A Tour of Boesinghe Prelude – Duhallow A.D.S. Cemetery

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If you follow the main road out of Ieper (Ypres) north towards Boezinge (Boesinghe during the Great War), after only a few minutes, Duhallow A.D.S. Cemetery comes into view on the right hand side of the road.

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So before we begin our official Boesinghe tour, we shall spend some time here first.  When the cemetery was in use, incidentally, the road surface was considerably lower than at present, the steps now leading down to the entrance being a more recent addition.

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Cross of Sacrifice, and, on either side,…

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… special memorials, remembering a total of thirty nine men buried in other cemeteries whose graves were later lost.  We shall pay our respects at the row on the far side of the Cross later,…

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…but on the near side, this horse-shoe of headstones…

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…remember 29 men…

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…originally buried in Fusilier Wood Cemetery, Hollebeke, whose graves were lost in later actions.  And here we have one of the first two Duhallow Blocks erected in CWGC cemeteries, and it is after these blocks, in this cemetery, that all the others that we have come across on our travels over the past six years are named.

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Above & following photos: The 29 memorial headstones in close-up.

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Time to explore the rest of the cemetery.

As its name implies,…

…the cemetery grew up around an advanced dressing station that was sited here in the summer of 1917, and I have read that the cemetery name relates to a hunt in County Cork in Ireland, which, a quick Google search reveals, still exists.

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Just over 1,600 men now lie here, the vast majority British,…

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…231 of whom are unidentified.

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This row of touching headstones, Plot II Row F, contains forty one men all of whom died on 9th January 1918.  Mainly men of the Labour Corps and the Seaforth Highlanders, and all attached to the Labour Corps, a considerable number of the headstones are inscribed with two names, and some, such as the two nearest the camera, inscribed with both regimental emblems.  And the story?  A German plane, an ammunition truck, a well-aimed bomb and forty one dead men.

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Plot V consists of the two rows of graves on the right and the row of German graves in the foreground; the grave at the far end of the first row of British graves (Row B) is the only Second World War burial in the cemetery, a private of the Durham Light Infantry killed during the retreat to Dunkirk in late May 1940.

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Looking back up the same row of German graves as seen in the previous shot.  54 Germans are buried here, three of whom are unidentified.

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Looking south east at the Stone of Remembrance and, beyond, Plot IX which, as you can see from the cemetery plan, consists of both blocks of headstones in the cemetery’s eastern corner.  The dressing station itself was sited where the large building in the centre of this photograph now stands,…

…as this excellent drawing shows.  Note the size of the cemetery at the time this sketch was made.  The stream, the Yserlee, which we shall come across again in future posts, flows parallel to the Yser Canal, a few yards to the north east (and just off the top of the page).

View of the northern half of the cemetery from the Stone of Remembrance looking due west.  Behind us,…

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…Plot IX, or at least part of it.  Four of only thirteen Australians buried in this cemetery can be seen in the front row.

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The same headstones, this time from the rear, looking towards the Stone of Remembrance beyond.

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Panning left, now looking west back towards the cemetery entrance, Plot IX comprising the two sets of ten headstones nearest the camera.

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Still in Plot IX, an unknown R.F.C. pilot lies next to a Second Lieutenant of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, with more unidentified men in the row behind.

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Plot IV Row A, a Welsh dragon fluttering in the breeze.

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Looking south west from in front of the Stone of Remembrance, Plot IV now on our left; note the French grave towards the right of the picture,…

…one of two Frenchmen buried in this cemetery.

Like so many soldiers, sailors and airmen, he nearly made it.  Just a couple of weeks.  Over 260 men were buried at Duhallow A.D.S. in October 1918.

A single Belgian, another October 1918 casualty, lies among the British burials here, and on the far right is one of a dozen men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment buried in the cemetery.

As Baldrick reads the inscription on the Belgian headstone,…

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…I noticed that the missing headstone at this end of the row, at the time of our visit being renovated, happens to be that of the second Frenchman buried here, another man killed in the last month of the war.

