The Elverdinge Burial Grounds Part Five – Bleuet Farm Cemetery

The final post in our Elverdinge series takes us to Bleuet Farm Cemetery. 

And I’ve seen worse locations for a cemetery, that I can tell you.

The sign points the way…

…towards the fifth of the Elverdinge cemeteries and the only one to the east of the town,…

…as you can see on this trench map extract, Canada Farm British Cemetery marked in orange, Ferme-Olivier Cemetery in green, and on the far right in blue, and actually marked as ‘British Military Cemetery’, Bleuet Farm (with Elverdinge Chateau, as I haven’t marked it on any previous maps, and it has had a few mentions in past posts, in red).

And as this is our last Elverdinge post, here’s the same trench map extract (shaded) in context, the three cemeteries, marked in the same colours, my only additions.  This fascinating map from mid-1916 shows the various routes to the front lines, up in the top right hand corner, where you will also note that a number of the pontoon bridges and causeways used to cross the Yser Canal are also marked.  Ypres is down in the bottom right corner, Poperinge in the bottom left corner.

And this is the view immediately on entry to Bleuet Farm, with eleven rows of headstones, divided into two plots, in front of us.  Now look, I have no idea why I failed to take a photo of the cemetery entrance, such as it is, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t, and there ain’t nothing, currently, I can do about it, so the best you are going to get is the picture below.

In actual fact I have to ‘fess up and say that once I had returned home and checked the couple of thousand of photos from this particular Flanders trip, I was somewhat dissatisfied with the spread of photos I had taken here at Bleuet Farm, but again, we have to work with what we’ve got.  Sooo,…

…just over 450 men are buried here, in two designated plots.  And no, the plots are not to the left and right of the central pathway, as you might expect; Plot I comprises all the headstones here bar the three rows nearest the Cross of Sacrifice, as you can see on the cemetery plan.

Like Canada Farm British Cemetery, the buildings of Bleuet Farm were set up as a dressing station prior to Third Ypres, nearly all the burials here being made between mid-June & December 1917.  Once again there are plenty of artillerymen here, about a quarter of the burials being gunners,…

…including one Gunner George Harrison, on the left here, in Row F,…

…and more R.F.A. men further along the row.  Serjeant Harold Fredrick Mayo, in the centre, who was killed on 11th August 1917 aged 27, had won a D.C.M. for an act of gallantry on 14th March 1915 when he completed a task he was undertaking despite being blown up (the citation says ‘blown over’) by a German shell.  On the far right,…

…is the grave of Corporal Thomas Edward Eatwell, South African Railway Overseas Dominion Service, killed in action on 13th August 1917 aged 33.  The cemetery index (inset) gives details of his past service – he must have been very young during the Boer War.  Incidentally, this is one of the most unusual headstones to be found on the Western Front; precisely nineteen men of the South African Railway Overseas Dominion Service died on active service in Europe (and one in the U.K.) during the Great War; two of the others are buried here too, in Plot I Row A.

Two R.A.M.C. men, both killed in action on 21st August 1917, the close proximity of the headstones suggesting a German shell most probably ended their war.

Royal Engineer sapper in Row E,…

..and the note is worth a read – the inset on the left shows the reverse – so click to enlarge!

Looking south east, following Row H, the longest row in the cemetery, all the way to the southern boundary in the foreground,…

…from where we look back the way we have come, Row H on our left, and Row F on the right.  Between them, Row G comprises just fourteen burials, all just visible in this shot at the very far end of the cemetery.  Panning right,…

…the final burials in Row F nearest the camera, Rows E & C behind (again, Row D comprises just sixteen headstones, visible in the far left background, again all on the far side of the cemetery).

The penultimate headstone in Row B is one of four airmen buried here,…

…although Second Lieutenant J. E. Blackeby, R.F.C., was actually a 27-year old balloon officer, killed in action on 21st February 1918, one of only eight men buried here killed during the last year of the war.

The final two rows in Plot I are Rows B, on the right here, and A, in the centre (the two rows on the left running across much of the picture are in Plot II),…

…although if you look carefully, Row A is actually marked on the final headstone as Row AA.  That’s because the first six headstones are Second World War casualties.  Five men of the Royal Irish Rifles and a Durham Light Infantryman, all killed in May 1940, have been added to the Great War burials in Row A, which now begins with the seventh headstone along.  Thus I have added Row AA to the cemetery plan for your convenience.  There are three other May 1940 casualties elsewhere in the cemetery.

Looking north along the headstones of Plot II.  All the burials in the plot are generally later than those in Plot I, most from between October & December 1917.

Captain Thomas Foreman Forster, Durham Light Infantry, killed on 31st October 1917 aged 33, and buried in Plot II Row A.

