The Belgian Sector Part Four – Nieuwpoort Communal Cemetery

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Nieuwpoort Communal Cemetery hosts three separate CWGC plots, two of which contain First World War burials.  The Cross of Sacrifice, visible in the photograph above, is sited in Plot I.

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Plot I, the largest, contains 49 identified burials.  The plot consists of two long lines of headstones, with Row A, to the left, continuing on the far side of the Cross of Sacrifice.

Here’s the Nieuwpoort Communal Cemetery Plan, courtesy of the CWGC.

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All the First World War burials in this cemetery are men killed after the British returned to this sector in June 1917.

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The burials in Row A are all from July 1917.

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Plot I, panning from left…

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…to centre…

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…to right.

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Above & below: The British took over the Nieuwpoort sector from the French on 20th June 1917, and a number of burials at this end of Plot I Row B (nearest camera) are men of the Manchester Regiment killed that very day.  I would imagine that they were buried here simply because the local cemetery already existed, and the British had yet to create any burial grounds of their own.

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Plot II contains 19 graves, all men of the Manchesters or Lancashire Fusiliers, save for a single Northumberland Fusilier (headstone furthest left, back row) buried on 5th August, the final First World War burial to be made here.

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Three of the 31 Manchester Regiment burials in this cemetery, all men killed in the first month following the British take-over of the sector.  Left to right:

PRIVATE F. FOULKESMANCHESTER REGIMENTu/k14/07/1917II B 2
LANCE CORPORAL E. A. SHARPLESMANCHESTER REGIMENT2215/07/1917II B 3
PRIVATE W. COLEMANCHESTER REGIMENTu/k15/07/1917II B 4

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A single Lancashire Fusilier, towards the centre of Row A (above), is the only unknown burial in the plot.

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Above & below: Plot II.  Many of these men were killed in the fighting in mid-July 1917, more of which next post.

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Above & following photos: Towards the western side of the cemetery, this Belgian memorial remembers local men who perished in both World Wars.

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The memorial’s most prominent feature, however, is the engraved profile of Hendrik Geeraert, one of Nieuwpoort’s favourite sons, in the centre.  The decision to flood the polders in late October 1914 was undoubtedly a brave and difficult decision to take, but perhaps not half as difficult as implementing it.  The Belgian Army engineers had no idea about the workings of the drainage system, nor how the locks and sluices at the Goose Foot regulated the flow of water further south, and to compound their problems, the lock keeper at the Goose Foot had been evacuated along with many of the inhabitants of the town.  Enter Hendrick Geeraert, a tug boat captain, who just happened to be drinking with one of the engineers, and who just happened to know the workings of the lock system at the Goose Foot.  Agreeing to help, Geeraert and a drainage expert called Karel Cogge worked out the plan to flood the land between Nieuwpoort and Diksmuide.  Indeed Geeraert was present at the Goose Foot during the daring and dangerous work required there to open and close the sluice gates on three consecutive nights, as I explained in a previous post, in order to satisfactorily flood the polders to the south.  Both men survived the war, and Geeraert’s heroism is commemorated here.

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Other local men are also remembered on this memorial.

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The Second World War plot, in the south eastern corner of the cemetery, contains 31 burials, four of whom are unidentified.

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The grave of a Belgian priest, I think, certainly a medical man, killed in Nieuwpoort in May 1940.

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The British burials are nearly all casualties of the fighting in late May 1940, men killed covering the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force towards Dunkirk.

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Tragically, the two little girls died as a result of Allied bombing in April 1944.

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Time to move on.  Our next stop is quite literally just a stone’s throw down the road.

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