French Flanders: The Nursery Part Five – Brewery Orchard Cemetery

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A dank day and a rather dank place, I’m afraid to say.  This is Brewery Orchard Cemetery, and there used to be an orchard here.  And presumably a brewery.

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Once this cemetery was sited in open fields just to the north of Bois-Grenier, and there was indeed a brewery nearby, as the trench map below confirms.

Bois Grenier Brewery Orchard markedThe other cemetery marked is, of course, Bois-Grenier Communal Cemetery, where we paid a visit earlier on this tour.

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Cemetery entrance.

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Today the cemetery is surrounded by industrial and residential development (above & below) as Bois-Grenier expands to the north east.

Panorama 1

On entering, this view looks north west across the headstones of Plot IV.  Note the four Germans burials, all unidentified, in the left foreground.  The eagle-eyed among you might spot a fifth elsewhere in this shot.

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Cross of Sacrifice, the cemetery entrance to the middle right of the photo.

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There are four Second World War British casualties buried in the north eastern corner, all men who died in the early months of 1940 during the so-called Phoney War.

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The cemetery consists of four plots, the largest by far being Plot IV (above & below).

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Although a single burial had been made in the orchard in November 1914, it wasn’t until August 1915, by which time still only a dozen burials in total had been made here, that the cemetery began to be used on a more regular basis; by the end of the year 62 men lay here, and by the end of the war, 339.

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125 of these are men of the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.), who held this sector of the line between late April and July 1916.  All but one are buried in Plot IV*.  These closely placed Australian headstones in Plot IV Row C (above) are nearly all inscribed with two names, and nearly all were killed on 5th May 1916 during a German raid on the nearby Bridoux Salient.  A plain headstone with a simple cross (seventh from right above – see also two from right below) stands for the headstones on either side where there is no room for a religious symbol.

*The other is in Plot III Row F.

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The Australians first arrived on the Western Front in March 1916 following the Gallipoli debacle the previous year.  They and their New Zealand cousins first took over the line from the River Lys at Armentières to Fromelles, a stretch of trenches about seven miles in length, towards the end of April, so these Australians, killed in early May, must have been among the first to die in action in France.  Nearly a hundred Australians were killed or wounded, many in the initial artillery bombardment, during the German raid of 5th May; some of those wounded who subsequently died are also buried here.

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To their chagrin, during the raid the Australians also managed to lose two of the new Stokes mortars that they had been given to test, the first the Germans had managed to capture (you may remember that we had our own encounter with the spiteful bit of a Stokes mortar earlier in the year) anywhere on the Western Front.  More Australian burials from later in the summer of 1916 are visible in the shot above, behind the East Kent men in the front row.

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Looking south west across Plot IV from the north west corner of the cemetery.  There was an Advanced Dressing Station for much of the war in the cellar of the brewery and, hidden from enemy observation by the lie of the land, the cemetery grew up nearby.

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Plot III.  As the cemetery is a slightly unusual shape, we’d best take a look at the cemetery plan, by kind permission of the CWGC, before we go any further.

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Plot III Row B (far left) and A, with Plot II (the two rows of headstones on the right) and Plot I (in the left background).  Surprisingly, perhaps, only two of the burials here are unidentified.

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All the burials in Plot II are from 1915, except the headstone at the end of the back row (Row A), which is the 1914 casualty I mentioned earlier.

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Plot I, with Plot II in the right background.  The burials in Plot I are also all from 1915.

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Plot I Row C (foreground) with Plot III beyond.

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Plot III, Row D in the foreground.

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The cemetery was used fairly regularly throughout 1916 and sporadically during the early months of 1917, after which it was closed down, apart from half a dozen East Surrey men buried in Plot IV in January 1918.

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Final views from back at the cemetery entrance.  I shall return here one day, I hope, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing.

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Blimey!  Look.  He’s off!

Panorama 2

Our journey now continues north east, towards Ration Farm Military Cemetery.

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