A Tour of Zillebeke Part Fifteen – Hill 60 Part Three: Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery

Larch Wood

The final part of this long tour of the Zillebeke area takes us to Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery, some four hundred yards west of Hill 60, and the final resting place of many men who were killed in the almost continuous fighting that took place there. 

Larch Wood

This is not the most accessible of cemeteries, so Baldrick and I left the car across the road from the CWGC signpost and walked down the track the rest of the way.

Larch Wood

It’s only a hundred yards or so, and as we walk, the cemetery comes into view in the dip alongside the railway.

Larch Wood

The track ends at the railway, which we need to cross in order to reach the cemetery.  With no train approaching, this view shows all three of the spoilheaps that I have mentioned before in previous posts about Hill 60; the hill itself is on the horizon to the left of the red light, the trees to the right of the same light are those growing on the Caterpillar, and the trees to the far right of the picture grow on the third spoilheap, known as the Dump.  You can spot all three on the trench map below.

Zillebeke

Larch Wood

Above & below: Once across the track, the cemetery entrance is immediately on our right…

Larch Wood

Larch Wood

…although unusually, you will notice, the actual cemetery is still some way along the railway line…

Larch Wood

…so we must walk a little further…

Larch Wood Panorama 2

…before we enter the cemetery proper.  The first headstones we see are those of Plot V; to the right, the headstones along the western cemetery boundary are all special memorials to men either known or believed to be buried somewhere in the cemetery.  You will probably find the Cemetery Plan, courtesy of the CGWC, of use during our visit: Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery Plan

Larch Wood

Immediately to our left as we enter the cemetery, another row of special memorial headstones, again men known or believed to be buried here, lines the northern boundary wall.  These are Special Memorials ‘A’ Nos 1 to 22, with Nos 23 & 24 facing the camera in the background.

Larch Wood

Pictured two photos previously, these headstones along the western wall are Special Memorials ‘B’ Nos 9 (nearest camera) to 43…

Larch Wood

…and to the left of the previous picture, still placed along the western wall, these are Special Memorials ‘B’ Nos 1 to 8.

Larch Wood

When the cemetery was begun in April 1915 a small copse of larches stood here (check out the trench map), and it’s nice to see that a handful of larches, albeit of a different generation, stand here still.  It’s difficult to ascertain how many burials had been made here by April 1918, when the German advance pushed the British back towards Ypres, but the cemetery was considerably enlarged after the end of the war with burials brought in from other Flanders battlefields and from numerous smaller cemeteries throughout much of Belgium.  Quite why this cemetery was chosen, particularly bearing in mind its location and difficulty of access, I have yet to discover.

If you’re interested, these are the cemeteries from which men were brought, post-war, and re-interred here at Larch Wood: America Cross Roads German Cemetery, Wervicq; Bruges General Cemetery, St. Michel; Cortemarck German Cemetery, No.1; Eerneghem German Cemetery; Ghistelles Churchyard; Groenenberg German Cemetery, Zantvoorde; Handzaeme German Cemetery; Ichtegem German Cemetery; Leffinghe German Cemetery; Marckhove German Cemetery, Cortemarck; Oudenburg Churchyard; Tenbrielen Communal Cemetery German Extension; Thourout German Cemetery, No.2; Vladsloo German Cemetery; Warneton Sud-et-Bas German Cemetery; Wervicq Communal Cemetery and Extension; Wijnendaele German Cemetery, Thourout, and Zantvoorde German Cemetery (also known as De Voorstraat No.49).

Larch Wood

Cross of Sacrifice.  The cemetery now contains 856 burials and commemorations, of which 321 are unidentified and, as we have already seen, there are 82 special memorials to men known or believed to be buried here, as well as five memorials to men buried in German cemeteries whose graves were subsequently lost.  We shall visit these five men later.

Larch Wood Panorama 1

This panoramic view looks east across the cemetery from the Cross of Sacrifice (just out of picture to the right).  The row of headstones stretching across the photo is Plot II Row J, and part of Plot III is visible to the left (see also photo below).

