Just before the road from Nieuwpoort arrives in the village of Ramscappelle, this Belgian cemetery, containing the graves of more than 600 Belgian soldiers, many of whom lost their lives in October 1914 during the Battle of the Yser, is the site of our next stop.
The cemetery consists of nine lines of headstones arranged in semi-circular rows with a path down the centre separating the northern section (left) from the southern (right). The little hut on the right contains a cemetery plan (below) but I doubt you’ll find it too enlightening.
Nearly two thirds of the burials here are unidentified…
…and unsurprisingly we come across row upon row of headstones that bear no, or few, names.
All the headstones of unidentified soldiers are inscribed in both Flemish and French, the Belgian Army being made up of men from Flanders, who spoke Flemish, and Wallonians, who spoke French.
Similarly, identified burials are also inscribed in either Flemish (above) or French (below), depending on the area from which the deceased came.
They aren’t the easiest things to read, Belgian headstones, in more ways than one. Nonetheless, it might, or indeed might not, interest you to know that the two medals near the bottom of all the identified headstones are, on the left, the Order of Leopold I (for officers) or II (for other ranks), and on the right the Croix de Guerre. It was standard practice in the Belgian Army for both these gallantry medals to be awarded to men who died during their war service. The ‘V’ at the bottom of the headstone signifies the Victory Medal, and the ’14’ the Commemorative War Medal.
The cemetery is a post-war burial ground, created in the early 1920s when bodies were brought here from isolated graves and small cemeteries throughout the Nieuwpoort/Ramscappelle area.
As I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of the burials in the cemetery are of men killed during the early months of the war. The Belgians lost approximately 14,000 men killed, wounded, or missing during the Battle of the Yser in October 1914, and you will have spotted that this headstone has a small ‘Y’ in the centre at the bottom. Note the date that Herve van Langker died. The ‘Y’ signifies the Yser Medal, awarded to all those who fought in the battle.
Above & below: More unidentified burials…
…although why the inscription on these two headstones is different from all the others I have no idea.
There are a number of multiple burials in this cemetery. Six unknown soldiers are buried here…
…and two lie beneath the headstone nearest the camera in this shot.
Between the Order of Leopold II and the Croix de Guerre, this headstone also features the Military Decoration, awarded for either long-service, unlikely in this case, or gallantry.
Two unidentified soldiers lie beneath a single headstone at the southern end of the cemetery.
View from the southern end of the cemetery looking north.
Baldrick pays his respects to his fellow countrymen.
Just a single identified burial is visible in the first two rows of the photo above, and only four in the photo below.
The Capitaine-Commandant buried beneath the headstone nearest the camera was in his early forties when he was killed during the Battle of the Yser. His headstone features the Order of Leopold I on the left, the Croix de Guerre this time in the centre, and the Order of the Crown, awarded in its military form (there were others, including artistic, literary and scientific forms, as well as for services to African civilization) for meritorious service to Belgium, on the right. The Order of the Crown was instigated in 1897, initially as an order of the Congo, some eleven years before the Congo became a Belgian colony, suggesting that it is more than likely that Capitaine-Commandant Edgard Sohie spent some of his military career in Africa.
A single headstone at the northern end of the cemetery marks the grave of three unknown soldiers (above & below).
Born in France, ‘Mort Pour La Belgique’.
Fish-eye view from the eastern side of the cemetery looking west towards the road.
This headstone, that of another Capitaine-Commandant, also features the Military Decoration between the Order of Leopold I and the Croix de Guerre. I have no explanation as to why there are no Victory, Yser or Commemorative War Medals inscribed at the bottom of the headstone.
Born in Buenos Aires, ‘Mort Pour La Belgique’.
Time for us to leave this beautifully kept cemetery which, along with other Belgian military cemeteries, has been administered and renovated by the Belgian Army in recent times. And a fine job they’ve done too, methinks.
Next, we shall head into the village of Ramscappelle itself and have a look around.
Footnote: A few of these photos, including this one, were taken by Baldrick, so thanks as ever to him. And don’t forget that there’s a tour map to accompany this tour that I am updating as we go along; click the ‘Tour Maps’ link at the top of the page to find it.