A Tour of Zillebeke Part One – Bedford House Cemetery

Hoy-hoy!  We’re back.

A mile and a half south east of Ypres the village of Zillebeke, and the area surrounding it, saw heavy fighting throughout much of the First World War.  Although the village itself remained in British hands for most of the war, the front lines were never far away to the east, and in consequence the commune of Zillebeke contains more than a dozen  CWGC cemeteries. On this tour we shall begin by visiting the eight cemeteries in the commune to the south and west of the village, in the triangular area bounded by the Ieper-Comines railway to the north and east, and the Ieper–Wijtschate–Mesen (Messines) road to the west.

Our tour begins at Bedford House Cemetery, one of the largest Commonwealth cemeteries in Flanders, situated just a few minutes drive south from the Lille Gate at Ieper.  Trust me, a copy of the CGWC Cemetery Plan to refer to will come in particularly useful here.  And, as if by magic, but actually by kind permission of the CWGC, you can find one right here:

Bedford House Cemetery Plan

Before the war this was the site of a country mansion called Chateau Rosendal (or Kasteel Rosendaal, if you prefer).  Or, as the British later referred to it, Bedford House.  The chateau served as a dressing station and later as a brigade headquarters, and although much of it was destroyed during the war, the moat can still be seen today surrounding the headstones of Enclosure No. 6.

The earliest cemetery was begun here in 1915 and by the time of the Armistice five separate enclosures covered much of the grounds of the devastated chateau.  Enclosures No. 1 & 5 were subsequently removed to White House Cemetery & Aeroplane Cemetery respectively, while both Enclosures No. 2 & 4 were greatly increased in size by the addition of graves brought in from the battlefield or from smaller cemeteries.

Bedford House Cemetery entrance.  The line of low hills in the distance away to the south-east, known to the British during the war as the Bluff, and where we will later visit three cemeteries, marks the eastern edge of the first part of our tour.

We are now at the eastern end of Enclosure No. 6 looking back towards the cemetery entrance (to the left of the car in the distance), having crossed over the moat to reach this point.  Enclosure No. 6 was established in the 1930s for the re-burial of lone battlefield graves that were still being uncovered in the area.  Or so the CWGC leads us to believe.  Paul Reed suggests that in fact Enclosure No. 6 had been lost after the war and when it was later rediscovered it proved impossible to identify most of the graves, and who am I to argue?  Either way, it is no surprise to find that many of the headstones are those of soldiers who could not be identified.

The enclosure also contains the remains of 69 soldiers of the B.E.F. killed in the area during the retreat to Dunkirk in May 1940; the Second World War graves, of which three are unidentified, are the semi-circular rows nearest the camera.

Unknown burials in Enclosure No. 6.  Note the South African headstones in the second row.

Of the 5139 soldiers buried at Bedford House, a staggering 3011 are unidentified.

Crossing back across the water the rest of the cemetery stretches out before us.  This is the view from the entrance to Enclosure No. 2, on the left, towards the Cross of Sacrifice (centre) and Enclosure No. 4 in the distance to the right.  This is a big place.

         

Health and safety?  Pah, humbug.

Enclosure No. 2 was begun in December 1915 and used until the end of the war, after which a further 437 men were brought in from Asylum British Cemetery & Ecole de Bienfaisance Cemetery when it was realised that there was no guarantee that they could remain there in perpetuity.  The five headstones pictured here are examples of these re-burials.  Left to right:

PRIVATE A. McINTOSHCAMERON HIGHLANDERSu/k10/05/1915 Encl No. 2 I A 9
RIFLEMAN F. A. GUESTKING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPSu/k10/05/1915 Encl No. 2 I A 10
PRIVATE R. GRAHAMARGYLL & SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERSu/k10/05/1915 Encl No. 2 I A 11
RIFLEMAN A. TOWNSENDKING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS3210/05/1915 Encl No. 2 I A 12
RIFLEMAN R. BINKS DCMKING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPSu/k11/05/1915 Encl No. 2 I A 13

The Cross of Sacrifice, Enclosure No. 4, and the Stone of Remembrance beyond the row of trees in the right background.

