Not far down the track we arrive at the largest of the cemeteries within the wood, Rifle House Cemetery, begun by the London Rifle Brigade in November 1914.
1914 – 1917? But why? There are, surprisingly perhaps, bearing in mind the number of men killed during the Battle of Messines that we have encountered in previous cemeteries, no burials here after 1916.
The Rifle Brigade graves are in Plot IV; those pictured here are all from March and April 1915 (the front row being bookended by Royal Engineers). Rifle House was the name of the wooden structure built on this site by Rifle Brigade machine gunners in 1914 and which served as the Brigade’s headquarters.
The CWGC cemetery plan can be found here:
View from behind the headstones in the previous picture, looking towards Plot III and the Cross of Sacrifice.
Panoramic view from the same spot. The cemetery entrance is out of shot in the far corner to the right. The little stone building in the left background houses the Land Tablet. Click the photo to enlarge.
Two headstones in Plot IV Row F, one of them probably another casualty of the Birdcage attack mentioned during our visit to Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery. Left to right:
|RIFLEMAN J. CROOKS||KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS||u/k||18/08/1915||IV F 13|
|RIFLEMAN C. P. HARDY||THE RIFLE BRIGADE||32||19/12/1914||IV F 12|
Another early Rifle Brigade burial in Plot IV.
|RIFLEMAN G. WELLS||THE RIFLE BRIGADE||u/k||10/12/1914||IV H 10|
Cheshires to the left, Rifle Brigade men to the right, and again we see that date. Rifleman Wells’ headstone (previous photo) can be seen in the centre background. Front row, left to right:
|PRIVATE C. DEAN||CHESHIRE REGIMENT||37||19/01/1916||IV G 11|
|PRIVATE T. H. PALIN||CHESHIRE REGIMENT||23||19/01/1916||IV G 12|
|PRIVATE W. J. ELSON||CHESHIRE REGIMENT||25||19/01/1916||IV G 13|
|RIFLEMAN S. SULLIVAN||RIFLE BRIGADE||u/k||19/12/1914||IV G 14|
|RIFLEMAN F. S. CHANDLER||RIFLE BRIGADE||25||19/12/1914||IV G 15|
There are butterflies here too.
You may have already noticed this, but, unusually, the boundaries of all three cemeteries we have visited within the wood are marked by green wire mesh, as opposed to the brick walls that are usually to be found surrounding CWGC cemeteries.
Just ignore him. Panoramic view across the whole cemetery, taken from near the brick building in the background of the previous panorama. All the headstones in the right half of the picture are in Plot IV, while Plots III, II and I are in the distance to the left, with the cemetery entrance in the left background.
I know, it’s impossible, isn’t it? Balders strikes a pose.
Cross of Sacrifice.
View of Plot III from in front of the Cross of Sacrifice, with Plot IV in the right background (the first graves we visited on entering the cemetery are those furthest from the camera). The two Cheshire men in the front row of Plot III, nearest the camera, are, left to right:
|PRIVATE J. BRADBURN||CHESHIRE REGIMENT||25||08/11/1915||III A 5|
|PRIVATE H. BEELEY||CHESHIRE REGIMENT||23||21/11/1915||III A 6|
As we head back towards the cemetery entrance, we pass the numerous Royal Scots headstones of Plot I, these men all being killed during the first half of 1916.
A selection of some of the Regimental insignia to be found in Rifle House. In rows, left to right:
London Rifle Brigade; Royal Field Artillery; Royal Scots; Seaforth Highlanders; Black Watch; Royal Warwickshire Regiment; Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry; King’s Royal Rifle Corps; Royal Engineers, A Soldier of the Great War.
Two more Royal Scots, killed on the same day in May 1916, left to right:
|PRIVATE W. NESBITT||ROYAL SCOTS||u/k||13/05/1916||I A 6|
|PRIVATE J. KEENAN||ROYAL SCOTS||31||13/05/1916||I A 7|
A number of other Scottish Regiments buried their dead in Plot I during 1916. With the exception of the artilleryman in the centre of the third row and some of the headstones in the background, this final photograph shows Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders mixed with Royal Scots. Front row, left to right:
|PRIVATE W. DALLY||ARGYLL & SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS||u/k||17/04/1916||I B 3|
|PRIVATE A. L. ASHBRIDGE||ARGYLL & SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS||29||29/04/1916||I B 4|
As for us, we’ve paid our respects at these three beautiful, peaceful cemeteries (since the coach party at Prowse Point, we haven’t encountered another living being), and it’s time for us to leave. It’s a fair distance from here back to the car, and we have places to go.