A Tour of the Messines Ridge Part Three – Peckham Farm Crater & Spanbroekmolen British Cemetery

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On leaving Irish House Cemetery we must head back along the main road (far left) towards Wytschaete for a few hundred yards, before we follow the course of the front lines south.  The first of the mine craters blown on that morning of 7th June 1917 that we shall see on this tour, Peckham Farm Crater was formed when some 87,000 pounds of ammonal were exploded at a depth of 240 feet beneath the German lines here.

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Beneath the farm buildings (more specifically the right-hand building) beyond the flooded crater another mine, considerably smaller at 20,000 pounds, but nonetheless just as deadly to anyone in the vicinity, still lies dormant deep beneath the earth.

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Above & below: In the middle of the fields just a couple of hundred yards south east of the crater, the spire of Wytschaete church visible on the horizon towards the left, lies little Spanbroekmolen British Cemetery.

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Cemetery entrance.

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The cemetery contains the graves of 52 men of the Royal Irish Rifles and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, men of the 16th Irish Division who were killed on 7th June 1917 (three died the following day).  Six further burials are unidentified.

Spanbroekmolen British Cemetery Plan

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There are also special memorials to these six men of the Royal Irish Rifles who are known to be buried here but whose graves were destroyed; indeed the cemetery itself was lost during later fighting and only rediscovered after the Armistice.

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Baldrick reads a note left at the base of the grave of Rifleman Thomas Todd of the Royal Irish Rifles.

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The Cross of Sacrifice.

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The view above looks south east with the twelve headstones of Row B nearest the camera and the six special memorial headstones we saw earlier visible in the final row.

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This view looks north towards the Cross of Sacrifice, with Row B again in the foreground and Row A beyond.

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Above & below: A reminder, once again, of the conditions underfoot even on a beautiful day like this.

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Don’t forget that British troops captured all the land you can see in these photos in just three hours on the morning of 7th June.  The mines undoubtedly caused immense devastation to the German defences, but bearing in mind the stalemate of the previous two years, I still marvel that the initial advance was so successful.  Anyway, time for us to move on.  Another mine crater, and another small but beautifully sited cemetery, await.

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10 Responses to A Tour of the Messines Ridge Part Three – Peckham Farm Crater & Spanbroekmolen British Cemetery

  1. John says:

    Am I to understand that the smaller 20K pound ammonal mine you speak of NNW of the Peckham Farm Crater is unexploded?

  2. Magicfingers says:

    Oh yes. 19 mines were exploded on that June morning, but 25 mines had been laid the previous year. You may remember towards the end of our Ploegsteert Tour we visited the site of four mines, the furthest south of all, that were laid but never detonated (one blew up in the 1950s), and there’s yet another 50,000 lb mine under a farm to the west of Messines itself, about a mile south of where we currently are on this tour, that we shall visit at a later date.

  3. John says:

    Thank you ! I knew some were unexploded but had not delved yet into documenting the locations of those yet. A must for my yet undated future motorcycle tour of the Ypres and Somme regions. So, I know where to ride by slowly, avoiding times when thunderstorms are about.

  4. Magicfingers says:

    Lol. A motorbike tour of Flanders. Sounds like a fabulous idea. Although not, perhaps, for me, as bikes of any sort and me never really got on. Unfortunately for you, now that you have mentioned your plan, you do realise that Baldrick and I will track you down and buy you beer! Probably lots of it.

  5. Jonny Gilpin says:

    Hi there, I know it’s probably a shot in the dark, but the picture of Baldrick reading the note at the gravestone of Thomas Todd, you wouldn’t happen to know what the note said? I’m Thomas’s great grandson and would love to find out. Any response would be thoroughly appreciated.

    Many thanks
    Jonny

  6. Magicfingers says:

    Jonny, I’m not around much of this week, but if he doesn’t respond by next week I shall give him a nudge. I suspect it’s a long shot though. I’m not sure the copious quantities of Grimbergen imbibed later that night would have helped much.

  7. Stephen Moore says:

    Hi. I am trying undertaking a Remembrance Day project for my church St John’s Church of Ireland, Ballyclare and I am trying to obtain information on the eleven men that are named on our First World War memorial. One of these is Thomas Todd and I see that one of your party is reading a note left at the base of his grave. It is a very long shot, but can he remember who wrote this note and what it said. If he can would he send me an email? Many thanks. Stephen

    • Magicfingers says:

      Stephen, how interesting. You will notice that you are not the first to ask that question if you check out the other comments. Unfortunately Baldrick (one of my party. Actually, he is my party.) hardly remembers the day, let alone the note. In all seriousness, I’m sorry but it was a couple of years ago and I’m afraid he cannot remember what was on that particular note.

  8. Eddie Brittain says:

    Hello Jonny,
    It’s interesting to see mention of a Todd. My grandfather, Albert Eddie Todd, was a 19 year old 2nd lieutenant at Messines with the 8th RIR. I don’t suppose there is any family connection? Eddie Todds father was a jewller in Belfast.

    Magicfingers, many thanks for a great web site.
    All the best!
    Eddie

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