On the south side of La Plus Douve Farm the second of the two cemeteries here…
…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).
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.
There are 336 British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand graves here, and unusually, as far as I can see, all are identified.
The southern end of the cemetery, with Plot I in the foreground and Plot III beyond.
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:
Australian headstones in Plot III along the western boundary. The single grave in the background to the far left is that of…
…Private William Henry Birbeck, 5th Australian Pioneers, although the spelling of ‘honor’ without the ‘u’ seems curious for an Australian inscription.
The Headstone Inscription Form that includes Private Birbeck…
…does at least explain the spelling – his entry is the one added in red pen.
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.
We duly found him in Plot I Row A.
Ah, the power of the interweb.
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. NICHOLLS||15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||u/k||05/12/1915||II A 1|
|PRIVATE L. BLAKE||15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||26||05/12/1915||II A 2|
|PRIVATE M. A. CAMERON||15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||19||10/11/1915||II A 3|
|PRIVATE J. McPIKE||15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||u/k||26/10/1915||II A 4|
More Canadians casualties of the fighting in December 1915. Left to right:
|PRIVATE W. J. OSGOOD||14th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||u/k||23/12/1915||II C 1|
|PRIVATE J. CAMPBELL||14th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||30||15/12/1915||II C 2|
|CORPORAL C. O'BRIEN||14th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||u/k||15/12/1915||II C 3|
Plot IV. Note the German graves in Rows A & B in the left foreground. Plot VI is in the background.
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.
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.
View north across the farm pond towards the Cross of Sacrifice within Ration Farm (La Plus Douve) Annexe.
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.
Above & below: Views looking south down the length of the cemetery from Plot VI…
…and from a similar position, looking south east towards the Cross of Sacrifice.
Three Canadians in Plot VI. Left to right:
|PRIVATE J. McKEOGH||15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||32||23/03/1916||VI B 1|
|PRIVATE R. HUNTER||15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||u/k||19/03/1916||VI B 2|
|PRIVATE D. JOHNSTON||15th BN, CANADIAN INFANTRY||22||14/03/1916||VI B 3|
Cross of Sacrifice.
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.
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 after note, 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.
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. NORTHILL||57th BN, AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY||22||04/03/1918||III B 7|
|LANCE CORPORAL H. H. S. STREET MM||57th BN, AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY||u/k||05/03/1918||III B 8|
|CORPORAL M. J. EGAN||57th BN, AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY||u/k||11/03/1918||III B 10|
|PRIVATE J. F. MACKLIN||57th BN, AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY||28||11/03/1918||III B 9|
Lance Corporal Street’s full name was Hubert Harry Styles Street. Just thought you’d like to know.
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.
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.
Addendum February 2018:
This May 1918 map shows a trench called Fanny’s Avenue (circled in orange), and the site of La Plus Douve Farm (circled in green). If you follow my conversation with Avis Gillard following this post, you will understand why it has now been included.
Extract from the map, Messines to the bottom left, Fanny’s Avenue top right; notice a feature marked as ‘The Better ‘Ole’ just above it, which is, of course, the title of another well known Bairnsfather sketch.