Larch Wood

Larch Wood

Many of the burials in Plot II Row J are men of the Dorsetshire Regiment who were holding the line at the foot of Hill 60 on 5th July 1915 when the Germans launched a sudden bombardment, demolishing much of the trench and leaving sixteen Dorset men dead.  The body of Private Harry Woods, the centre headstone in the picture above, was found in eight pieces.  Literally blown to bits.  Tom Morgan’s excellent article about Hill 60 on his Hellfire Corner website notes that, despite their shock at losing so many of their comrades in such a short space of time, his friends ensured his remains were found and buried here alongside the other casualties of that desperate, yet sadly far from uncommon, day.

Larch Wood          Larch Wood

The views above look south east towards Hill 60 from Plot I at the southern end of the cemetery.

Larch Wood

Here at the southern boundary the three wooded spoilheaps of, from left, Hill 60, the Caterpillar, and the Dump can be clearly seen on the horizon.  Notice the small ridge that crosses the field directly ahead of us; this was where the entrance to the Berlin Sap, the tunnel that led to the two huge mines the British laid beneath Hill 60 and the Caterpillar that were detonated on 7th June 1917, once was.  From here you get an idea of the length of the tunnel, some 1400 feet in total, and don’t forget that another gallery branched off nearer the hill towards the Caterpillar.  The tunnellers used to joke that their tunnel would one day reach Berlin itself, hence the title ‘Berlin Sap’.

Larch Wood

Northerly view from near the southern boundary of the cemetery looking towards the Stone of Remembrance, with some of the headstones of Plot I in the foreground.

Larch Wood

Unknown graves in Plot I Row A (also visible to the right of the previous picture).

Larch Wood

Looking south east along the headstones of Plot I Row A…

Larch Wood

…and south across Plot I as the train thunders past on its way to Ieper (Ypres).

Larch Wood

Setting sun over Plot I.

Larch Wood

Westerly view across Plot I on the left, and Plot II on the right.

Larch Wood

Plot II.  Row J, with the Dorset men we visited earlier at the far end, is the sunlit row angled across the picture.  Plot III is in the background.

Larch Wood

Above & below: Headstones in Plot III.

Larch Wood

Larch Wood

Plot IV Rows B (left) & A (right), with special memorials along the wall in the background.  The village of Zillebeke, and the squat tower of Zillebeke church, is visible in the distance.  We shall visit what is often referred to as the Aristocrat’s Cemetery in the churchyard at a later date.

Larch Wood

Above & below: The special memorial headstones visible in the previous photograph, with a Duhallow Block which records that the four men remembered directly behind were once buried in Wervicq (Wervik) Communal Cemetery but that their graves were later lost.

Larch Wood

The single headstone to the right remembers Private W. H. Giles of the 16th Lancers who was killed in action and buried by the Germans at Groenenberg German Cemetery, Zantvoorde, but whose grave was also later lost.

Larch Wood

The same Duhallow Block, Plot IV Row A, and Hill 60 just visible on the horizon to the far right.

Larch Wood

Southerly view across Plot IV towards the Cross of Sacrifice and the railway beyond.

Larch Wood

South easterly view from Plot IV.

Larch Wood

Quite a number of the burials in Plot V, such as the unidentified officer nearest the camera, are of unknown soldiers.

Larch Wood

Back where we started when we entered the cemetery; Special Memorials ‘A’ Nos 1 to 17…

Larch Wood

…and in the background, Nos 18 to 22.  The headstones to the right are Special Memorials ‘A’ Nos 23 to 42.

Larch Wood

Last view looking down the length of the cemetery…

Larch Wood

…before it’s time to head back towards the cemetery entrance.

Larch Wood

Larch Wood

Don’t ask!

Larch Wood

Information plaque giving a brief outline of the war on the Western Front.

Larch Wood

As we cross the railway line again, this time we look north west; you can clearly see the spires of Ieper (Ypres) beyond the trees to the left.

Larch Wood

View looking south east, back towards Larch Wood Cemetery and Hill 60 in the centre distance, as we retrace our steps up the track towards the car.  This track existed during the First World War (you can see it on the trench map), but I cannot imagine it was a particularly healthy place to be caught out in the open in those days.

