French Flanders: The Cemeteries on the Lys Part Seven – Sailly-sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery

Anzac Cemetery once more, but the weather’s not so good this time.  It’ll probably get better later.

On the other side of the main road from Armentières to Estaires,…

…immediately opposite Anzac Cemetery, is a cemetery that we have yet to look around.

This is the entrance to Sailly-sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery, which might suggest that the burials here are all Canadian.

Far from it.  On entering, the first headstones are actually Australian,…

…and it is immediately clear that this is not going to be the easiest cemetery to photograph,…

…consisting, as it does, of a mass of headstones, over 300 in all, with little to distinguish one plot from another.  Here’s the cemetery plan, thanks to the CWGC.  The numbering on the plan is unusual, and can be a little confusing at first, in that in each of the three plots the numbers continue consecutively from row to row.

The Stone of Remembrance, looking a little green at the time of this visit, is sited on the far eastern side of the cemetery.

What you will have spotted by now is that there is no Cross of Sacrifice in this cemetery, the Cross over the road in Anzac Cemetery serving for both burial grounds,…

…as does this Stone of Remembrance, there being no Stone in Anzac Cemetery, which you may have spotted last post.

This cemetery was begun by Canadian units, hence its name, who buried nine men here in March 1915, and was used regularly until May the following year.

June 1916 then saw only three burials, July five*, as casualties from the Battle of Fromelles began to be buried across the road, and Anzac Cemetery grew up, although whether the two cemeteries were considered as separate cemeteries, or as one cemetery with a road or track passing through at the time, we don’t know.

*A gold star to anyone who noticed that the dates of death on the first four Australian headstones we encountered immediately on entering are all July 1916, men killed in the days leading up to the Battle of Fromelles.

Having said that, and imagining the muddy desolate landscape at the time, perhaps the delineation between what are now classified as two separate cemeteries was less clear.

So there are no burials from the Battle of the Lys here, indeed the cemetery would have already been in existence, and no longer in use, for nearly two years before the Germans captured it on 9th April 1918.  This view from the southern corner looks north.  The two rows of headstones nearest the camera…

…comprise Plot III, still in the foreground as we pan across the cemetery (photos below).

Looking east at the two rows of Plot III from the south west corner,…

…and returning along the western boundary back towards the cemetery entrance.

And back at the entrance, these men killed in mid-March 1916,…

…where we find the ‘In Perpetuity’ tablet.

A last view towards the Stone of Remembrance.  One final burial was made here, more than two years after the previous, when nineteen year old Private C. Escott, Royal Berkshire Regiment, was killed in action on 19th September 1918 and buried near the far end of Plot I Row A, on the left in this picture.

The Graves Registration Report Form appears to show the date of his death to be no error, either.

Pity it’s so grey today, though.

Hold on a minute!  What’s this?

We have sunshine!  And not being one to miss an opportunity, we’d better have a look around while it’s sunny, don’t you think?  Anyway, maybe we missed something first time round.  It has been known.

Standing in Plot I looking due east, the utter flatness of the surrounding landscape evident in the background,…

…and now at the far end of Plot I, looking almost due west, Anzac Cemetery across the road.  Just out of shot to the left, at the end of Plot I Row E,…

…are the graves of two men of the Rifle Brigade whose headstones both bear the same date of death.  I told you we might have missed something.

Rifleman Arthur James Irish, who served under the name George Lee (above)*, and Rifleman William Smith (below) both enlisted in the Rifle Brigade in 1915, Smith having seen previous service during the Boer War.  On 22nd August 1915, while out of the trenches, the two men got drunk and deserted, although both gave themselves up six days later at the British Consulate in Dunkirk.  Found guilty of desertion at subsequent courts-martial (Lee had already been found to be absent once before), and despite a recommendation for mercy, both men were shot on 3rd October 1915.

*one of four men buried in this cemetery who served under an alias.

Moving on, Plot II Row C on the left,…

…and now Row E , which contains the single unidentified soldier buried in this cemetery, in the foreground, and beyond, in the far left background,…

…the two rows of Plot III.

Above & following: Panning from east to west from the cemetery’s southern boundary,…

…as we did earlier under grey skies,…

…Plot III directly in front of us,…

…before we once again follow the western boundary…

…back towards the entrance in the left background.

A double trip around Sailly-sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery in one post.  And one final statistical detail; the CWGC database gives the total number of identified burials here as 317, four of which, as we know, are mentioned twice as they served under aliases, making a total of 313.  One of these is German (another gold star if anyone spotted the single German buried in the middle of the cemetery and just visible in a couple of shots), thus 312 are Allied (284 British, 19 Australian and 9 Canadian).

However the one unidentified man has been given a grave reference number of Plot II Row E 107 (highlighted above) even though he is not included in the total number of British dead, which with his addition now rises to 285, the total number of burials of all four nationalities represented in this cemetery becoming 314.

Next, we follow the river some two miles west, towards Estaires,…

…another town that had so far survived the war relatively intact.

Until April 1918, that is.

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5 Responses to French Flanders: The Cemeteries on the Lys Part Seven – Sailly-sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery

  1. Nick Kilner says:

    Another very interesting cemetery. I find the burial location of Pte Escott somewhat curious. I wonder why they didn’t put him on the end of plot III, which would seem a far more ‘orderly’ spot.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Nick. I also notice that Private Escott apparently shares a headstone. Odd indeed.

      • Magicfingers says:

        …which has made me check my burial numbers one more time, just in case. All okay. Such dedication…….

        • Magicfingers says:

          There’s a Kilner in this cemetery, too. KOYLI.

          • Nick Kilner says:

            Ahh yes! Well spotted that man. H. Kilner 7th KOYLI. Almost certainly a relative if he was a Yorkshire lad, there aren’t many of us about. I must get on Ancestry and hunt them all down.

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