South of Ploegsteert Part Two – Gunners Farm Military Cemetery

Half a mile east of London Rifle Brigade Cemetery our second stop, Gunners Farm Cemetery, is somewhat smaller; 172 men were buried here in the year between July 1915 and July 1916 (there are three later burials and four Germans, two of whom are unidentified).

The land tablet (the cemetery entrance is obscured behind).  I believe that the farm after which the cemetery is named was located across the road where the modern buildings now stand.

The first four rows contain the earliest graves, men of the Essex and Suffolk Regiments killed between late July and September 1915.  The German graves in the foreground were made in 1918 when the area was in German hands.  The huge mass of Ploegsteert Wood is clearly visible on the northern horizon.

Gunners Farm Military Cemetery Plan

The majority of burials in Rows E & F (right), and G, H & I (left), are Lancashire Fusiliers and men of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, killed between late October 1915 and the end of January 1916.

A closer view of some of the Lancashire men, Fusiliers nearest the camera and Loyal North Lancs in the right background.  Many of the burials further back are Cameronians and Highland Light Infantry who died holding this sector in February and March 1916.

Above & below: At the northern boundary of the cemetery, the final two rows consist of men of the Queen’s and West Kents, who held the front line just east of here in the summer of 1916 (as you will already know if you visited London Rifle Brigade Cemetery with us earlier)…

…as well as a number of South African soldiers buried here at the same time.

The grave of Private Lurie, the last of nine South Africans buried in the cemetery in May and June 1916.

PRIVATE I. LURIE4th REGT. SOUTH AFRICAN INFANTRY2305/06/1916R 5

One of eight Queen’s graves, all dating from June and July 1916; as you will have gathered by now, the Queen’s used a number of cemeteries around here to bury their dead in the summer of 1916.

PRIVATE F. W. BARTLETTTHE QUEEN'S (ROYAL WEST SURREY REGIMENT)u/k02/06/1916R 6

Pictured earlier (when the sun was out), these twelve men of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (the headstone to the far right is a later burial) all died on the same day in early December 1915.  I have read, on too many occasions, accounts of a single shell explosion killing a dozen men, and whatever happened to these twelve, they died on the battlefield and were buried together in this mass grave.  Each of the two headstones either side of the regimental badge and cross is inscribed with three names:

Those on the two headstones on the left are:

CORPORAL J. FINALLPRIVATE J. CRAWSHAW
PRIVATE G. CROOKPRIVATE W. HARRISON
PRIVATE J. CONNORPRIVATE R. CALVERT
THE LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT02/12/1915

Those on the two headstones to the right are:

PRIVATE J. HANDPRIVATE H. PARKINSON
PRIVATE T. P. RYANPRIVATE T. TURNER
PRIVATE T. EDWARDSPRIVATE E. JONES
THE LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT02/12/1915

All have the same grave reference number, H 5.  The headstone to the far right is that of:

PRIVATE W. DUTYTHE LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENTu/k29/12/1915H 6

Back at Row A, the earliest burials in the cemetery, men of the Essex Regiment nearest the camera and Suffolk men beyond, with one of the German graves in the foreground.

If you were to enlarge this photo and zoom in on the gap between the trees, you will just make out the Cross of Sacrifice in the next cemetery we shall be visiting, Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery, just a few hundred yards to the east.

Cross of Sacrifice.

Baldrick inspects the visitor’s book.

Final panoramic view looking north towards Ploegsteert Wood on the horizon to the right, and west towards the farm buildings on the far left.  Let’s not forget that everything you can see in this photograph was within easy reach of German artillery pretty much throughout the whole war.  It’s hard to imagine what this view would have looked like in the summer of 1916.  Or maybe it isn’t.

Anyway, for us, it’s time to move on.  Just a minute down the road, as we have already seen, Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery awaits.

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