View looking back from the first two headstones in Enclosure No. 4 towards those of Enclosure No. 2 (just visible to the far left) and the start of Enclosure No. 3 (the five headstones on the other side of the moat in the right background).  The two Post Office Rifle men in the foreground are, left to right:

RIFLEMAN H. PINNANPOST OFFICE RIFLESu/k11/02/1917Encl No. 4
I A 1
RIFLEMAN J. FUGE POST OFFICE RIFLESu/k09/02/1917Encl No. 4
I A 2

Turning to our right, the rest of Enclosure No. 3, the smallest of the five enclosures, can be seen across the moat in the background, accessed by the stone bridge to the far right.  Immediately on this side of the water in Enclosure No. 4 is a row of special memorial headstones to twenty five men whose graves had been lost (see following photographs).  The Surrey men in Plot I in the foreground are, left to right:

RIFLEMAN Z. PATMOREFIRST SURREY RIFLESu/k23/01/1917Encl No. 4
I D 1
SERJEANT W. C. FINDLAYFIRST SURREY RIFLES2023/01/1917Encl No. 4
I D 2
RIFLEMAN P. F. JENNINGSFIRST SURREY RIFLES3123/01/1917Encl No. 4
I D 3

A Duhallow block remembers twenty five British soldiers, originally buried in Kerkhove Churchyard, Zonnebeke; Zonnebeke British Cemeteries Nos. 1 & 3; Droogenbroodhoek German Cemetery, Moorslede, and Enclosure No. 1 here at Bedford House Cemetery, whose graves were later lost.

Quite a number of the special memorial headstones are for East Surrey men killed in 1915, as this photograph, and those following, show.  The moat and Enclosure No. 3 can be seen behind.  Left to right:

PRIVATE D. WESTONEAST SURREY REGIMENTu/k12/04/1915Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 11
PRIVATE J. HAMMETTEAST SURREY REGIMENT2113/04/1915Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 12
PRIVATE F. E. COOCHEAST SURREY REGIMENT1813/04/1915Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 13

         

Above left, left to right:

PRIVATE F. J. SMITH EAST SURREY REGIMENTu/k09/05/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 14
PRIVATE W. G. DRAPEREAST SURREY REGIMENT2213/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 15
PRIVATE S. E. THOMPSONEAST SURREY REGIMENT1814/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 16

Above right, left to right:

PRIVATE T. A. FORSTEREAST SURREY REGIMENTu/k11/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 17
COMPANY SERJEANT MAJOR J. DWYER EAST SURREY REGIMENT3413/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 18
PRIVATE D. A. WOODSEAST SURREY REGIMENTu/k12/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 19

         

Above left, left to right:

PRIVATE M. W. HARRISONEAST SURREY REGIMENT2211/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 20
PRIVATE A. GANNONEAST SURREY REGIMENT2814/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 21
PRIVATE W. T. HAMMONDEAST SURREY REGIMENTu/k 25/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 22

Above right, left to right:

PRIVATE F. BROOKS EAST SURREY REGIMENTu/k13/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 23
PRIVATE G. NEWMANEAST SURREY REGIMENT2311/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 24
PRIVATE E. W. McGEORGEEAST SURREY REGIMENT3813/04/1915 Encl
No. 4
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 25

View from just inside the entrance to Enclosure No. 3 (the bridge I mentioned earlier is on the right), with Enclosure No. 4 stretching away in the background.  Enclosure No 3, the smallest of the five enclosures, was in use between February 1915 and December 1916.  The two graves in the foreground are, left to right:

GUNNER J. TEASDALEROYAL FIELD ARTILLERYu/k04/01/1916Encl No. 3 A 30
GUNNER W. STOREY ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY2320/12/1915Encl No. 3 A 29

View looking south across the moat towards the Cross of Sacrifice from a lone headstone in Enclosure No. 3.

