Just a few hundred yards west of Spanbroekmolen British Cemetery, a CWGC signpost points the way to our next stop, Lone Tree Cemetery.
This view looks west, across what was once No Man’s Land, from just in front of the position of the German front line trenches in June 1917. The cemetery, sited just beyond the trees (see below) no more than a hundred yards away, is on the approximate position of the British front line.
These photographs also show, as was so often the case on the Western Front, the frequently superior positions held by the Germans, often with commanding views such as these looking down on the British lines.
CWGC markers flank the pathway leading to the cemetery entrance.
Personally, I consider this little cemetery to be among the most beautiful, and one of the most tragic, as I shall explain later, in all of Flanders.
Cemetery entrance and Cross of Sacrifice.
The cemetery contains just 88 burials, and is in effect split into two sections with the Cross in the centre. This view looks towards the headstones of Plot II at the western end of the cemetery with Mont Kemmel on the horizon…
…and this view, taken from among the headstones pictured in the previous photo, looks east. The cemetery entrance is to the left, and Plot I is in the background. You can view the Cemetery Plan, courtesy of the CWGC, by clicking the link below.
Above & below: This is the view the British would have had from their trenches, looking north in this instance, towards the German front lines on the crest of the ridge. Compare this to the earlier photos showing the German view from in front of the bushes at the top of the rise.
The trees and bushes have grown up around the huge Lone Tree Crater, another of the nineteen mines exploded beneath the German positions on 7th June 1917.
Cross of Sacrifice.
As we head back up the rise to visit the mine crater (above), you may consider that our visit to this little cemetery (below) has proved to be somewhat cursory. Fear not. I have visited Lone Tree Cemetery more than once in recent years, so I suggest we go and take a look at the crater, and then we’ll return to the cemetery for a further look around before we move on.
At the top of the rise a cobbled pathway leads down to the water-filled crater.
The inscription reads:
‘Spanbroekmolen or Lone Tree Crater. This crater was one of 19 blown up by the Second Army on June 7th 1917. Following the explosion of these mines Lord Plumer’s Army was able to secure the Messines Ridge. Particulars: Sap started 1st January 1916. Completed 26th June 1916. Depth of charge 88 feet. Charge 91000 lbs Ammonal. Length of gallery 1710 feet. Blown 7th June 1917. Dimensions: Diameter at ground level 250 feet. Width of rim 90 feet. Depth below normal ground level 40 feet. Height of rim 13 feet. Diameter of complete obliteration 430 feet. This crater is the property of Toc H Poperinghe.’
Information tablet. You will have noted already that this mine, as was the case with all the others, was completed nearly a year before it would eventually be used, necessitating extreme vigilance during that time to ensure that the Germans remained unaware of its existence.
A tranquil pool today, the extreme violence that took place here at 3.10 in the morning of 7th June 1917 is simply unimaginable.
If you’re careful you can circumnavigate the crater, so we did:
However, when in Flanders, as in life; always expect the unexpected.
Baldrick says, “LEAVE WELL ALONE”.
Lone Tree Crater is often referred to these days as the Pool of Peace which, looking at this photograph, seems most appropriate, don’t you think.
Time to leave the Pool of Peace and its guardian mog…
…and return to Lone Tree Cemetery for a further look around.
We’ve seen this more than once on our travels; the inscription at the cemetery entrance says 1916 – 1917, although all the burials here were made between June & August 1917.
Similar view to one we saw earlier. All but three of the graves in Plot II (above & below) are Royal Irish Riflemen, and therein lies the great tragedy of this place.
56 of the 79 identified casualties interred here, all but one killed on 7th June 1917 (the other died the following day), are men of the Royal Irish Rifles, 36th (Ulster) Division, a memorial to whom we saw in the first part of this tour. Many of these men simply left their trenches a fraction too early on that fateful morning, and were killed by blast and flying debris when the Spanbroekmolen mine erupted in front of them.
Nine unidentified burials can be found scattered among the identified graves. The two artillerymen pictured above (centre & right), both killed on 3rd July 1917, are:
|SERJEANT H. L. C. PAGE||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||24||03/07/1917||I A 2|
|GUNNER W. J. MARSH||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||u/k||03/07/1917||I A 3|
Plot I Row D, sited along the north eastern boundary of the cemetery. The single headstone in Row C in the foreground is that of:
|GUNNER E. L. CARTY||ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY||11/07/1917||19||I C 1|
Plot I Row B. You can see Gunner Carty’s grave behind to the right of centre, and Row D in the background.
Plot I, beyond the Cross of Sacrifice, with Plot II Row A nearest the camera to the right.
Plot II Row C, all men of the Royal Irish Rifles except the headstone to the far left.
Until next time.
Our journey now follows the route of the front lines south a short distance, to where two more huge mine craters await our perusal. This view looks toward the German second line on the Messines Ridge in the distance, with Messines Church (centre) on the horizon away to the south west.
Finally, this trench map from April 1916 shows the German front line trench system in red and the British in blue. Maedelstede Farm, Peckham and Spanbroekmolen, where three of the mines were already nearing completetion at the time this trench map was produced, are all clearly marked, as is Kruisstraat, which is where we are heading next.