Cycling from Calais to Belgium

Leaving Dover for Calais; the weather rarely improved the whole time...

Calais Southern CWGC

The military cemetery is located within the communal cemetery towards the rear.

720 lie buried here from all over the Empire- UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

A merchant navy 'deck boy' killed less than a fortnight into the Second World War

Private memorial to Flight Lieutenant Herbert Wanklyn
The graves of Frenchmen who died during the Great War, their flag flying above.

Les Baraques CWGC

The graves of four men executed for murder are here- one British, Private J Chandler, 10th Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment, and three men of the Chinese Labour Corps.

The Friends' War Victims' Relief Committee had originally been set up in 1871 by Quakers, and by the time of the war undertook relief and reconstruction work overseas.

Nearby the contribution of Brits and Canadians are remembered in the liberation of Calais.

St. Omer

By winning the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny, Lord Roberts became the highest-ranking British soldier to ever hold a V.C. His citation:
On following up the retreating enemy at Khodagunge, Lieutenant Roberts saw in the distance two sepoys [going away with a standard. He immediately gave chase, overtaking them just as they were about to enter a village. Although one of the fired at him, the lieutenant was not hit and he took possession of the standard, cutting down the man who was carrying it. He had also on the same day saved the life of a sowar who was being attacked by a sepoy.”
In 1899, he took command of British troops in the South African (Boer) War, relieving Kimberley and advancing to Pretoria and the following year was made Earl Roberts and Viscount St Pierre, of Kandahar in Afghanistan, and Pretoria in the Transvaal Colony, and of the City of Waterford. At the age of 82 he took on the ceremonial post of Colonel-in-Chief Overseas Forces, taking particular interest in the welfare of the Indian troops. It was whilst reviewing them that he caught a cold which turned into pneumonia. He died here.
Former residence of Sir John French and Field Marchall Haig.
Here at the square in St. Omer, Place du Marechal Foch, Lord Roberts' funeral took place, attended by the Prince of Wales.

Ruminghem Chinese Cemetery

This was the first CWGC I visited on the trip after being surprised to find on my map a 'cimetiere chinoise' apparently in the middle of nowhere. In fact, there are more Chinese dead than villagers.
The village itself lies between Calais and St. Omer and the cemetery is to the west of the village, and a little north of the road to Muncq-Nieurlet. This area had been the Headquarters of No. 11 Labour Group and a Chinese Hospital were stationed at Ruminghem. There are now over 70, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site with 39 originally having been brought in from St. Pol-sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery. The cemetery covers an area of 340 square metres and is enclosed by a wall of rubble and flint.

Hard to imagine in this isolated corner of Northern France a cemetery containing Chinese is being continually maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission while I doubt anyone knows about these dead back in China.

The farmer who had offered to show me around when I arrived told me how, only a few months earlier, two bodies had been identified (after 90 years!) and the stones were replaced with these markers while awaiting new, inscribed headstones.

He had told me that the Chinese Government intends to erect some kind of memorial to the Chinese Labour Corps; can't fathom what propaganda purpose that would serve in the new, strident and assertive China of today...

Typical Chinese headstones found throughout France and Belgium.

This field across from the cemetery is where most of these Chinese actually died, clearing out the German ordnance, hence the dates indicating death almost all come nearly a full year after the Armistice.
As early as 1915 the Imperial War Graves Commission initiated a scheme to import and plant home grown maple seeds on Canadian graves; that same year the Australian wattle plant was planted on graves in Gallipoli. In the same spirit, cuttings of oleraia and Veronica traversii were imported from New Zealand. After the war the commission went to great lengths to ensure that only plants considered sacred and appropriate for commemoration were planted on Indian and Chinese graves. In this case you can see the two towering Gingko Bilbao trees which, this farmer informed me, had survived the atomic blast in 1945 (he didn't know which one) and brought here. In my schoolboy French I tried to explain that Chinese would not appreciate Japanese trees to be selected for the purpose, and perhaps willows would have been netter suited.

For a detailed examination of the Chinese serving in the Great War, you can read Brian C. Fawcett's THE CHINESE LABOUR CORPS IN FRANCE 1917-1921 at
The CWGC also has a three page leaflet on the Chinese Labour Corps which is available to download in pdf form at

on the other side of the Foret d'Eperlecques is
Bleue Maison CWGC

Arrived here July 23 in the village of Eperlecques. This small cemetery was established in May, 1918-April, 1919, mainly by the four Casualty Clearing Stations posted at Watten in April-October, 1918. After the Armistice a number of graves were brought into it from Mardyck and Oye Churchyards; three American graves have been removed. There are now 60 buried here from the Great War. The cemetery covers an area of 280 square metres and is enclosed by a stone rubble wall.

Some of the stones stand out by the unusual dark colour.
This isolated plot holds dead from two world wars with this single unidentified grave from the Second World War.

Cassel CWGC
Cassel is on the hill upon which the Grand Old Duke of York marched his 10,000 men up only to march them down again. It was here that Sir John French set up his HQ followed by Marchal Foch and General Plumer.
The dead of two world wars lie in this communal cemetery

Belgian and French markers beside British allies

Click for Great War Sites Associated with Hitler