PRIVATE J. NICHOLSONKING’S OWN (ROYAL LANCASTER REGIMENT)u/k02/12/1915Encl No. 3 B1

Eastern view from Enclosure No. 3 (first three rows) looking towards Enclosure No. 4 beyond the moat.  The first row of headstones visible in Enclosure No. 4 is the reverse of the special memorials and memorial stone where we have already paid our respects.  The four legible headstones in the first three rows (diagonally across the picture from the front left) are:

PRIVATE G. MOORE YORKSHIRE REGIMENT u/k03/08/1915Encl No. 3 D 1
PRIVATE L. HAYESNOTTS & DERBY REGIMENT1925/09/1915Encl No. 3 C 2
CAPTAIN L. E. P. JONESYORKSHIRE REGIMENT 3903/08/1915Encl No. 3 C 1
CAPTAIN E. M. GRANTHAM LINCOLNSHIRE REGIMENT4527/02/1915Encl No. 3 A 5

Canadians in Enclosure No. 4, Plot I.  Front row, left to right:

CORPORAL L. HARRISCANADIAN FIELD ARTILLERYu/k14/06/1916Encl No. 4 I P 1
PRIVATE A. S. DAVIS19th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRYu/k09/06/1916Encl No. 4 I P 2

Two unknown soldiers in Plot III lie next to a Labour Corps private who sadly died, or was killed, many months after the war had ended.*

PRIVATE H. REIDLERLABOUR CORPS2917/07/1919Encl No. 4 III
L 10

*which got me thinking.  The CWGC Casualty Details List states that Harry Reidler served with the 1002nd Russian Company of the Labour Corps.  As luck would have it his papers survive, and here, briefly, are the bare facts of Harry’s war.  A Russian immigrant, Harry wasn’t actually Harry at all.  He was Isaac.  There is, in fact, no mention of the name Harry anywhere.  Isaac was deemed to have enlisted in September 1917, but was not called up until June 1918 when he was posted to the 8th Labour Battalion of the Labour Corps, and then in July to the 1002nd Russian Company.  Both the 8th and 9th Labour Battalions had been formed in April 1918 and were composed mainly of Russian Jews living in Britain, although their officers and N.C.O.s came from existing units.  On 4th August 1918 the 1002nd Russian Company embarked for France.

The rest comes from Isaac’s Casualty Form:  Leave 1.5.19 to 15.5.19.  Returned from leave.  Field 17.5.19.  26.7.19. Committed suicide between 16.7.19 & 22.7.19 by the aid of a Mills bomb.

Isaac was found dead on July 23rd 1919.

Quite why he now lies in Bedford House Cemetery in Belgium, when his papers only ever mention that he served in France, is a mystery.

Looking west past the Stone of Remembrance across Enclosure No. 4 towards the Cross of Sacrifice, beyond the two lines of trees in the centre.  Enclosure No. 4, by far the largest of the five enclosures, was in use between June 1916 & February 1918, and was later greatly enlarged after the Armistice when a further 3324 graves, many unidentified, were brought in from the battlefield or small cemeteries nearby.

The Stone of Remembrance is bounded on three sides by special memorial headstones to men either ‘known to be buried in this cemetery’ or ‘believed to be buried in this cemetery’.  This photograph shows Special Memorials 11-35 to the east of the Stone.

Close-up of the three headstones nearest the camera at the end of the row of special memorials in the previous picture. Left to right:

PRIVATE P. F. HUTCHINS19th BN, COUNTY OF LONDONu/k03/06/1917Encl
No. 4
Spec. Mem 13
PRIVATE J. BURKSFIELD19th BN, COUNTY OF LONDONu/k03/06/1917 Encl
No. 4 Spec. Mem 12
LANCE CORPORAL W. J. ABBOTT19th BN, COUNTY OF LONDON1903/06/1917 Encl
No. 4 Spec. Mem 11

         

Above left: Special Memorials 36-45, to the north of the Stone of Remembrance.  Above right: Special Memorials 1-10, to the south.

