The final stop on our tour is Le Grand Beaumart British Cemetery, a little way west of Steenwerck.
The entrance to the cemetery has changed since the cemetery plan was drawn up,…
As I was saying, the cemetery entrance used to be this archway, reached from the road by a short avenue, but now, for some reason (health & safety?), it has been moved.
As you will have spotted in the previous photos, there are special memorials and a Duhallow Block just inside the modern entrance,…
…remembering eight British soldiers buried by the Germans in April 1918 in Steenwerk German Cemetery, but whose graves are now lost. You may recall that I mentioned these men when we visited the German cemetery a little while ago.
Inside the old entrance, where the cemetery register and ‘In Perpetuity’ tablet are housed,…
…and the view once inside the cemetery, Plot III in the foreground.
Cross of Sacrifice.
This was originally a battlefield cemetery, begun in April 1918 during the days of defence and withdrawal as the German Georgette offensive attempted to break through to Bailleul and beyond.
Fifty five men were buried here in Plot I Rows A – D (the four rows nearest the camera)…
…in April and October 1918, but all the other burials in the cemetery were brought here after the war, 116 of them from Steenwerck German Cemetery. This view of Rows A – D is taken from the other side of the plot.
Plot I Row E, the original war graves in the background. The cemetery now contains 508 headstones, of which 15 are special memorials to men known or believed to be buried among the unidentified burials here (visible in the photo below along the boundary hedge on either side of the Stone of Remembrance). And, of course, eight are the headstones we visited earlier to remember the men brought here from Steenwerck German Cemetery, which leaves us with 485 other headstones in the cemetery.
Time for some elementary maths. The CWGC website gives us a total of 301 identified casualties here, along with 108 who are unidentified. Which doesn’t add up to 485, now does it?
Or, if you prefer, 485 minus 301 makes 184 in my book, not 108, so either there are a lot of men buried here whose names are not on the CWGC database, which I doubt, or there are considerably more unknown men buried here than recorded.
View from the north eastern corner of the cemetery looking roughly south.
Eight of the special memorial headstones, all men killed between 11th & 15th April 1918, the three on the left ‘believed’, and the others ‘known to be buried in this cemetery’.
View of Plot I from the Stone of Remembrance.
Just noticeable in the previous picture, two photographs remember Alfred and his brother (above & below).
Graves in Plot I Row I. All but one of the identified men buried here are British; a single Canadian lies in Plot I Row F, and if you look carefully, in the centre of the picture, you might just see the edge of a maple leaf on a headstone a few rows back.
Stone of Remembrance.
The other row of special memorials, to the right of the Stone. These men died between 10th & 15th April 1918, and are all ‘known’ to be buried among the unidentified graves in the cemetery.
Plot I on the right, Plot II on the left…
…and Plot III on the far left.
View from the south eastern corner (above & below), Plot III nearest the camera,…
…and panning right, across the rest of the cemetery.
Two men of the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), who died within a week of each other, are buried at the end of Plot III Row H.
Both men did indeed die, but not willingly. Both were shot for desertion, the first two of five men of the regiment who would be executed during the course of the war. Lance Corporal William John Irvine, who had joined up in July 1914 and found himself facing the Germans a few short months later, first deserted in October 1914 after seeing action at Meteren, giving himself up to the authorities in Boulogne just after Christmas. Three weeks later he escaped from custody, spending ten days free in Boulogne before being rearrested. After another escape and recapture, he was found guilty at his court martial of desertion, stealing from a fellow soldier, and attempted escape from custody, for which he was sentenced to death, and executed on the morning of 2oth April 1915, just after his nineteenth birthday.
Private James Kershaw, a regular soldier who had served in India before the war, deserted at some point during the early battles, and was apprehended at the end of November. Escaping soon after, he fled to Paris, where he was found on 2nd January 1915 and taken to Rouen where, once again, he managed to escape, this time heading for Calais. Arrested there for the final time on 26th February, and despite claiming a history of nervousness and heart trouble, his absconsions had sealed his fate, and he was shot on 26th April 1915.
Plot II, Row D in the foreground, with a number of unidentified men of the York & Lancaster Regiment in Row C behind.
Looking north east from Plot III, the Kemmelberg, highest point for miles around, away on the horizon.
The first four rows of Plot II (nearest camera), and Plot III in the background.
Which brings us to the end of this tour, which began in Pont-de-Nieppe, just across the River Lys from Armentières,…
…and ended up here just to the west of Steenwerck. Next time we visit French Flanders we shall revisit Sailly-sur-la-Lys, where there are still cemeteries where we have yet to pay our respects, before following the Lys west to Estaires and La Gorgue, and then heading south to the cemeteries surrounding Laventie, on the road to Neuve-Chapelle.
I shall leave you with the man without whom none of this would be possible. Stoicism personified. Thankee kindly Balders, as ever.