A short distance north east of Bedford House, just south of Zillebeke lake and about a mile and a half west of the village of Zillebeke itself, lies Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm). This cemetery is another large one, containing nearly 2500 burials, of which 430 are unidentified. Bounded to the north east by the Ieper-Zillebeke road, and to the south west by the Ieper-Comines railway, the cemetery is sited in a position slightly sheltered by the marginally higher ground towards the east, and during the war the railway embankment provided cover for the numerous dugouts that were constructed in its side. A small farm also stood on this site; the British, it seems, referred to the place as either Railway Dugouts or Transport Farm (this was the final stopping point for supplies being transported up to the front lines around Hill 60), hence the current title.
You can check out the cemetery plan, by kind permission of the CWGC, here:
First used in April 1915, the cemetery increased in size greatly during 1916 & 1917 at a time when Advanced Dressing Stations were situated in the dugouts and in the farm; many of the burials here would have been of wounded men who made it this far from the trenches but, sadly, would go no further. As at Bedford House, other graves were brought in after the Armistice from the battlefield and smaller cemeteries nearby.
A large number of graves here were lost due to heavy shelling, particularly during the summer of 1917, and the Stone of Remembrance is surrounded by special memorials to men “known to be buried in this cemetery”. The trees in the background line the banks of Zillebeke lake.
Waterlogged Indian graves just inside the entrance in the eastern corner of the cemetery. Left to right:
|NAIK DEVI SINGH||40th PATHANS||u/k||26/04/1915||Indian Plot
|A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR |
|MALER-KOTLA IMPERIAL SERVICE SAPPERS||Indian Plot
|A SIKH SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR||illegible||Indian Plot
|A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR|
Panoramic view of Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, taken from the circular rows of memorial headstones surrounding the Stone of Remembrance, looking south west towards the railway embankment running across the photograph in the background. The hill on the horizon just to the right of centre (behind the pole) is the strategically important Kemmelberg (Mont Kemmel), one of the few areas of high ground behind the British lines, and only finally taken by the Germans after heavy fighting in April 1918.
Four headstones in Plot VII next to the cemetery boundary with the railway line and embankment beyond. Right to left:
|RIFLEMAN E. J. GATES||THE RIFLE BRIGADE||u/k||12/09/1917||VII
|PRIVATE E. EDWARDS||LONDON REGIMENT (PRINCE OF WALES’ OWN CIVIL SERVICE RIFLES)||18||16/08/1917||VII
|GUNNER E. J. BAKER||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||33||07/08/1917||VII
|GUNNER U. H. PARKS||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||u/k||11/08/1917||VII
View from Plot I looking the other way across the western wall of the cemetery with the railway now on our left. Note the single German headstone by the wall at the very end of Row A to the far left of the picture. Although it might be tempting to wonder whether the water-filled depression in the background is the result of military action, a careful look at the accompanying trench map shows this to be a natural feature. That’s a pond to you and me.
Trench map of the area south of Zillebeke Lake in June 1916, showing the route we are taking in yellow, and the cemeteries in green; we shall find ourselves to the north east of the lake much later in this tour (and much later in the year, as you’ll see when we get there). Transport Farm is marked just south west of the lake; the German trenches are marked in red.
View looking north, still from Plot I (first two rows); beyond, all the headstones in front of the two trees comprise Plot II; those in the far centre background make up the tiny Plot V; the remaining headstones (right background and the two rows parallel to the cemetery wall to the left) are Plot IV. The two headstones in the foreground are, left to right:
|PRIVATE W. WATT||NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS||46||02/02/1916||I L 18|
|SECOND LIEUTENANT J. R. B. ROBERTS||NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS||u/k||01/02/1916||I L 19|
Plot I Row M (the second row in the previous picture), looking north east past the Cross of Sacrifice towards the two cemetery entrances in the distance. A hooded Baldrick (you were wondering where he’d got to, weren’t you?) gazes wistfully across the headstones of Plot II and wonders whether he’ll ever feel his toes again.
Three Durham Light Infantry men in Plot II, left to right:
|PRIVATE W. H. FINCH||DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY||18||20/03/1916||II
|PRIVATE J. SNOWDON||DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY||19||20/03/1916||II
|PRIVATE W. GREAVES||DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY||18||19/03/1916||II
The lone grave of Private Rumbelow stands slightly apart from the rest of Plot III. The headstones behind are all in Plot IV.
|PRIVATE G. RUMBELLOW||YORKSHIRE REGIMENT||25||14/02/1916||III
An interesting group of three headstones in Plot IV (if you look carefully you can see them in the previous photograph). The one to the left has two carved regimental badges, the one in the centre is for three unknown Royal Field Artillery drivers, and the headstone to the right has three names but is otherwise entirely plain. All have the same grave reference. Left to right:
|PRIVATE J. McCARLIE||NORTHAMPTONSHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||19/06/1917||IV
|DRIVER W. E. LANGFORD||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||u/k||28/07/1917||IV
OF THE GREAT WAR
|ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY|
|SERJEANT M. B. CANNON||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||34||19/07/1917||IV
|PRIVATE W. M. DAVIES||SOUTH WALES BORDERERS||u/k||19/07/1917||IV
|RIFLEMAN D. PHILLIPS||MONMOUTHSHIRE REGIMENT||19||19/07/1917||IV
Still in Plot IV (Row M in the foreground), this view looks east towards the Cross of Sacrifice with the Stone of Remembrance beyond.
Plot VI Row R, with the base of the Cross behind and more special memorial headstones (see next photo) just visible in the right background. Left to right:
|CAPTAIN A. C. TREMBATH||EAST SURREY REGIMENT||u/k||22/12/1916||VI
|PRIVATE A. A. KENDALL||24th BN, LONDON REGIMENT||20||27/12/1916||VI
Valley Cottages Cemetery and Transport Farm Annexe Memorials. The two rows of Plot VIII can just be seen in front of the wall in the background.
Another view of the special memorials in the previous picture. The memorial stone (see next picture) is in the centre on the far side of the circles of headstones.
Memorial stone to the seventy two soldiers originally buried in Valley Cottages Cemetery and Transport Farm Annexe whose graves were later destroyed in battle, and who are now remembered here.
A sight the soldiers who lived and died here never saw.
Three of the special memorials that surround the Stone of Remembrance, all for men ‘known to be buried in this cemetery’. Headstones in Plot VII (the rows directly behind), and Plot VI (the largest plot) can be seen beyond. Left to right:
|PRIVATE J. BLACKMAN||MACHINE GUN CORPS (INFANTRY)||u/k||03/05/1917||Sp. Mem A 11|
|PRIVATE P. BAREHAM||SUFFOLK REGIMENT||u/k||26/09/1915||Sp. Mem A 12|
|SAPPER F. RIDGMENT||ROYAL ENGINEERS||29||22/07/1917||Sp. Mem A 13|
The Stone of Remembrance, surrounded by special memorials (Rows B & F nearest camera), with one of the cemetery entrances behind. This view looks almost directly east where, as you can see, the ground rises ever so slightly, giving this area at least a little shelter from the German machine guns beyond the horizon. Artillery, as we have already seen, would have been an entirely different matter.
The tops of the four Indian headstones we visited on entering the cemetery are just (and I mean just) visible beyond the headstones to the right of the Stone.
Special memorials Row C (left) and row G (right). You can clearly see the identification letters inscribed on the edges of the headstones at the end of each row.
Final view from ouside the cemetery boundary.
Addendum March 2016:
Graves Registration Report Form (above) and Headstone Inscriptions document (below) showing the details of some of the special memorials in this cemetery (see Terry Williams’ comment below).