A Tour of the Messines Ridge Part Two – Irish House Cemetery

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We are now a little over a mile west of Wytschaete, in an area that was just behind the British lines when the Battle of Messines began.  Our next stop, Irish House Cemetery, is just a short distance north of the main road at this point, as the signpost confirms.

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Note the shells visible in the windows of this house on the main road (above & below).

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Above & below: The cemetery entrance is down this grass path, alongside a field that serves as yet another reminder of the conditions frequently faced by soldiers of both sides during the war in Flanders fields.

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This little cemetery was begun by the 16th Irish Division at the start of the Battle of Messines.  Two of the memorials we saw in the previous post, you will remember, commemorated the men of the 16th Division.  There are just five rows of headstones here, the majority from 1917; nearest the camera are the two final burials, both from early September 1918.

Irish House Cemetery Plan

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No less than 31 of the 77 identified burials here lost their lives on 7th June 1917, the first day of the battle.

SECOND LIEUTENANT W. BARRIEKING'S OWN SCOTTISH BORDERERS3707/06/1917A 15
LANCE CORPORAL J. SCOTT
BORDER REGIMENT3207/06/1917A 16

Unusually, you will notice a second name on Lance Corporal Scott’s headstone, that of his 20 year old brother, Private W. Scott of the Border Regiment, killed on 30th November 1916, whose name appears among the 72,000 missing on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme.

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These three men of the Sherwood Foresters, were, I suspect, all killed together on 16th June 1917.

PRIVATE F. BONDNOTTS & DERBY REGIMENTu/k16/06/1917A 3
SERJEANT F. CLAYTONNOTTS & DERBY REGIMENTu/k16/06/1917A 4
PRIVATE H. STRICKSONNOTTS & DERBY REGIMENT3316/06/1917A 4

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Three more of the Irishmen killed on the 7th June 1917.

SERJEANT W. WATERSROYAL IRISH REGIMENTu/k07/06/1917A 5
PRIVATE J. O'CONNORROYAL INNISKILLING FUSILIERSu/k07/06/1917A 6
PRIVATE J. WRAYROYAL INNISKILLING FUSILIERS3407/06/1917A 7

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Rows B (nearest camera), C & D.  The single German headstone in the back row marks the graves of a number of German soldiers.

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One headstone, thirty burials.  These Gordon Highlanders were killed attacking Wytschaete back in December 1914 and were reburied here in June 1917 by the men of the 16th Irish Division.

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Row A, with the single headstone to the thirty Gordon Highlanders nearest the camera.

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In total forty of the burials here, like the Irishmen pictured above, all killed during the Messines battle, are unidentified.

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As we take our leave Mont Kemmel, or the Kemmelberg if you prefer, looms above the surrounding countryside, its strategic importance obvious.  This, however, is the closest we shall find ourselves to it on this tour.  Our journey now takes us south, to another little cemetery that we caught a glimpse of in the previous post.

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Kemmel sunset.

Next: Part Three

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14 Responses to A Tour of the Messines Ridge Part Two – Irish House Cemetery

  1. Jean says:

    Thank you for these photographs, I only found out a short time ago that a relative John Robert Cousen died in ww1 and is buried here in the Irish cemetery. He served in the manchester regiment and died on 13/6/17. We are hoping to visit the cemetery in spring 2015 but in the mean time can share the photographs with the family.

  2. Magicfingers says:

    You are welcome Jean. I hope you have a good trip when you get the chance to visit.

  3. Colleen ward says:

    Thank you for the photos, my great uncle is buried her, John o’connor, I have been searching for a photograph for a while

  4. SP Stevenson says:

    Thank you for these wonderful photos. I reckon a distant cousin of mine is one of the 30 Gordon Highlanders – Pte 3/5989 Murdo Montgomery 1st battalion, died 14 Dec 1914.

    S.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks for commenting SP. Wow. It’s a very unusual thing to see so many men remembered one one single headstone.

  5. Lynda James says:

    Thanks I think my dad’s Uncle is one of the 30 Gordon Highlanders too. Alexander Innes from Lanark, 1 Btk too, died 14 th Dec as well. How honourable of the Irish soldiers to bury their bodies and remember them. Thanks from my family, Scots and Irish stuck together during horrific times.

  6. Graham Forbes says:

    Hi
    I am researching Lanark war memorial WW1 and was stuck on Alexander Innes who is commemorated on the monument – there seemed no link in census and birth records. I was very pleased to see that there is a link – found through you impressive website. We do not however have any further information other than his service number, place of birth and place of enlistment. Any information that Lynda James has would be greatly appreciated. Alexander is also commemorated on New Lanark War Memorial and I wold pass on the information to New Lanark Trust for their records.
    Regards
    Graham Forbes

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hi Graham. Thanks for your kind words. I hope Lynda reads your comments and perhaps you can make contact.

      • Graham Forbes says:

        Hi MJS

        further to my last post – here is information now found pertaining to Pte Alexander Innes. I also have a photograph of him in uniform. Thanks for all your interesting articles

        Pte Alexander [Alec] Innes
        S/3342 1st Bn. Gordon Highlanders
        Killed in action in whilst attacking Wytschaete, Messines Ridge, France on 14/12/1914, aged 21
        Born in Graeme Street (Now Calton side of Bell Street), Glasgow in February 1894
        Father: Alexander, Journeyman Mason, born in Elgin in 1868 and died in Nobhill Hospital
        Mother: Margaret (King) known as Mary, born in 1870, married a Mr Moyes sometime between 1907 and 1911
        Brother of James, Janet, Campbell, Agnes, Ellen and Mary (Mary was born in Lanark in 1907)
        Step brother of Mary Moyes
        Great uncle of Lynda James
        Lived in 5 Double Row, New Lanark in 1905
        Lived in Industrial School, Penicuik in 1907
        Lived at 13 Pentland Street, Dalmarnock, Bridgeton, Glasgow in 1911
        Enlisted at Glasgow
        Buried in Irish House Cemetery – information taken from “A tour of the Messines Ridge – Part 2” on http://thebignote.com/2013/08/01/a-tour-of-the-messines-ridge-part-two-irish-house-cemetery
        Occupation in 1911 was plasterer’s helper
        More information exists on Record of Applications for Poor Relief 1905-1908
        Brother James (Scots Guards) won Military Medal, survived and became a policeman
        Also commemorated on New Lanark Memorial

        Graham Forbes

  7. Jean Beveridge says:

    Hello we have just returned from a trip to Ypres. We visited the Irish house cemetery on Tuesday 13/6/2017 100 years to the day that my relative Lance Serjeant J R Cousen 16962 of the Manchester Regiment 11th Bn was killed in action. An emotional experience. Thanks for all the photos magic finger, it is a very quiet and peaceful place. We took some pics and are happy to share with anyone.

    • Magicfingers says:

      You are most welcome Jean. My photos will mean more to you now that you have visited. I think it’s a beautiful spot and I imagine it was a very moving experience for you, and not one that I have ever (or will ever) experienced. My family, on both sides, were lucky enough to survive the war reasonably intact. One of my Grandfathers was in the Mercantile Marine and as far as I know was never sunk, my other Grandfather was in Salonika and later wounded on the Somme, a Great Uncle won a M.C. on 1st July on the Somme (and there can’t be too many of them!) and later spent more than a year as a prisoner, but all survived. And my Dad of course survived WW2, including being with the Americans during the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944. Not the best place to be at the time.

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