A Return to Seaforth Cemetery, Cheddar Villa

A return trip to Seaforth Cemetery, Cheddar Villa on a cold, crisp, cloudless winter’s day.

Much better conditions than the last time we stopped here (above – note the snow already settling on the field beyond the cemetery)…

…or any number of other occasions…

…that we have found ourselves driving past…

…over the last few years.

But today is a beautiful day.

Cemetery entrance.  As with all our revisits, it’s worth reading the original post first, particularly if you wish to know the whys and the wherefores of this cemetery.  And if you want a brief rundown of the action that took place near here which caused these men’s deaths.

Originally known simply as Cheddar Villa Cemetery, the first burial here was made on 23rd April 1915, and the last just six days later, we are told, on 28th April.

Cross of Sacrifice.

The majority of the casualties here are buried in two mass graves in the centre of the cemetery, with individual headstones bearing the name of each identified man placed around the boundary walls.

The larger of the two mass graves contains the bodies of seventy five men, whose names are inscribed on the headstones along the south west boundary wall.

Designated as Headstones “A” on the cemetery plan, seventy one of these men are identified Seaforth Highlanders,…

…and all but two were killed on 25th or 26th April 1915, and are buried in a long line in the middle of the cemetery.

There are two men (not pictured) in the row given the date of 28th April 1915 on their headstones, but surely the only way this can be correct is if none of these men were buried until after 28th April?  Otherwise, how can two men be buried in the middle of the others, if the others were buried two days earlier?  If this is the case, then all the burials in this cemetery were actually made between 23rd & 26th April 1915.  The farm in the background in the picture above is on, or close to, the site of Mouse Trap Farm (previously known as Shell Trap Farm), where the 2nd Bn. Royal Dublin Fusiliers suffered so heavily in the early hours of 24th May 1915, as the Germans unleashed yet another chlorine gas attack on the British lines.

Four men in the row are unidentified, although at least one (above) is identified as a Seaforth Highlander.  On our previous visit, although I took no close-ups, you may have noticed that quite a number of the headstones at the far end of the row had been removed for renovation, including those of Privates McBeath, MacSwan and Matheson, now all back in place.

A Duhallow Block in the middle of the cemetery marks the centre of the mass grave.

At the north western end of the cemetery, a memorial plaque is flanked by nineteen special memorial headstones to men who are thought to be buried somewhere in the cemetery.

The headstones to the left of the plaque (Special Memorials “B”) remember ten men ‘believed to be buried in this cemetery’.  Last time the headstone of Private G. Kinnear (nearest camera) had been removed for renovation; now a new headstone stands in its rightful place.

The plaque, missing a panel last time we visited, has now been repaired.

To the right of the plaque, nine more headstones (Special Memorials “C”), the majority Seaforths, to men who are also ‘believed to be buried in this cemetery’.

Looking back down the length of the cemetery towards the entrance in the distance.

The eight Seaforths buried in Row C, the only headstones in the centre of the cemetery, are among the relatively few men here whose actual grave sites are known,…

…Row A, along the north eastern boundary wall,…

…being the only other row where the headstones mark known graves.

A second Duhallow Block marks another mass grave,…

…the men buried beneath the block commemorated on the eighteen headstones in the far distance.  And that’s ice, or at least frost, on the top of the block; don’t for a minute think that it was warm out there!  Before we take a look at them, however, the row immediately beyond the block,…

…is a continuation of Row A, and all are marked graves (above & below),…

…although quite a number are unidentified.  Private Hugh Stroyan, in the centre, is the only Canadian casualty buried in the cemetery.

The final row of headstones along the north eastern boundary wall, designated as Headstones “D”,…

…commemorate eighteen men of the Northumberland Fusiliers who are buried in the mass grave beneath the second of the Duhallow Blocks,…

…although, sadly, four proved impossible to identify.

All are casualties from 26th April.

Seaforth Cemetery, Cheddar Villa.

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