December 1917 R.G.A & R.E. casualties in Plot II Row B,…

…and, close to the Cross of Sacrifice, this is the grave of Rifleman Frederick W. Slade, a stretcher-bearer with the City of London Rifles who, on 26th October 1917, refused to obey orders to go on parade before going into action.  His record since joining up in early 1916 included an incident where he had been confined to barracks for disobedience before even arriving in France, and another disobedience charge in August 1917 which resulted in three months’ Field Punishment No. 1.  It was while serving this sentence that he once more refused to go on parade, claiming that he was suffering from stress, that he was no longer responsible for his actions, and that, since Bullecourt, earlier in the year, ‘the scenes I saw there have worked on my mind.’  He was sentenced to death and executed on 11th December 1917, one of only three British soldiers executed during the Great War for disobedience.

To the left of the Cross, the first seven headstones (two visible here) are all Royal Engineers killed on 1st December 1917,…

…and a little further along, on the left here, and killed a few days earlier on 25th November 1917, the grave of Serjeant Harry Colley, a Royal Engineer tunneller who won a D.C.M. in November 1916 for helping, under heavy shell fire and in full view of the Germans, to save the lives of three men who had been buried.  At last, a tunneller with a medal, for all the good it did him!

Captain Ormonde Charles Whiteman, Acting Adjutant 11th Bn. Royal Fusiliers, Mentioned in Despatches, who was killed on 22nd November 1917, aged 31.  On the way up to the trenches ahead of the battalion, Whiteman and his runner had to negotiate an open piece of land that was receiving a German shell every minute.  Taking cover behind a concrete pillbox with the intention of awaiting the next shell before crossing at the double, that next shell unluckily landed just behind the pillbox, killing Whiteman and wounding his runner.  Buried next to him,…

…two Surrey men, West Surrey on the left, and East Surrey on the right.  They died a day apart in November 1917,…

…both shot by their own side.  Private Thomas Hawkins of The Queen’s was only sixteen when he enlisted in September 1914, and still only nineteen when he was executed for desertion on 22nd November 1917.  Already under a suspended death sentence for desertion, he was convicted of cowardice during the Battle of Messines, receiving a sentence of two years’ hard labour, once again suspended, before deserting once more during Third Ypres.

The following day, 23rd November, Private Arthur H. Westwood, East Surrey Regiment, having already served a three month sentence for desertion earlier in the year, was executed for deserting once again.  He was just 20.  Note that all three sentences on executed soldiers in this cemetery were not carried out until after Third Ypres had officially ended.

Still in Plot II Row B, two Border regiment officers, both killed on 6th November 1917.  In the background you can see the final row in the plot, Row C,…

…all casualties from 1918, the first four killed in January, and the fifth in March.  The final headstone, a young R.A.F. officer who died in September 1918, is also the final burial made here during the Great War.

Looking along Plot II Row B, one of two J. Drennans in this cemetery, this one a Royal Field Artillery driver, nearest the camera.  There’s a single German grave here too, on its own, a few yards to the left of Plot II Row C,…

…as you can see here in the background.

Leutnant Karl Heinrich Voss was born in 1895 and, before you ask, no, he was no relation to Werner Voss, the German ace killed on 23rd September 1917 with 48 victories to his name.  Karl Voss flew with Marine Feldjagdstaffel 1 (the German equivalent of the Royal Naval Air Service), operating between the Channel coast and the north of Ypres.

Karl Voss pictured with his Albatross DV.  On 17th December 1917 an aerial fight broke out over Moorsele between British Sopwith Camels & Nieuports and German two-seaters and Albatross scouts.  As the fight drifted west, across the battlefield of Passchendaele, Voss’s machine was hit by some thirty rounds from one of the Camels, before a Nieuport latched on to the tail of the damaged Albatross and fired a further thirty rounds into it from no more than twenty yards distance.  The Albatross burst into flames, its wings folded, and the fuselage and its unfortunate occupant hurtled to the ground, crashing behind the British lines south of Pilckem.  As far as I can see, Voss had a single victory, a Royal Naval Air Service Sopwith Camel shot down, its pilot taken prisoner, just five days before Voss himself was killed.  And also, as far as I can see, his headstone contains an error, in the form of an omission – the date of death simply says 17.1917 – no mention of the month!

Looking east from the north west corner of the cemetery,…

…the two men nearest the camera in Plot I Row H a Royal Horse Artillery gunner and R.F.A. driver, both killed in mid-July 1917,…

…and then continuing along Row H,…

…back to the centre of the plot.

Grenadier Guardsmen killed in July 1917 in Plot I Row G.

Plot I Row D, the burials mainly artillerymen, although guardsmen galore are visible in the rows behind,…

…including these four Irish Guardsmen, all killed on 26th July 1917, and buried in Row B.  The headstone nearest the camera…

…happens to be one J. Lennon.  We’ve had a George Harrison, and now a J. Lennon – what next?

