A Tour of Ploegsteert Wood Part Seven – The Ploegsteert Memorial, Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery & Berks Cemetery Extension

Before we start this part of our tour, I should first mention that I have visited the Ploegsteert Memorial and its adjacent cemeteries a number of times in recent years, so you will forgive me, when blue skies suddenly turn to grey, for using photographs from any or all of my trips to illustrate this section.

The Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing.  Originally intended to be erected in Lille, it stands in Berks Cemetery Extension and commemorates some 11,000 men who died in the area mainly to the south and west of the Salient (including the Armentieres region in France) and who were killed, not during major battles, but during the day-to-day fighting that epitomised the trench warfare of the First World War.

The Memorial is flanked by two wonderfully noble lions, this one growling…

…and this one not.  Baldrick, get back over this side of the road and give me back my camera!

Inscription inside the Monument.

Before Endeavours Fade.

Although Fromelles is in France, maybe ten miles, as the crow flies, south of here, the names of men who died there in 1915 are amongst those inscribed on the walls inside the Memorial.  In case you were unaware, the new cemetery opened in 2010 in Fromelles itself contains only men killed during the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916.

View looking south from the Memorial towards the Rosenberg Chateau Plots and the Cross of Sacrifice.

          

The Rosenberg Chateau Plots at Berks Cemetery Extension were only moved here in 1930 when it was realised that their original location could not be guaranteed in perpetuity.  We shall return to this part of the cemetery later.

Opposite the Memorial, on the other side of the road beneath the trees at the western edge of Ploegsteert Wood, is Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery, the first cemetery at this site, begun in April 1915 by the Royal Berkshire Regiment and used until November 1917.  Thanks to the CWGC, you can peruse the plan of both cemeteries here:

Hyde Park Corner & Berks Cemetery Extension Cemetery Plans

Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery.  Hyde Park Corner itself is a couple of hundred yards north of here; had we followed Mud Lane west from Mud Corner Cemetery along the northern edge of the wood earlier in our tour, Hyde Park Corner is where we would have eventually emerged. The headstone at the end of the front row nearest the camera is that of Rifleman S. McBride of the Royal Irish Rifles, executed for desertion on the 7th December 1916 (see below).

RIFLEMAN S. McBRIDEROYAL IRISH RIFLESu/k07/12/1916A 17

Two headstones in Row B, left to right:

PRIVATE J. W. HUGGONSON OXFORD & BUCKS LIGHT INFANTRY2318/06/1915B 15
PRIVATE H. T. BEVANCHESHIRE REGIMENT2206/12/1916B 16

The headstone in the row behind, centre of photograph, is:

PRIVATE P. FOWLES CHESHIRE REGIMENT2727/12/1915C 13

One of four German headstones in the cemetery stands at the end of Row B.

The first headstones in Row C (foreground) and Row D behind.  You can just see the three other German graves in the background.  Row C, left to right:

MAJOR G. H. PATTERSONAUSTRALIAN FIELD ARTILLERY u/k14/04/1917C 1
PRIVATE H. TURNER ROYAL FUSILIERS1919/06/1916C 2

The two visible headstones in Row D are, left to right:

SERJEANT (DRUMMER) F. H. GREENHAMPSHIRE REGIMENT2930/06/1916D 1
PRIVATE F. P. M. CHURCHROYAL FUSILIERS2110/06/1916D 2

Three King’s Royal Rifle Corps graves at the start of Row B, from left:

RIFLEMAN G. A. BRETTKING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS2019/06/1916B 1
RIFLEMAN A. E. FRENCH KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS1615/06/1916B 2
CORPORAL G. J. BOONHAM KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS2213/06/1916B 3

One of the most visited graves in the whole of the Salient (technically we’re just south of the Salient, so perhaps I should say Flanders), I have never yet seen Rifleman French’s headstone devoid of tributes, whether festooned with wreaths and even a photograph (above), or simply honoured with plain wooden crosses and poppies, as in the photo below.

Being one of the most frequently visited cemeteries in Flanders, the CWGC provide plenty of information for those who come to pay their respects.  The first headstones of Rows C & D are visible, as are the German graves in the background.

As I said, one of the most frequently visited.  Rifleman French’s headstone is second from left, front row.

Another shot of the Memorial, looking across the road from Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery.

Information boards explain the history of the Memorial.  Behind is Berks Cemetery Extension Plot I, begun in June 1916 and in use until September 1917.

Panoramic view of Plot I, featuring Mr & Mrs Baldrick.

Plot I and the Stone of Remembrance.

Back-to-back rows of headstones in Plot I.

View looking north west across Plot I.

         

Above left: Australian graves in Plot I.  Above right: Hampshire Regiment graves in Plot I.

Tablets like this, with a map of the Western Front and a brief outline of the major events in Belgium and France during the War, can be found in all the larger CWGC cemeteries.

To the south of the Memorial, as we have already seen, are Plots II and III, the Rosenberg Chateau Plots.

