La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery

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On the south side of La Plus Douve Farm the second of the two cemeteries here…

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…can be reached down this muddy track.  Actually, I have no idea if the farm still bears the same name, so if you happen to know, do feel free to educate me (Claude will know this one if he’s still following).

Panorama 1

La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery was begun in April 1915, a few months after its neighbour, Ration Farm (La Plus Douve) Annexe, but continued in use longer, until April 1918, when the German offensive swept through the British lines and the valley of the Douve found itself under German occupation.  Neither cemetery was used again.

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There are 336 British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand graves here, and unusually, as far as I can see, all are identified.

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Cemetery entrance.

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The southern end of the cemetery, with Plot I in the foreground and Plot III beyond.

Panorama 2

Looking up the length of the cemetery from south to north, Plot I again in the foreground.  The CWGC cemetery plan can be viewed here:

La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery Plan

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Australian headstones in Plot III along the western boundary.  The single grave in the background to the far left is that of:

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…although the spelling of ‘honor’ without the ‘u’ seems curious for an Australian inscription.

Panorama 3

Looking north along the headstones of Plot III (nearest camera) towards Plot IV and Plot VI in the far distance.  Before we leave the southern part of the cemetery, you may remember I mentioned in the previous post that Baldrick and I had a mission to fulfil whilst we were here.  Our objective was to place a cross at the grave of Private Sidney Boland, whom I had stumbled across, so to speak, on a Canadian lady’s blog whilst researching La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery a few days before our visit.

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We duly found him in Plot I Row A.

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And thus:

Finding Private Boland

Ah, the power of the interweb.

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88 identified Canadian casualties are buried here, mainly in Plots I & II.  The graves pictured are of men killed towards the end of 1915.  Left to right:

PRIVATE R. NICHOLLS15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRYu/k05/12/1915II A 1
PRIVATE L. BLAKE15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY2605/12/1915II A 2
PRIVATE M. A. CAMERON15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY1910/11/1915II A 3
PRIVATE J. McPIKE15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRYu/k26/10/1915II A 4

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More Canadians casualties of the fighting in December 1915.  Left to right:

PRIVATE W. J. OSGOOD14th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRYu/k23/12/1915II C 1
PRIVATE J. CAMPBELL14th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY3015/12/1915II C 2
CORPORAL C. O'BRIEN14th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRYu/k15/12/1915II C 3

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Plot IV.  Note the German graves in Rows A & B in the left foreground.  Plot VI is in the background.

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Plot IV Rows C (right) and D (centre).  The men buried in Plot IV Row E (the six headstones nearest the camera to the left – those beyond the gap are Plot VI Row D) are among fifteen men in the row who were killed in the days preceding, or during, the Battle of Messines in June 1917. The 1st New Zealand Field Ambulance had set up a Regimental Aid Post here, and eight men of the Auckland Regiment, killed on the 7th June, the first day of the battle, lie side-by-side in Plot III Row A.

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Plot VI Rows D (foreground), E & F, in the north west corner of the cemetery.  Now you may well have spotted this in some of the earlier photos, and if you have previously joined us on our ‘Tour of the Messines Ridge’ you will already be well acquainted with it, but away on the horizon to the north west you can see Mont Kemmel, by far the highest point behind the British lines, and heavily fought over in April 1918 as the Germans pushed westwards.  The spire is that of the church at Wulvergem.

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View north across the farm pond towards the Cross of Sacrifice within Ration Farm (La Plus Douve) Annexe.

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Looking east along the northern boundary wall from Plot VI, Row C in the foreground and Rows B & A beyond.  Plot V comprises the three rows in the background.

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Above & below: Views looking south down the length of the cemetery from Plot VI…

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…and from a similar position, looking south east towards the Cross of Sacrifice.

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Three Canadians in Plot VI.  Left to right:

PRIVATE J. McKEOGH15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY3223/03/1916VI B 1
PRIVATE R. HUNTER15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRYu/k19/03/1916VI B 2
PRIVATE D. JOHNSTON15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY2214/03/1916VI B 3

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Cross of Sacrifice.

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The first burials in the cemetery were made by the Royal Warwickshire Regiment at the start of the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.  The Warwickshires held this sector of the line until early June 1915; the men whose graves are pictured above were all killed at the end of May, and are buried in Plot V Row A.

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Now here’s an interesting thing.  At some point early in 1915 Lieutenant Bruce Bairnsfather of the Royal Warwickshires whom, you may remember, we met before during the ‘Tour of Ploegsteert Wood’, was billeted at the farm.  It seems to me that we are a bit close to the front line for billets, but it appears that Bairnsfather, whose first cartoon had been published in The Bystander at the end of March, had been sent here by his Colonel in order to decorate the walls of the farm with his art.  Later to become one of his most famous sketches, “My Dream For Years To Come” was first drawn on the wall of a store room here.  The farm, as I mentioned in the last post, was used as a battalion headquarters on more than one occasion, and it would seem that it was being used thus by the Warwickshires during Bairnsfather’s stay.  As an afternote, Bairnsfather was seriously injured by a shell explosion in April 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres, and was evacuated to England.  He would never return to the Western Front.

