorial to Georges Guynemer

Today and at its inauguration in 1923
This monument is in the centre of the village honouring Georges Guynemer, a French national hero during World War I, and top fighter ace at the time of his death on September 11, 1917.
The Times History of the War records the following tribute:
  Captain Guynemer was, like our Captain Ball, whom he resembled in many points, a paladin of the air. He was one of those beings whose bodies would at first  glance seem hardly equal to the great soul they  hold within them. Although twice rejected for  want of physical strength, ho made up his mind  he would be an aviator, in despite of all his disadvantages, and an aviator he did eventually become.  Probably his was beyond the usual daring  of the ordinary tyro, for he began by smashing up his machine, and came down six or seven times more before he was thoroughly at home in his new career. But then he became Guynemer. His accidents and practices taught him much. He made many little improvements in his machine, and above all he elaborated his methods which made him so redoubtable an adversary. He first became known to the public in 1916. In 1915, between July and December, he had already brought down four opponents. But beginning with the New Year he rapidly increased his score. He added thirteen up to September 23. On November 10 of that year he brought down a brace of German aeroplanes, and two more on the 22nd. His successes went on increasing during the next year. On both January 22 and 24 he destroyed two enemy machines, and on May 25, 1917, he conquered four. Such a score for one day was then quite unsurpassed. Of these the first two fell with only a minute's interval, one to the north of Corbeny, the other near Juvincourt. The third was crushed down at Courlanden, near Fismes, while the fourth was set on fire and fell in the gardens of Guignicourt. (XVI, 40)
I came across this impressive memorial to him unveiled in July 1923 on the way to Langemark which the British soldiers of the 53rd brigade of the 18th Division liberated. Apparently the stork on the monument, symbol of L’escadrille des Cicognes, is shown flying in the direction Guynemer took when he made his last flight. From German sources it was learned that Guynemer had been shot through the head and had fallen close to Poelcappelle, 800 yards from the cemetery where he was buried by his foes with military honours.

Poelkapelle CWGC
This cemetery is less than a mile west of the town and is the third-largest in the region. It was created after the Armistice with the concentration of graves from the surrounding battlefields. Most of those lying here date from the Third Battle of Ypres. To give an indication as to the ferocity of the battle, of the graves here 6,231 or 90% are unnamed.
Between the wars and today
Among the inscriptions is this for Lieutenant J. Lunan, Gordon Highlanders, killed September 20, 1917 at age 24:
"I Leave Myself In God's Hands
- Extract from his diary
written 19.9.19"

Apparently the youngest casualty, at age 14. However, this appears to be an unrectified 90+ year old mistake as his birth certificate would make him to have been 19 and death certificate has him as 20:


For more information see http://www.cwgc.co.uk/Condonevidence.htm
The stone of 2nd Lieutenant H.G. Langton on the far left-side wall is unique:
It is inscribed with the notation for one of his own musical compositions.

Yorkshire Trench

Recently excavated between the summer of 1998 and April 2000 and filmed by the BBC TV for its "Meet the Ancestors" series in a March 2002 programme called "The Forgotten Battlefield", this was a British dugout from 1917. The restored trench itself is only 57metres, whereas the original trench was a system of many hundreds. And the site itself, approx. 1650 square metres, is only 1/150th part of the industrial estate itself. This restoration is a compromise (like filling sandbags with a mixture of sand and cement, whereas we all know that sandbags were filled with ... earth) between authenticity (how did it really look like), durability and solidity (how long is it supposed to last), looks (Great War trenches were an absolute mess), safety (parties of schoolchildren arrived just as I was leaving), the financial aspect, etc.
A so-called loophole on the right.

These were used for poison gas.
video

Boezinge Demarcation Stone
Destroyed by the Germans in October 1914, this town marked the most northern part of the British sector. Beyond the point the French held the line meeting with the Belgian army near Diksmuide. It was fiercely fought over during the 2nd Battle of Ypres in 1915 as well the 3rd Battle two years later which saw the French make a successful attack.
This stone is in the centre of the village and behind the hedge is a German blockhouse on top of which is a German mortar.

Continuing down the N333 towards Poperinghe are the following Commonwealth War Graves:

Bleuet Farm CWGC
Named after a Dressing Station situated at the farm, the cemetery which can be found in a corner of the re-built farm was started in June 1917 and in use until December that year. After the armistice, two graves in isolated positions nearby were moved into the cemetery.
There are three who lie buried here after having been Shot at Dawn: Private T. Hawkins, 7th Royal West Surrey Regiment (Queen’s), who was executed for desertion on November 11 1917,
Private A. H. Westwood, East Surrey Regiment, executed for desertion the November 23 1917, and Rifleman F. N. Slade, executed December 14 1917 for "disobedience."
The one German grave buried beside the 442 of the British Empire.

Ferme Olivier CWGC
On the Steentjesmolenstraat roughly four miles to the Northwest of Ypres just after reaching the village of Elverdinge on the outskirts of Ypres is this cemetery containing a mass grave of thirty seven men of the Monmouthshire Regiment killed by a naval shell fired from the Houthulst Forest nearly fourteen miles away. The CWGC was used continuously between 9 June 1915 and 5 August 1917, with the 62nd, 16th, 9th, 11th, 129th and 130th Field Ambulances successively having dressing stations close by. Due to its proximity to German artillery, a collective grave is here containing the remains of 37 men of the 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment killed on parade on 29 December 1915 by a single shell fired from a naval gun in Houthulst Forest. Alongside the 408 Commonwealth graves in toto (6 of which are unidentified) are three German war graves.

Continuing down the Veurnseweg (N8) and then turning right on the Elzendammestraat is  
Canada Farm CWGC
The cemetery takes its name from a farmhouse used as a dressing station during the 1917 Allied offensive in this area, and most of the burials are of men who died at the dressing station between June-October 1917.
 
Victoria Cross recipient Corporal James Llewellyn Davies of the 13th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers is buried here among 906 others.
For most conspicuous bravery during an attack on the enemy's line, this non-commissioned officer pushed through our own barrage and single-handed attacked a machine gun emplacement, after several men had been killed in attempting to take it. He bayoneted one of the machine gun crew and brought in another man, together with the captured gun. Cpl. Davies, although wounded, then led a bombing party to the assault of a defended house, and killed a sniper who was harassing his platoon. This gallant non-commissioned officer has since died of wounds received during the attack.
London Gazette No. 30272, 6 September 1917
 These three military cemeteries are all along the same small road which crosses what had been the battleline throughout the war.

Colne Valley CWGC
Colne Valley was the name given to a trench used by the 49th Division. This is the final resting place for 49 soldiers, six of whom remain unknown. On the stone for 2nd Lt Gibson is inscribed:
Devoted Son
Staunch lover True friend
Au Revoir
These fields had once been the front line.

Dragoon Camp CWGC

This small cemetery, just south of Boesinghe, has 66 graves. The site was captured 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.

Welsh CWGC (Caesar's Nose)

59 are buried in this cemetery, which had directly faced German lines on July 31, 1917 at a point known as Caesar's Nose. There is a nearby sign showing photographs iof how the point has changed over time. Of these, 23 are of the 38th (Welsh) Division...
...its soldiers' bodies are still being recovered...
Looking towards Welsh (Caesar's Nose) CWGC from the Vijfwegen Demarcation Stone

Demarcation Stone, Vijfwegen


 Demarcation stone at Vijfwegen, situated between Welsh and No Man's Cot CWGCs.

Click for Great War Sites Associated with Hitler