Well, firstly more July 1917 casualties in Row B,…

…including the second J. Drennan, this one an Irish Guardsman,…

…and then I stumbled upon Guardsman G. W. Starkie.  Nearly a third one!  And we did have a Slade earlier……

Southern view across Rows G & H of Plot I, before we make our way back to the cemetery entrance on the far right.

…and once back on the road, in the centre of the picture,…

…there’s the Kemmelberg, eight miles away, rising, as ever, above all else,…

…and behind us a final view of Bleuet Farm.  We may have now visited all the Elverdinge burial grounds, but back on the main Poperinge-Ypres road, two and a half miles to the south,…

…more familiar green signs give away the location of our next destination.

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10 Responses to The Elverdinge Burial Grounds Part Five – Bleuet Farm Cemetery

  1. sendergreen says:

    My new favorite photograph on your entire site is the opening shot of the shadow of the Cross of Sacrifice on the old garage. It is a gallery photo. Thanks you for a new perspective.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Well I thank you hugely for that compliment. It’s probably a cow or farm machinery shed. And, fyi, it was the last photo I added to the post, just last night, when I changed the intro at the last minute. It didn’t fit in halfway through the post, to my mind, so you nearly didn’t get to see it……

  2. Margaret Draycott says:

    As always M an interesting post I marvel at the amount of research you must put into these posts, an interesting cemetery given it’s relatively small size compared to some. A very varied number of burials the 3 shot at dawns, though one seemed to have a discipline problem from the start. One solitary German and a number of ww2 burials. A decorated tunneller, nearly a pop group and a pop group, sorry don’t mean to be frivolous, so many different regiments. So Brandhoek next?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks M. As it was me who introduced the frivolity, no apologies required. Lol! And you might be right about our next destination……

  3. Nick Kilner says:

    Wonderful post, not least of course because of the decorated tunneller. Notable that his award was given for an action above ground, but immensely gratifying never the less. And hats off for finding him, you would never have guessed from his headstone that he was a tunneller. Oh, and guess where he was from the 4th January 1916 until mid ‘17..
    Yep, you’ve guessed it, working with 253 TC under the Loos battlefield in the Hulluch-Quarries-Hairpin tunnel system. Eugene and the rest of 2ATC took over from them in 1917. So I’ve helped to excavate some of the same tunnels that he worked in.
    Reading their diary again I was reminded of an action there which should have resulted in a medal, but it seems did not.
    “23 Feb 1916 – No4 section blew enemy in Quarries area. This mine produced large quantity of gas
    25th feb 1916 – Two men went below in the Quarries area with proto apparatus to test the mine for gas, they became overcome at the bottom of the vertical shaft.
    2Lt J. Philpots most gallantly went down the shaft with nothing to protect him from the gas, but after succeeding in tying a rope around one of the men was himself overcome and killed. Two attempts were made to save him and the the men but were unavailing as the oxygen had all been used up. All three bodies were recovered the next day”

    You’d think he’d have been awarded something for that kind of bravery.
    We really must get you underground MF, in the nicest possible sense of course! lol

    Great info on the German pilot too, as ever I am astounded by your levels of research my friend.
    Ps, loved the ‘bands’ link, another great spot.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Lol! You’re not the only one who wants to see me underground……
      Thank you, good Sir. Very interesting stuff. Well I do try and find tunnellers with medals since we talked about it, whenever that was. Love it that you have worked the tunnels where Harry Colley had been. Fantastic.

  4. Margaret Draycott says:

    Thankyou Nick for the tunnellers info, how fascinating that that’s the area you helped excavate. Such a terrible tragedy and the fact no recognition given to the bravery of so many of these men. If he’s going underground I’m coming too.

    M are you aware of Paul Reeds old front line podcast, i really enjoy them but I listened to the one for the 1st August it was Bluett Farm, sadly not one of his best he mentioned the date range of burials, the German pilot but was uncertain if he was related to the German ace and that was it, so glad I read your report before listening to the podcast.

    • Nick Kilner says:

      My pleasure M. It’s funny how often theses coincidences pop up. It was in fact one such coincidence that brought me to this site and into the company of MF in the first place. And you would of course be most welcome to join us underground if it can be arranged. Unfortunately it now looks like my September jolly down to the Somme will have to be postponed. It will be nice when things return to some sort of normality.

      • Margaret Draycott says:

        These things are obviously meant to be Nick. Sadly the tour I was going to do in October we have now cancelled until next year, these times are to uncertain.

    • Magicfingers says:

      No, I was not aware of Paul Reed’s podcasts, but I’m glad you read my post first!

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