At the time of our visit, a little while back now, St. Julien Dressing Station Cemetery was undergoing some serious maintenance, so it’s fair to say that we didn’t exactly see it at its best, but the next time we find ourselves in St. Julien (now Sint-Juliaan), rest assured we will bring you updated pictures. For now, however, this is what you get.
Hardly the prettiest photos that I’ve ever brought you. This, by the way, is the cemetery entrance.
Plot I Row A, immediately in front of us as we enter the cemetery, and beyond to the left,…
…the single burial in Plot I Row F. In fact the grave of R.A.F. Lieutenant Cecil Dutton Darlington, a Canadian killed in action on 15th August 1918, was the final burial made here during the war. Shot down over the village, he was buried by the Germans alongside his comrades from earlier in the war.
Cross of Sacrifice.
Following the gas attacks of the First Battle of Ypres (see the recent Seaforth Cemetery Cheddar Villa post), St. Julien remained behind the German lines until the opening days of the Third Battle of Ypres, changing hands twice before being taken and held by the British on 3rd August 1917. As the tide of battle moved slowly east, a dressing station was sited here, the first burials being made early the following month. The cemetery was then used until March 1918, the village once more falling into German hands shortly thereafter.
Along the wall behind the Cross of Sacrifice (see also previous photo), these special memorial headstones remember eleven men who are ‘known to be buried in this cemetery’, but whose graves were lost during the fighting in 1918. It was the Belgian Army who recaptured the village for the final time on 28th September 1918.
When the Germans captured St. Julien in March 1918 there were just over 200 burials already here; Plot I, part of Plot II, and Plot III. Plot III, the most northern plot, consists of three rows, Rows A (left) & B (right), leading to the special memorial headstones in the background (see below), with the single headstone of Row C to the far right.
Confused already? Ok, here’s the St Julien Dressing Station Cemetery Plan.
After the war the cemetery was doubled in size as graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields, Plot II being considerably enlarged and Plot IV created. There are now 428 men buried or commemorated here, 180 of whom are sadly unidentified. This view from near the northern cemetery boundary looks south, Plot IV Rows D (left) & C (right) in the foreground, Plot II in the background.
Looking east from in front of the Cross of Sacrifice across Plot IV, Row A nearest the camera, Row B behind, and the two rows in the previous picture, Rows C & D, in the background…
…and then south east, the four rows of Plot IV to the left, the remaining headstones all being part of Plot II, the largest plot in the cemetery (see also below). You may have spotted that eleven of the twelve burials in Plot IV Row A in the foreground of both photographs are unidentified.
Now looking due south, Plot II to the left and the headstones of Plot I to the right in front of the orange container.
Looking north west along the southern cemetery boundary, Plot II Row K in the foreground, with Row J behind. Note the four men of the Royal Naval Division buried in Row K, three of their headstones inscribed with the familiar anchor emblem, and one with the emblem of the Royal Marine Light Infantry.
Panning right from the same position as the previous photo, finally looking due north across the cemetery (photo right). Among the mainly unidentified Canadian burials in Row J lie two of just four identified Canadians in the cemetery.
A rubbish photo, I know, of the headstones at the end of Row K & J, with Row H in the background, but I include it because I noticed that Second Lieutenant Laurence Brown was the recipient of a Military Cross, and I wondered how he earned it. According to the London Gazette: “17 September 1917. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in charge of a working party. During a hostile attack he noticed a gap between two units of our defensive line and on his own initiative he promptly took his working party into the line and filled the gap. He remained in this position throughout a night of very heavy shellfire and by his courageous and very timely action materially strengthened the left flank of his brigade.”
Plot II Row H. All but one of the men in this row were killed in December 1917.
Plot II Row G. Seven unidentified soldiers lie beneath the five headstones nearest the camera, including one unidentified South Wales Borderer, and, far right, ‘A British Officer of the Great War’. Plot II Row F is behind in front of the snow.
Plot II Row E, with Rows H, G & F behind. The vast majority of the burials in this cemetery are British, although a few Canadian, as mentioned previously, Australian (three of whom lie at the end of Row E above), and South African casualties are also buried here, as well as a single New Zealander.
Looking north from near the cemetery entrance, Plot I Rows B & C in the foreground, with Plot II Row A to the right, Plot IV Row A beyond the gap, and Plot III beneath the cemetery wall in the background.
Plot I Row A (note two more Royal Naval Division burials amidst the Royal Field Artillery graves in this row, all from October 1917)…
…and Rows B & C (where six more October 1917 casualties of the R.F.A. are buried).
I do hope the Cemetery Register and Visitor’s Book were somewhere for safe keeping during the renovations.
Also part of Plot I, the two rows in the foreground are Rows E & D, with Plot II beyond. It’s interesting to note the differing headstones of the three men of the Royal Garrison Artillery in the foreground, all of whom were killed on 30th January 1918. The headstone in the centre of the three, that of Gunner Doyle, has no cross, and the regimental emblem is displayed at the top of the headstone. This is not especially unusual, but it does seem strange that the headstone appears to bear the inscription ‘Thy Will Be Done’. Perhaps parents who were religious and a son who wasn’t? We shall never know.
In some ways, I suppose, it’s a shame the cemetery wasn’t looking its usual tranquil self at the time of our visit, and in other ways, well, this is a part of the history of this place, and we were there to photograph it. Maybe no one else did.
At which point Baldrick and I, frozen, very nearly decided to call it a day. Very nearly. But we didn’t. We went here instead.
Update April 2017: I promised at the beginning of the post that we would return another time to see how the cemetery looks post-renovation, and now we have. All is revealed here.