Is that a pagoda?  Or maybe a chhatri?  Who knows.  Towards the south east corner of the cemetery the Indian Plot comprises just two rows of headstones.  The lone grave pictured is:

SOWAR ABDULLAH BEG6th KING EDWARD’S OWN CAVALRYu/k13/06/1915Encl No. 4 Indian B 1

More headstones in the Indian Plot, Row A in the foreground, with Row B behind.  Front row, left to right:

SEPOY HASHMAT ALI84th PUNJABISu/k25/04/1915Encl No. 4 Indian A 7
AN INDIAN SOLDIER
OF THE GREAT WAR
SEPOY KISHN SINGH21st PUNJABISu/k27/04/1915Encl No. 4 Indian A 9

The wreath has been laid by the Sikh Community of Belgium.

View looking north across Enclosure No. 4 (Plot XV in the left foreground, Plot XIV to the right).

Four unknown soldiers of the Great War, a Gordon Highlander second from left, an unknown South African nearest the camera.  These are actually the four graves in the left foreground of the previous picture.  The headstones lining the wall are part of the lone row in Plot XVII, the final plot in Enclosure No. 4, and the graves of the Indian Plot can just be seen in the far left background.

Time to begin to head back towards the car.  We have a lot to see on this tour and we’ve only just started.  Back at the Cross of Sacrifice, this shot looks west towards the headstones of Enclosure No. 2.

Graves in Enclosure No. 2 Plot IV.  First three nearest camera, from left:

PRIVATE P. HUSBANDROYAL LANCASTER REGIMENT2231/05/1915 Encl No. 2 IV A 43
PRIVATE J. BRIGHTGORDON HIGHLANDERS 2803/06/1915Encl No. 2 IV A 44
LANCE CORPORAL R. JONES DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRYu/k05/06/1915Encl No. 2 IV A 45

Plot III, near the western end of Enclosure No. 2, with the moat beyond and the northern edge of Enclosure No. 6 just visible in the right background.

A final look back across Enclosure No. 2…

…before we find ourselves back at Enclosure No. 6. and the massed ranks of mainly unidentified men who lie here.

The World War II graves in Enclosure No. 6, with the vestiges of the original chateau visible on the right.

Panoramic view across the moat of Enclosure No. 6, with the World War II graves slightly elevated to the right.  I said it earlier, and I say it again.  Bedford House is a big place.  As, indeed, is our next destination, although not quite on this scale.  I think it’s time we headed for Railway Dugouts.

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25 Responses to A Tour of Zillebeke Part One – Bedford House Cemetery

  1. sharn says:

    plz tell me ,, about the “Martyrs in world war ist in 1914 world war . i want to know my father”s grandfather who was martyr during the war ,he was sikh and belonging from the punjab India ,i want to know his memory able place and want to visit here once ,…thanks ,,i can provide all the details and clarifications ,,after coming any of the reply ,,by any one ,
    thanks ,..,

    • derek says:

      hi iv read your comment about this cemerty.i will be goin to this place very soon on th 13july 2012. are you looking for a grave ???? i might be able to help you { might )

    • Magicfingers says:

      Post the details that you’ve got, and if I can’t help myself, I most likely know someone who can.

  2. derek says:

    this sad so lovely place is breath taking .I will be visiting this cemetry on the 13 july 2012.where my grand farther a arther jones 11942 royal lancaster reg plot 4 is burid.im hoping to find his grave when i go .yours derek jones.

    • Magicfingers says:

      It’s a beautiful place, Derek. Enjoy your visit, whatever the weather. Let us know how it went when you get back.

      And don’t forget to sign the cemetery register while you’re there; it’s always nice to read the comments therein.

      • derek jones says:

        found his grave not easy but I did …I took a cutting from an aster plant which was growing on his grave iv got it growing now in my own garden ….hoping to take my son here one day ..