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There are 86 Australian casualties in total buried here.  Nearly all the 1918 burials are Australian as it was they who held this sector of the line during the days leading up to the German offensive in 1918.

LANCE CORPORAL T. J. NORTHILL57th BN, AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY2204/03/1918III B 7
LANCE CORPORAL H. H. S. STREET MM57th BN, AUSTRALIAN INFANTRYu/k05/03/1918III B 8
CORPORAL M. J. EGAN57th BN, AUSTRALIAN INFANTRYu/k11/03/1918III B 10
PRIVATE J. F. MACKLIN57th BN, AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY2811/03/1918III B 9

Lance Corporal Street’s full name was Hubert Harry Styles Street.  Just thought you’d like to know.

Panorama 5

Walking back down the track beside the cemetery, this view looks almost due west towards what was the British rear area for much of the war.  If we walked for half a mile, past the tree to the far right and across the fields, we would come to the next cemetery we are going to visit.  Alternatively, we could always take the car.

Annexe Panorama 2

As the light fades and we leave this secluded, peaceful place, this final shot silhouettes the trees that line the western boundary of Ration Farm (La Plus Douve) Annexe against the evening sky.

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14 Responses to La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery

  1. Flanders Fields – Flanders Coast (UK – Navy)

    I like some information about the “spermalie” or “sparmalie” farm (Zeebrugge Uboot-Harbour), raid on Zeebrugge (april 23, 1918).
    (Attack-plan available)
    (Need email-adress to provide attachments.

  2. John says:

    A moment of wonder about the Aussie Flag planted in front of Canadian Private Campbell’s grave. A member of the Aussie Branch of the Campbell Clan that found him on a visit, and decided to honour him, and adopt him as one of their own? Yes, that sounds like a warm way to imagine it this cold day.

  3. John says:

    And, I will be waiting for the next posting. For two of that cemeteries fallen bear a distant literary connection with one of my great uncles who rests at Railway Dugouts. More on that at the next post.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Well I wish I could say it was a beautiful cemetery, and perhaps it is to some….but wait, I give too much away. Patience.

  4. van parys paul says:

    I have some information about englisch graves and monuments in the Belgium/Flanders Bruges-region (Zeebrugge-Blankenberge) concerning the britisch attack on the Zeebrugge-German-Ubootharbour (23 april 1918).

    If somebody is interested : bcknokke@telenet.be

  5. Kate Shaji says:

    I’m doing a history project right now where we choose a random Australian soldier (without a Wikipedia page) who served in World War 1 and find out information about them through only primary sources. My soldier is Lance Corporal Hubert Harry Styles Street and now after a week of searching, I’ve finally found his headstone.

    Thank you to whoever took the photo. Hope you don’t mind if I use it for my assignment.

  6. Debbie Reynolds says:

    I visited this lovely cemetery last week 26/09/15 with my family and found the grave of our relative Dennis Beever, although from West Yorkshire he was sent to the 9th Glasgow Highlanders and was killed on 19/10/17. Does anyone know what activity or offensives he might have been involved in?
    Our sat nav brought us in down a long (dry) track, arriving with the cemetery on our left.

  7. Debbie Reynolds says:

    Thanks for the reply, I am chasing the war diary but its not on http://www.greatwardiaries.co.uk as yet. It is held by Glasgow City Archives who I have messaged re access. I just wondered if you had any other info.
    The track looks like the one on the photo though it was thankfully dry and a very pleasant evening. From your info it looks like you can get to it via the farm, the track was the way the sat nav sent us and it does actually say Private Lane at the top – oops!

    • Magicfingers says:

      I can help out on the Surrey Battalions but that’s about it I’m afraid. Have you read the preceding post to this one? It shows you the ‘correct’ way to reach these cemeteries. Lol!

      http://thebignote.com/2014/02/23/ration-farm-la-plus-douve-annexe/

      • Debbie Reynolds says:

        I didn’t discover this great wesite until after we had been, the instructions would have helped, the sat sav took us to the lane, we nearly didn’t go down it after seeing the Chemin Privé sign but a local told us it was the way to the cemetery so off we went, nobody objected!

        • Magicfingers says:

          I had a similar experience on the Somme earlier in the year – only someone objected strenuousy!! I am glad you are enjoying the website anyway Debbie. If you sign up (you can do so beneath the comments at the bottom of the page) you’ll get notified whenever I post new posts.

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