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:
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. McINTOSH||CAMERON HIGHLANDERS||u/k||10/05/1915||Encl No. 2 I A 9|
|RIFLEMAN F. A. GUEST||KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS||u/k||10/05/1915||Encl No. 2 I A 10|
|PRIVATE R. GRAHAM||ARGYLL & SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS||u/k||10/05/1915||Encl No. 2 I A 11|
|RIFLEMAN A. TOWNSEND||KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS||32||10/05/1915||Encl No. 2 I A 12|
|RIFLEMAN R. BINKS DCM||KING’S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS||u/k||11/05/1915||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. PINNAN||POST OFFICE RIFLES||u/k||11/02/1917||Encl No. 4
I A 1
|RIFLEMAN J. FUGE||POST OFFICE RIFLES||u/k||09/02/1917||Encl 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. PATMORE||FIRST SURREY RIFLES||u/k||23/01/1917||Encl No. 4
I D 1
|SERJEANT W. C. FINDLAY||FIRST SURREY RIFLES||20||23/01/1917||Encl No. 4
I D 2
|RIFLEMAN P. F. JENNINGS||FIRST SURREY RIFLES||31||23/01/1917||Encl 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. WESTON||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||u/k||12/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 11
|PRIVATE J. HAMMETT||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||21||13/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 12
|PRIVATE F. E. COOCH||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||18||13/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 13
Above left, left to right:
|PRIVATE F. J. SMITH||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||u/k||09/05/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 14
|PRIVATE W. G. DRAPER||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||22||13/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 15
|PRIVATE S. E. THOMPSON||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||18||14/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 16
Above right, left to right:
|PRIVATE T. A. FORSTER||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||u/k||11/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 17
|COMPANY SERJEANT MAJOR J. DWYER||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||34||13/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 18
|PRIVATE D. A. WOODS||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||u/k||12/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 19
Above left, left to right:
|PRIVATE M. W. HARRISON||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||22||11/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 20
|PRIVATE A. GANNON||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||28||14/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 21
|PRIVATE W. T. HAMMOND||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||u/k||25/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 22
Above right, left to right:
|PRIVATE F. BROOKS||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||u/k||13/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 23
|PRIVATE G. NEWMAN||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||23||11/04/1915||Encl
Zonnebeke B C No. 1 Mem 24
|PRIVATE E. W. McGEORGE||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||38||13/04/1915||Encl
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. TEASDALE||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||u/k||04/01/1916||Encl No. 3 A 30|
|GUNNER W. STOREY||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||23||20/12/1915||Encl 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. NICHOLSON||KING’S OWN (ROYAL LANCASTER REGIMENT)||u/k||02/12/1915||Encl 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/k||03/08/1915||Encl No. 3 D 1|
|PRIVATE L. HAYES||NOTTS & DERBY REGIMENT||19||25/09/1915||Encl No. 3 C 2|
|CAPTAIN L. E. P. JONES||YORKSHIRE REGIMENT||39||03/08/1915||Encl No. 3 C 1|
|CAPTAIN E. M. GRANTHAM||LINCOLNSHIRE REGIMENT||45||27/02/1915||Encl No. 3 A 5|
Canadians in Enclosure No. 4, Plot I. Front row, left to right:
|CORPORAL L. HARRIS||CANADIAN FIELD ARTILLERY||u/k||14/06/1916||Encl No. 4 I P 1|
|PRIVATE A. S. DAVIS||19th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||u/k||09/06/1916||Encl 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. REIDLER||LABOUR CORPS||29||17/07/1919||Encl No. 4 III
*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. HUTCHINS||19th BN, COUNTY OF LONDON||u/k||03/06/1917||Encl
Spec. Mem 13
|PRIVATE J. BURKSFIELD||19th BN, COUNTY OF LONDON||u/k||03/06/1917||Encl
No. 4 Spec. Mem 12
|LANCE CORPORAL W. J. ABBOTT||19th BN, COUNTY OF LONDON||19||03/06/1917||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 BEG||6th KING EDWARD’S OWN CAVALRY||u/k||13/06/1915||Encl 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 ALI||84th PUNJABIS||u/k||25/04/1915||Encl No. 4 Indian A 7|
|AN INDIAN SOLDIER
OF THE GREAT WAR
|SEPOY KISHN SINGH||21st PUNJABIS||u/k||27/04/1915||Encl 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. HUSBAND||ROYAL LANCASTER REGIMENT||22||31/05/1915||Encl No. 2 IV A 43|
|PRIVATE J. BRIGHT||GORDON HIGHLANDERS||28||03/06/1915||Encl No. 2 IV A 44|
|LANCE CORPORAL R. JONES||DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY||u/k||05/06/1915||Encl 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.