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 (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. McBRIDE||ROYAL IRISH RIFLES||u/k||07/12/1916||A 17|
Two headstones in Row B, left to right:
|PRIVATE J. W. HUGGONSON||OXFORD & BUCKS LIGHT INFANTRY||23||18/06/1915||B 15|
|PRIVATE H. T. BEVAN||CHESHIRE REGIMENT||22||06/12/1916||B 16|
The headstone in the row behind, centre of photograph, is:
|PRIVATE P. FOWLES||CHESHIRE REGIMENT||27||27/12/1915||C 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. PATTERSON||AUSTRALIAN FIELD ARTILLERY||u/k||14/04/1917||C 1|
|PRIVATE H. TURNER||ROYAL FUSILIERS||19||19/06/1916||C 2|
The two visible headstones in Row D are, left to right:
|SERJEANT (DRUMMER) F. H. GREEN||HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT||29||30/06/1916||D 1|
|PRIVATE F. P. M. CHURCH||ROYAL FUSILIERS||21||10/06/1916||D 2|
Three King’s Royal Rifle Corps graves at the start of Row B, from left:
|RIFLEMAN G. A. BRETT||KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS||20||19/06/1916||B 1|
|RIFLEMAN A. E. FRENCH||KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS||16||15/06/1916||B 2|
|CORPORAL G. J. BOONHAM||KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS||22||13/06/1916||B 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.