A few hundred yards north of Essex Farm our next stop, Bard Cottage Cemetery, is the largest cemetery we shall visit on this tour.
But before we continue, it’s map time. This trench map shows seven of the eight cemeteries that we shall be visiting, along with the single churchyard, over the course of this tour (the ninth is just off the map to the east), although the tour itself continues a fair bit further north than the map shows. Bard Cottage is marked in light green, Essex Farm in pink to its south, the Yser Canal, around which our whole tour rotates, arriving in Ypres at the very bottom right. The German trenches are marked in red (the British, and at the very north of the map French, front line trenches lightly marked in blue), and as you can see, the German front line follows the eastern bank of the canal from the top of the map until just south of Boesinghe, on the opposite side of the canal. At that point, the very northern tip of the Ypres Salient, the German trenches begin to sweep east and south in the great arc, growing at times, shrinking at times, but most often unmoving, that faced Ypres to the east for most of the war.
The second of only three cemeteries on this tour with over a thousand burials, between June 1915 & October 1918 over 1600 men were buried in Bard Cottage Cemetery,…
…and rarely have I visited a cemetery that caused me so many problems to photograph. Sun, shadow, weathered headstones, mud, tigers, you name it.
All starts reasonably well, however.
Stone of Remembrance. Here’s the cemetery plan, courtesy of our friends at the CWGC.
The cemetery was named after a small house that stood near here, close to one of the canal bridges known as Bard’s Causeway; as at Essex Farm, a bank shelters the cemetery from the canal and therefore, during the war, from direct view from the Germans to the east.
Plot I, and in the far right background Plot IV. Plot I Row AA, in the foreground in this and the following four photos, contains eleven graves, mainly burials from 1918.
The first burials here were made towards the end of June 1915 in the four rows beyond Row AA, after which, with one major hiatus, the cemetery was used regularly throughout the rest of the war.
It is immediately noticeable in the first rows we encounter that even though the rows are straight, the gaps between the headstones throughout the cemetery are far from regular; these graves do not appear to have been made in safety, and I suspect there was no time to space the bodies evenly on burial for fear of German artillery.
Beyond the final graves of Plot I Row AA in the foreground, on our far right, is Plot II, and walking to the far end of the front row,…
…this view looks back in a southerly direction from near the cemetery’s northern corner, Plot II Row A in the foreground.
Beyond Plot III, these nine Lancashire Fusiliers, six of whom bear the same grave reference number, and all of whom died on 18th July 1917, are buried in Plot III Row C. The church in the village of Brielen is visible on the horizon.
Must have been some view from the hang glider!
Casualties of the Welsh Regiment, all killed at the end of July 1917 and now buried in Plot III Row G.
Panoramic view looking east and south across Plot VI (the three rows nearest the camera) from the western corner of the cemetery. The row furthest right,…
…Plot VI Row C (above & below), contains the only post-war interments in the cemetery. Forty six bodies were brought in after the war, some from individual nearby graves, and thirty two from Marengo Farm (named by the French during their tenure of the line here) Cemetery, once sited a very short distance south of here on the same side of the road, but now long gone.
Bearing in mind the state of the field behind me (below)…
..there was not an earthly chance (another unforgivable pun) of getting a full shot of the Cross of Sacrifice with the sun at my back. As I said earlier, sun, mud,…
…shadows. Looking east across the cemetery, the shadow of the base of the Cross falling across the three rows of Plot VI nearest the camera, Plot III beyond.
Panning right, part of Plot V (two rows nearest camera on the right only) & Plot IV ahead of us…
…and further right across Plot V. A couple of miles away to the south, the spire of St. Martin’s Cathedral, and on its immediate left the Cloth Hall, in the very centre of Ieper, can be seen on the horizon to the right.
One for all you fungi enthusiasts.
View looking north across Flanders muddy fields, and while we are here I might as well mention that our next stop, Talana Farm Cemetery, is just the other side of the trees on the horizon a short distance to the left of the Cross. The lack of any kind of cemetery boundary wall on all four sides of this cemetery is strangely striking, I think.
Views from the south west corner of the cemetery (above & below), the three rows of Plot V in the foreground,…
…and, shadow be damned, now you can see the bank in the left background, the canal just the other side, that sheltered this cemetery from observation by the Germans..
Following the southern boundary east, back towards the road, we are now in Plot IV,…
…at the start of which are these three special memorials, two to men believed to be buried in the cemetery, and one to a man whose body is known to be buried among the thirty nine unknown burials in the cemetery. More sun problems, you will notice.
Which brings us to a rather curious anomaly in the cemetery records. The Casualty Details List shows that not a single burial was made here between mid-June 1916 and mid-January 1917 – the hiatus I mentioned earlier – and one wonders why?
I think the more scattered and spaced-out nature of the headstones in Plot I (above) point to there once being far more graves in this plot than now, graves long lost to German artillery fire. As I mentioned last post, the CWGC website actually suggests this may have been the case in the next cemetery we shall be visiting, just up the road, so I see no reason why the same should not be the case both here and at Essex Farm. But even so, it seems odd that there are no burials at all between the dates I mentioned.
Several dozen of the burials in Plot I are men of the 49th (West Riding) Division – whose memorial overlooks Essex Farm Cemetery, and who had been in the line since July 1915 – who all died on 19th December, shortly before the division was due to leave the sector, when they were subjected to the first use of phosgene gas by the Germans. One hundred and twenty British soldiers died that day and 900 were incapacitated, and I suspect the forty four graves in Plot I that bear that date are all casualties of this new and colourless gas, as were the ten men of the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) buried in Essex Farm Cemetery whom we visited last post who died on the same day.
View from Plot II on the other side of the cemetery, towards the two cemetery entrances…
…before we leave by the nearest one.
Onwards, now, to Talana Farm.
I lied about the tigers.