Five hundred yards as the crow flies north east of Ration Farm Military Cemetery, our next stop finds us at Desplanque Farm Cemetery.
By which time the weather really had turned most unpleasant. These photos may not show it but believe me, it was nasty. Sleeting at times. And cold.
In situations like this, Baldrick and yours truly fall back on a basic premise; if the soldiers had to deal with these conditions day after day with no respite, we could deal with a few hours, interspersed by copious use of the heater in the car, and with the guarantee of a warm home to return to at the end of the trip.
May I quote you from the CWGC website:
“This cemetery has been subject to persistent serious flooding. As a temporary measure to facilitate access we have had to put down gravel but in winter months and when it rains the track leading to the cemetery is often inaccessible. We apologise for this unacceptable situation, which we and the French authorities are seeking to resolve.”
Perhaps we were lucky.
Desplanque Farm Cemetery is sited a couple of hundred yards south of La Chapelle-d’Armentières. The village, as it was then, was in British hands from October 1914 until the Germans took Armentières in early April 1918, but its proximity to the front lines throughout that time is evident by the many cemeteries to be found in the immediate area.
Thanks to the CWGC, the cemetery plan can be viewed here.
Shooting into the rain, as it always is, was difficult, but it does give you some idea of the conditions we were encountering at this point…
…as do these two photographs. Sorry and all that. Desplanque Farm Cemetery was begun during the early days of trench warfare in October 1914, and was used until June 1916, the cemetery serving the dressing station that had been set up in the nearby farm.
Cross of Sacrifice.
The cemetery consists of just four rows of headstones, 55 burials in all, of which only two are unidentified…
…both visible in the photo above. The burials here include a handful of Australians, all killed in the summer of 1916 (above & below).
More than fifteen regiments are represented among the headstones here. The men of the North Staffordshire Regiment nearest the camera in Row A (above) are all casualties from October & November 1914. Five of the headstones in the rows behind can be seen to bear the emblem of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).
Row A again, this time from the southern corner of the cemetery. In 1916, after the dressing station was presumably moved elsewhere and the cemetery closed down, the farm was used as a British observation post.
Architecturally, as you will have noticed, this is an unusual cemetery, with its low rubble walls on just three sides.
As we leave, it occurs to me that, so far, we have met precisely no one on our travels today. Can’t blame folk really, but there is something special, if that’s the right word, about visiting these sometimes lonely places in conditions like this.
Nonetheless, Desplanque Farm is another cemetery I’d like to return to on a warm summer’s day. Despite the weather, as you may have gathered, I like this little place.
Back in the car, and some brief relief from the conditions outside. Thank heavens for Mrs B. Our next stop will find us at X Farm Cemetery. And you think this was the worst of the weather? Think again.