        • Magicfingers says:

          Glad you found his grave Derek, and I hope the cutting is blooming. Yes, it would be nice if you could take your son one day. Thanks for getting back in touch. It’s been a while!

  3. Dianne Marshall says:

    Hi we will be travelling from Australia to Bedford house cemetery where I believe my uncle
    Charles Bruce Laugher is buried in a marked grave. How do I find his grave. Thanks Dianne

  4. Magicfingers says:

    Hi Dianne. He is buried in Enclosure No.4 I. F. 7. If you find the above photograph of the headstones of Riflemen Patmore & Jennings and Serjeant Findlay you will see, to the very far right of the picture, the beginning of the row where your Uncle is buried. Check out the Cemetery Plan near the top of the post, and also here: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/484450/LAUGHER,%20CHARLES%20BRUCE
    Hope your trip goes well.

    • derek jones says:

      we was here in bedford house last year to find my gran dads grave which i found. This place bedford house is so great n sad to.Near the main cross is a little door in the wall which as a plan etc of this place and the names of every one that died .I also took a cutting from a plant in his grave so i can put it in my grand mothers grave which was his wife.this plant as now got roots on it so i’ll planting it in her grave in manchester.I’ll be going back to visit this place one day .make sure you take a pen so you can sighn the visitors book .good luck

    • Dianne Marshall says:

      Thank you so much Magicfingers. We did travel to Bedford House and we found the grave. Such a beautiful resting place. A very emotional journey. This year on the 100 year anniversary of his death we have planned a family reunion to remember our Uncle.

      • Magicfingers says:

        Hello Dianne. Welcome back. So glad you had a successful trip to Europe and especially to Bedford House. A beautiful setting indeed. And have a beautiful family reunion as well.

  5. enid haggerty(nee spray) says:

    went to visit Bedford house cemetery enclosure 3 to see the grave of my great uncle Fred Spray who was killed after only 3 months, he was only 20 years old. He was with the East Yorkshire regiment.

  6. Magicfingers says:

    So sad. I’m sure you’re glad you visited him.

  7. molly bulloch says:

    visited here recently. Where my uncle is buried. Beautiful and serene place

  8. Tony Osler says:

    I thought you might be interested to know that my great uncle Sidney Weeden who is buried here in October 1917 and had only been married for 3 weeks, before he died of wounds. My great Aunt Rose, his widow wanted her ashes to be buried with him. When she died in 1991 I applied to the War Graves Commission to have this done. They said it was not possible as only widows who had not re-married could have this honour. I replied she was 101 when she died and had never re-married. I attended a short service at the graveside when she was interred with him. It is thought that this must be the last widow to be interred with her husband from the First World War.

  9. Magicfingers says:

    Tony, thanks so much for taking the trouble to comment. A tragic and yet, thanks to you, rather wonderful story. The next time I am in Bedford House, and it’s due a return visit, I shall try to remember to pay my respects.

  10. Rick Law says:

    In May of this year (2016) I travelled from Toronto, Canada to visit Ieper and Bedford
    House where my great-uncle Farquhar McLennan lies beneath the soil. He was killed in action during the Canadian offensive at Sanctuary Wood in June, 1918. I have done some research on him and his battalion (58th CEF) and I am currently writing a manuscript (book, I hope) based on the Archives and war diaries of the 58th. Thank you for your tour and insights at Bedford House.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Rick. Thanks a lot for your comments – you’ve been there so hopefully that means my tour makes some kind of sense. Let us know how the project goes, won’t you?

      • Rick Law says:

        Sorry, my mistake, he died in June 13th, 1916.

        • Magicfingers says:

          Ha! I’d sussed that! You are not the only one who visits this site who lost forebears at Mt Sorrel, btw. Hope you’ve checked out the Hill 62 part of this site, btw – stick Hill 62 in the search box.

  11. Neil Hurst says:

    I’ve visited Bedford House twice now to visit my Gt Grandad Walter Moore in his final resting place. So peaceful and well kept. I will be back in 2018 for his hundedth anniversary.

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