St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery.
Before we go in, a quick reminder of exactly where we are. The trench map above shows the locations of St. Quentin Cabaret and, just half a mile south east at the very bottom of the map, the two cemeteries at La Plus Douve Farm that we visited recently, and their proximity to the front line trenches in the upper right quarter. The road through Wulverghem leads directly to Messines (now Mesen), less than a mile away off the map to the east (right).
The layout of the cemetery is unusual (and to my eyes somewhat unsatisfactory, but that is beside the point), consisting of two large plots set at right angles to each other. St. Quentin Cabaret itself was an inn before the war, and often used as a battalion headquarters during it. There was also a Regimental Aid Post here, as the rows of headstones attest.
Plot I, the earliest, comprises all the headstones in the foreground that face away from the camera, Plot II all the headstones facing roughly north (to the right) in the background (see St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery Plan). The cemetery was begun in March 1915 (there is a single burial from November 1914) and used regularly until the front lines moved west in June 1917 after the Battle of Messines. Thereafter only a handful of burials were made between July & December, the area was captured by the Germans in April 1918, and just two South Wales Borderers were buried here during the final British offensive in early October.
At the end of Plot I Row F one of only six unidentified burials, out of a total of 460 men interred here, lies next to three men of the South Staffordshire Regiment. Although a few burials had already been made in March, from early April 1915 the South Staffordshires became the first regiment to use the cemetery on a regular basis.
Looking down the length of Plot I Rows G (left) and F. The unidentified burial in the previous photo is the headstone nearest the camera, and most of the other burials in Row F are South Staffordshires, who left 32 of their men here when they were relieved in June 1915. Going back to my earlier comment, if you are looking at the cemetery plan, don’t you think it looks rather like someone’s chucked three walls around the two plots using the space provided, and added a low circular wall beneath the Cross of Sacrifice that doesn’t bear much relation to the headstones it immediately faces (the wall and headstones pictured above, in fact)? Not Mr. Charles Holden’s finest hour in my humble opinion, although I suppose you might ask what else could he do?
Something better, frankly.
Having said all that, I do think that Holden’s design of the cemetery entrance, with a gate on either side of the Cross of Sacrifice, looks impressive, both from within the cemetery, and without (see first photo). Somewhere near the top of the list, I think (yes, of course I have a list of ‘Favourite Cemetery Entrances’. Doesn’t everyone?). This view looks north east across the headstones of Plot I, the Cross of Sacrifice and cemetery entrance in the background. There are 68 Canadian burials in the cemetery, many of them in Rows B & C (second & third rows), and most killed during the last few months of 1915.
The lone headstone of Lance Corporal Troughton of the Border Regiment, killed in the days prior to the Battle of Messines, stands at the end of Plot II.
Looking east across Plot II, with Rows R & P in the foreground and the headstones of Plot I in the background…
…and panning right from the same spot, looking down the length of Plot II with the end of Row P now nearest the camera. Note the German grave at the end of Row L, and another in Row N. To avoid any confusion, I ought to mention that Rows I, M, O & Q do not exist (check out that cemetery plan again)!
The far, southern, end of Plot II, Rows A (background) to D. You will notice that Row C contains nothing but New Zealand burials, nearly all of whom are Otago Regiment men killed on 24th March 1917. The New Zealanders set up an Advanced Dressing Station at nearby Kandahar Farm in preparation for the Battle of Messines, and sited two Regimental Aid Posts nearer the front lines, one at La Plus Douve Farm, as we have seen, and one at St. Quentin Cabaret. Both places were linked to Kandahar Farm A.D.S., from here just a quarter of a mile away to the west, by trench tramway, and both were equipped with an ambulance. Between March and June 1917 64 New Zealand burials were made here, all in what is now Plot II.
Back at the Cross of Sacrifice Baldrick replaces the cemetery register before we take our leave…
…because if we’re quick about it, there’s just time to visit the men whose war ended at the A.D.S. at Kandahar Farm before the sun finally sets.