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The cemetery was begun in early July 1917, and by the end of the month (and the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres), was being used consistently – 78 identified men, for example, were buried here between 29th July & 1st August, the dressing station dealing with ninety six wounded officers and 2,586 other ranks on 31st July alone, and by the end of 1917 nearly 900 identified men had been buried here.  The cemetery continued to be used fairly regularly throughout 1918, but most especially during the last weeks of the war, with the final burial being made on 4th November.

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After the Armistice the cemetery was enlarged as more burials, mainly men killed in 1915, were brought here from the Ypres battlefields and smaller local cemeteries.  This view looks across Plot I,…

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…and panning to our right, past Plots IV & VI, towards Plot IX in the far distance.

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Plot I, the five rows of the plot spaced far further apart than the other plots here.  Note the South African headstone, second from the right in the front row, one of only three South Africans buried here.

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Private John Seymour, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, shot at dawn on 24th January 1918 and buried in Plot III F10.  During the last few months of 1917, it seems very few men under sentence of death actually had their sentences carried out, and this continued into the early days of 1918.  Much earlier in the war, in 1915, the powers that be decided that suspending sentences of death on soldiers would ensure that every man would remain available for the war effort and the planned offensives on the Western Front in 1916 & 1917, with the hope that these men, many of whom were imprisoned for desertion, would seize the opportunity to redeem themselves (one wonders how many they thought they might otherwise execute!).  One of these men, already in prison for desertion, was twenty one year old John Seymour, who had joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1915 and had, quite frankly, a pretty chequered military career almost from the time of his enlistment, culminating in his desertion at some point in 1917.  Released to fight at Third Ypres, Seymour was found to be absent from roll call on 27 November 1917, later being picked up by the Military Police in Poperinghe.  At his trial he could give no reason for his absence, ‘my nerves get the better of me sometimes’ failing to impress the four man court martial.  Duly sentenced to death, Seymour’s previous record and, as a 2004 Irish Government report found, ‘The fighting character of Private Seymour, in the opinion of his Regimental Sergeant Major provided a negatively influencing factor in the deliberations of those in the confirmation process.  There is clear reference here to Private Seymour being executed as an example to others, and as a consequence of previous desertions not being dealt with so severely’, ensured that his sentence was confirmed, and he was executed on 24th January 1918, the only execution to take place that month.  Interestingly, perhaps, that although from February 1918 onwards executions continued at a rate of five per month, the majority of these were men with previous convictions and sentences for desertion.

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Plot VIII, the cemetery entrance beyond,…

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…and graves in Plot VII.  There are 286 artillerymen (202 R.F.A., such as Serjeant Harry Lund M.M., in the row above, 70 R.G.A. & 14 R.H.A.) buried in the cemetery, as well as 90 Royal Engineers, hardly surprising considering the number of artillery emplacements along the west bank of the canal, ‘Dumps of various kinds of shells had been established, whilst battery positions jostled each other the whole way along.  It was inevitable that the enemy should succeed in finding some of these positions.’

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Cross of Sacrifice.

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The second of the Duhallow Blocks…

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…commemorates ten men of the York & Lancaster Regiment, all killed on 16th September 1915 and buried in Malakoff Farm, Brielen, whose graves were lost in later battles.  Or maybe this was the first Duhallow Block, and the other one is the second.  Something we shall never know, and shouldn’t waste any time on, frankly (too niche even for this site).  But the two Duhallow Blocks here at Duhallow A.D.S. are definitely the first of the many now sited in any number of British cemeteries, and that’s good enough for us.

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Behind, and on either side of the Block, ten headstones remember each man by name (above & following photos).

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Looking west across Plot VII…

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…and panning left, now looking north from behind the ten special memorials, the headstones immediately beyond part of Plot VII.

Now, if we were to continue up the road north from here, after just five hundred yards we would come to one of the most famous cemeteries in Flanders, and one of nine Great War burial grounds to be found around the village of Boezinge.

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And we shall be doing exactly that before too long.  Watch this space.

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