31st July 2017 will mark exactly one hundred years since the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Passchendaele as it is popularly known. In advance of that anniversary, this post, and the following five, will complete what began, more than two years ago at Buffs Road Cemetery, as an occasional look at the cemeteries and memorials associated with the battle, and which will finally end up on the Passchendaele ridge at Passchendaele New British Cemetery in the not-so-distant future.
This is actually our third visit to Dochy Farm, but the first opportunity to spend some time here. Dochy Farm New British Cemetery can be found in the middle of the battlefields of Third Ypres, a little way north west of the town of Zonnebeke, itself some five miles west, and slightly north, of Ypres (Ieper) itself.
The cemetery is a post-war concentration cemetery, the majority of men buried here killed during the Third Battle of Ypres between October & December 1917 in the battles around Boesinghe, St. Julien, and Passchendaele.
On entering, Plot III is directly ahead of us…
…with the Stone of Remembrance now on our left. We shall take a closer look at the lie of the land in the background later, because that’s the way to Passchendaele.
The cemetery is made up of twelve long rows of burials split into twelve plots. We shall begin our look around at the far, western end of the cemetery, and on our way,…
…a few of the facts, and the cemetery plan (thank you, kind people of the CWGC). The original Dochy Farm was a German strongpoint which fell to the 4th New Zealand Brigade on 4th October 1917 during the Battle of Broodseinde.
The cemetery was started after the war when more than 1,400 men were brought in from the surrounding battlefields and buried here,…
…of which by far the majority are unidentified, 958 of the headstones here bearing no name, although the nationality or regiment of many has been established, as you will see later. Now at the north western end of the cemetery, this photo shows Plot IV in the foreground, with Plots VIII & XII behind.
Looking south east down the length of the cemetery, Plot IV still nearest the camera,…
…and panning to our right…
…and further right. Plot IV consists of five rows of headstones, as does Plot VIII beyond.
Canadian and Australian casualties, known and unknown, in Plot IV Row E.
Plot VIII Rows D & E on the left, and Plot XII Rows A & B on the right.
The four plots (Plots IX to XII) at the rear of the cemetery all consist of just two rows each.
Panoramic view from the west corner of the cemetery looking east.
View of Plot VIII, looking west towards the corner from which the previous shot was taken, from the middle of Plot VII. Only 97 of the 305 Australian casualties buried here are identified.
View to the west of the Cross, Plot XI nearest the camera,…
…and to the east (above & below),…
…Plot X nearest the camera and Plot IX beyond.
One of only two special memorials in the cemetery, this one in Plot X, to men who are believed to be buried among the unknown men who now lie here.
Cross of Sacrifice.
Machine gunners at the start of Plot IX Row B, in the southern corner of the cemetery.
Plot V (above & below).
Eastern edge of the cemetery, looking south west, Plot I nearest the camera, Plots V & IX beyond,…
…and the five rows of Plot I again, now looking north, the rebuilt Dochy Farm visible across the road.
British burials in Plot I. Of nearly 950 British casualties buried in the cemetery, over 500 are unidentified. That’s a slightly dodgy six on the date of death inscription on the headstone of Corporal Wilfred Sykes, don’t you think? Compare it with the six on the headstone of Private Powell to the right. Anyway,…
…the In Perpetuity panel, Cemetery Register & Visitor’s Book can be found in this brick building in the eastern corner of the cemetery,…
…from where we continue along Plot I (above & below).
New Zealand burials in Plot I. 98 New Zealand casualties are buried here, of which 52 are unidentified. Another good example of the use, or otherwise, of the Broad cross on New Zealand headstones, as was discussed in a recent post.
Canadian burials in Plot I; only 35 of 83 Canadians buried here are identified.
Plot II, Row E in the foreground.
Royal Marine in Plot II Row D. From here we make our way back west along the rows of headstones to roughly where we started:
Plot VI, Row B nearest the camera.
Plot VI, Row A now in the foreground (above & below).
Looking south east across the headstones of Plot VI in the foreground, with Plot V further along the rows.
Plot VII, Row A in the foreground.
Australian casualties in Plot III Row B.
Unidentified burials in Plot III Row E. So many of the men buried here are unknown that there now follows a selection of the unidentified burials (and a few identified) from across the cemetery, many, as you will see, whose regiments are known, but whose identities are not:
Two of seventeen South African casualties buried here, eight of whom are identified.
You will notice another identified South African in the second row here.
Beyond the Stone of Remembrance, across the road, are the rebuilt buildings of Dochy Farm itself, and if you look closely past the red roofed building, you can just see a white memorial in the middle of four poplar trees, which is where we are heading next. The green and brown fields in the distance beyond and to the right of the farm buildings are part of a small spur that slopes away towards the right of the picture that the Canadians christened Abraham Heights in 1915, and which was one of the New Zealand objectives on 4th October 1917.
On 4th October 1917, when the New Zealanders attacked across this land in what became known as the Battle of Broodseinde, the site of the cemetery would have been in No Man’s Land.
The copse in the middle distance to the left is Berlin Wood, a German strongpoint defended by concrete pillboxes and captured late on the day of 4th October, with Abraham Heights in front of it, a little to the right Passchendaele church tower can just be seen on the horizon beyond the trees of Haalen Copse (you’ll have to enlarge the photo for this one), and near the centre of the picture you can see Tyne Cot Cemetery, where nearly 12,000 casualties are buried, making it the largest CWGC cemetery in the world. Off to the right the road leads to the town of Zonnebeke, about a mile away where, many years ago,…
…Baldrick and I spent a pleasant afternoon at the Passchendaele Museum, just before it was restored and refurbished.
I haven’t been back since, and you have to admit that the building was looking a little shabby, although the damage to the facade that you can see above, a legacy of the Great War, has, I believe, been renovated, which is a bit of a shame, really.
Shrapnel-spattered debris in the museum grounds,…
…which themselves still show, or showed, at the time of our visit, the undulations left by four years of warfare all those years ago. Hardly surprising, perhaps, as all these shots of the museum and grounds are taken standing very close, certainly within a very few yards, and possibly actually on, the British front line on 3rd October 1917, as the New Zealanders prepared for their attack the following day.
Anyway, back to the present, and, as we saw a few photos back, not far away there’s a memorial to the New Zealand Division and their exploits on 4th October 1917, and that is our next destination. Before we leave, I mentioned at the beginning that this has been our third visit to Dochy Farm, and you will find a selection of photos taken on those previous visits, one, as the snow began to fall, the other on a beautiful summer’s day, near the end of the post that you will magically be transported to if you click here.