Larch Wood

Taken from the same spot as the previous photo, this view looks north west towards Ieper in the distance.  The houses are on the outskirts of Zillebeke village, and the trees line the banks of Zillebeke Lake.

Larch Wood

This view looks south west towards the area known as the Bluff, where a number of CWGC cemeteries that we have already visited (see A Tour of Zillebeke South) are sited, the nearest of which, Woods Cemetery, is within the trees on the horizon to the left of the photo.

Larch Wood

Flanders icy fields.

Larch Wood

Larch Wood

Final view looking towards Hill 60…

Larch Wood

…before we find ourselves back at the car.

705

Were we to drive just half a mile north west up the road from here, following the line of the railway, we would arrive at Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm), where the graves of many more men who were killed in the fighting around Hill 60 are to be found, and where we visited way back in Part Two of this tour of Zillebeke, a tour which is now at its end. Hope you enjoyed it.

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10 Responses to A Tour of Zillebeke Part Fifteen – Hill 60 Part Three: Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery

  1. Sid Breeden says:

    MJS you have surpassed yourself this time. Magnificent photos and captions.
    Dare I say “The best yet”
    Cheers from Down Under

  2. Magicfingers says:

    Thanks Sid. You’re a gent. I do my best! Mind you, I was very lucky to be in Flanders that particular weekend, and the light that afternoon was so beautiful. It had started snowing late the previous afternoon under leaden skies (as you will see one of these fine days), but the next day…wow!

  3. Fernando Brodrick says:

    Thank You Sir for such beautiful photos and narration of a subject I’m most interested in. My great grandfather 2nd Lt Eric Brodrick is laid to rest at Larch Wood and I hope that one day I get to visit and pay my respects.

  4. Magicfingers says:

    And thank you for your kind comments Fernando. Your Great Grandfather, Second Lieutenant Eric Brodrick of the Yorkshire Regiment, is buried in Plot IV Row B 11. There’s a picture of the row in one of the photos above. I hope you do manage to get out to pay your respects one of these days. You won’t regret it, I’m sure.

  5. Dave says:

    Thanks for pictures and information-have just returned from a visit to Larch Wood to see my relative and leave a cross he was Private Frank Clark of the 13th Glos (Forest of Dean ) reg which was a pioneer battalion so probably involved in the mining some where.
    Thanks Again.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Dave, many apologies for not responding to your comment earlier; you nearly slipped through the net. Glad you found the site of use, and glad you found Private Clark as well. Next time I visit Larch Wood I too will pay my respects.

      • mel says:

        Hi Magicfingers,

        My Great Uncle was buried in Plot I, Row H. I’m wondering if you have any photos of this area?
        Thanks

        • Magicfingers says:

          Hi mel. I’ve checked and I’m afraid I don’t have any close-ups of Row H although it is visible in the background in a couple of the above pictures. Sorry.

  6. Phil says:

    Hi Magicfingers

    Many thanks for showing these fantastic pictures of Larchwood Cemetery. My Great grandfather is buried there and i saw his headstone in one of your pictures. He is buried behind the Duhallow monument L.Brown of the Kings own Royal Lancasters. He was originally buried by the Germans in Wervik Cemetery and later re – interred at larch wood but his body was lost. I believe the cemetery was shelled at one point. I have a copy of the regimental diary of the night he was killed. 3rd April 1916 near Scottish wood. 16 were killed that night, he was posted as missing. Capt Adjutant E.L Barnes, 2lft C.A. Williams and Capt C.E.R. Bridson were the officers killed that night. The next night they were relieved by Canadians. Ironic because i live in Canada now.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Phil! Thanks for your kind comments. I was a lucky boy that day weather-wise. And thanks for your Great Grandfathers’ story. I actually know Wervik (in German hands for most of the war of course) quite well and have recently found some trench maps of the area. It always strikes me as curious that men were brought from as far away as places like Wervik to be reinterred at cemeteries such as Larch Wood, particularly as there are many British military cemeteries much nearer to Wervik. Zantvoorde British Cemetery, for example, is much nearer Wervik and is a post-war cemetery – why were they not reburied there? I guess we’ll never know.

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