Panoramic view of the Rosenberg Chateau Plots, Plot II in the foreground, Plot III beyond.

Of the 876 burials in Berks Cemetery Extension, only three names are unknown.

The southern facade of the Memorial from Plot II.

Looking north from Plot II past the Memorial and lion, with Plot I in the background.  If you’d like to see some more photos of the Memorial, taken on a return visit one beautiful summer evening, then click here.

As we head south along the western edge of the wood towards our next stop, Strand Military Cemetery, one final view looking back at the Ploegsteert Memorial (the Rosenberg Chateau Plots are on the left).

Strand Military Cemetery is only a few hundred yards down the road to Ploegsteert Village, but just before we get there…

…it’s worth noting these three, now grass-roofed, British bunkers, once part of an Advanced Dressing Station that stood here at what was referred to by the soldiers as Charing Cross.  Taken note?  Excellent.  Let’s move on.

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17 Responses to A Tour of Ploegsteert Wood Part Seven – The Ploegsteert Memorial, Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery & Berks Cemetery Extension

  1. Baldrick says:

    Having accompanied you on all of these trips Sir, may I just say it’s an absolute pleasure to re-visit them by way of this weblog. Great job, keep it up!

    Until next time, when I shall attempt to stay out of your camera’s way even more.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Balders, young fellow-me-lad. Delighted to hear that you are enjoying re-living our adventures. Thank you for your encouragement and assistance in getting this project under way. However, as for you managing to keep out of the way of the camera, I reckon that’s about as likely as porcine aviation…..

      • Baldrick says:

        The likeliness of porcine aviation aside Sir, your Nom de Plume, should it not be Blackadder, rather than this odd Magicfingers alias?

  2. Magicfingers says:

    Balders old chap, I know it’s hard to grasp the concept, but they were fictional characters made up for TV. You (yes, even you) and I, however, are not.

    • Baldrick says:

      Well then perhaps an explanation of the Magicfingers handle is in order 🙂

      • magicfingers says:

        Suffice to say, at this stage at any rate, that there is a clue, admittedly obscure unless you know what you are looking for (which you, Balders, do), somewhere on this site. But other than that, for now the origins of Magicfingers must remain a closely guarded secret…

  3. Sinan Jaiya says:

    Hi – I am aware they never rebuilt their Chateau but I’d like to know what happened to the Rosenberg family after then end of the Great War. If you don’t know, perhaps you could point me in the right direction?
    Any information would be enormously appreciated.
    Best wishes –

    Sinan Jaiya

  4. Chris Stracey says:

    Fascinating tour! I have relative in this cemetery – are there records that detail where (and how) the servicemen were killed?

    Chris

    • Magicfingers says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Chris. Very briefly, you need to find your relative’s service number if you don’t already know it. Check out the CWGC website and also Soldiers Died in the Great War (you can now access this database on Ancestry.co.uk but you may have to pay). The information available on Soldiers Died includes some or all of the following: Name; Birthplace; Place of Enlistment; Residence; Service Number; Decoration; Rank; Regiment; Battalion; Type of Casualty; Date of Death; Place of Death; Theatre of War, so that might be of help. Once you have the service number you can contact the National Archives to see if his service papers still survive (again, check out their website which explains all this better than I can), but be aware that many of these records were thoughtfully destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, so you’ll neeed to keep your fingers crossed. Hope that helps you at least start your search.

  5. KJBC1956 says:

    PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL – Panel # 9, with my relative’s name on it….Does this mean his body was was ‘missing’ ? And no grave is available? Thanks anyone…

  6. Karan Barker-Cornwall says:

    PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL – panel # 9, with my relative’s name on it – does this mean he was MIA? No body – and there is no grave?

    Thanks anyone…

  7. Magicfingers says:

    Karan, it means he is one of more than 11,000 names on the Memorial of men killed in this area who have no known graves, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that he has no grave at all. He may well be one of the thousands of unidentified men who are buried in the cemeteries of France and Belgium whose headstone bears the inscription “A Soldier of the Great War”. And his name will remain on the Memorial for as long as the Memorial stands. He is not forgotten.

  8. Terry Milburn says:

    Hi. Having just returned from visiting Berks Cemetery last Monday 26/10/15 to see my great uncle’s grave Private John Milburn I would just like to say what a beautifully kept cemetery it is As they all are. Just wondering if there is any way of finding out where and how John died. Many thanks Terry Milburn

    • Magicfingers says:

      Terry, forgive me for my late and still brief response but you will understand from my Home Page that I have been otherwise engaged for the past week or two. Finding out exactly how your Great Uncle died will be tricky, but you need to start with the Regimental War Diary, which may be online. You will then be able to find out at least what was happening when he was killed or died. Also, do you know where he might be commemorated on a war memorial in this country, as many local history societies have already done research like this for their local soldiers.

      • Terry Milburn says:

        Hi again. John is commemorated on the war memorial at Guisborough North Yorks. About seven miles east of Middlesbrough. Terry

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