The Vlamertinge Burial Grounds Part Two – Brandhoek New Military Cemetery

In July 1917, as preparations for the forthcoming Third Battle of Ypres continued, three casualty clearing stations were moved into the Brandhoek area, and as the month drew to a close, two new cemeteries were opened close to the site of the first, Brandhoek Military Cemetery, where we found ourselves last post

Following the signs, we find a cemetery on either side of the road,…

…our first stop down this hedged alleyway,…

…at the end of which,…

…there’s an information board,…

…although this one will be of help to only a few of you,…

…and a cemetery.

Cemetery entrance,…

…inside which we find the ‘In Perpetuity’ tablet inlaid into the wall.

The cemetery is divided into six plots, all but seven of the 530 identified British, Canadian & Australian burials here being made between 22nd July & 16th August 1917,…

…the cemetery increasing by, on average, about twenty men each day during that period.

Plots I (right) & II (left) are on either side of us immediately on entering,…

…with the other four plots beyond the Cross, as shown on the cemetery plan, courtesy of the CWGC.

However, as the earliest burials are to be found in Plots I & II, nearest the cemetery entrance, on this occasion we shall do an about-turn at this point, and look at them first.  Why not, eh?

So, here we have Plot I, with Row F nearest the camera, the eighteen men buried in the row all killed on 31st July or 1st & 2nd August 1917.  Nearly half of the burials in Plot I are artillerymen,…

…by far the majority, as you might expect, Royal Field Artillery (above, Row F, & below, Row E).

Three officers in Row E, the two pictured both recipients of the Distinguished Service Order.  On the far left, Major Gawain Murdoch Bell D.S.O., Hampshire Regiment, aged 40, fatally wounded by a shell on the morning of 31st July 1917 whilst overseeing repair work on the Menin Road.  He would die by nightfall.  The previous day, 30th July 1917, Captain Frank Rhodes Armitage (pictured right), R.A.M.C. attached R.F.A., D.S.O., aged 34, had been killed in a dugout which received a direct hit from a German shell.

Row D, seven artillerymen and a Royal Engineer,…

…and Row C, all but one artillerymen or machine gunners, all of whom died between 24th & 28th July 1917.  In the row behind, at the far end,…

…German graves, three of twenty eight German burials in the cemetery, twenty at the north eastern end beyond the Stone of Remembrance, and eight here in Plot I, these three in Row B,…

…and five more in Row A adjacent to the cemetery entrance.

All eight died on 31st July or 1st August 1917, and quite why one of the headstones is of a different design, I haven’t a clue, but it’s quite unusual to see both designs next to each other.

The British burials in Row A are also men who died on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, 31st July 1917,…

…or the following day, 1st August.  A lot of people visit this cemetery, for reasons that will become clear later, as reflected in the number of pebbles that have been left on the centre headstone here.

Scottish subalterns, both killed on 31st July.

Row AA, as the name suggests, is an added row, the burials here men who died between 13th & 16th August 1917,…

…except for one, in the centre here, between an acting bombardier of the R.F.A. on the left, and one of the two Royal Garrison Artillery gunners buried in the plot on the right.

The final British burial in this cemetery, and the only Royal Flying Corps man buried here, this is the grave of Air Mechanic 3rd Class John George Metcalfe, 26th Balloon Section, killed in action on 25th August 1917, aged 36.

R.F.A. men who died on 14th August 1917 at the far end of the row, at which point we turn round,…

…this view looking north east across Plot I, before we move on to Plot II,…

…on the right of the cemetery entrance in this shot.

Again Row AA has been added later than the others,…

…all the men in the row dying on 15th or 16th August 1917.

The other burials in the plot were mostly, with a couple of exceptions, made between 26th July & 3rd August 1917,…

…those in Row A mostly killed on 26th & 27th July.  The second headstone from the front…

…is that of a Royal Field Artillery shoeing smith, one of forty artillerymen in the plot, and a little further along,…

…the grave of Corporal Joseph Gray D.C.M., also Royal Field Artillery, who died on 26th July 1917; the somewhat amateurish D.C.M. on the headstone apparently added at some point after the headstone was erected, and one wonders who actually added it.  His citation was gazetted three weeks after his death, on 16th August 1917; ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed the greatest energy and fearlessness in laying telephone wires under heavy shell fire. During a subsequent advance he carried messages four times for his battery commander through enemy barrage, displaying fine courage and keenness in doing so.’

More artillerymen killed on 28th July in Row B,…

…an R.F.A. subaltern who died on 1st August, the men buried around him killed the previous day, in Row C,…

…one of just six Canadians buried in the cemetery in Row D,…

…and, further along the row, South Lancashire men killed on 1st August.

Four 1oth Bn. Cameronian officers in Row E, two who died on 31st July, and two on 1st August,…

…and more early August burials in Row F.

The only plot with eight rows (the others range from five to seven), the burials in Plot II Row G are the latest in the plot, most killed on 3rd August, such as this East Surrey private at one end of the row,…

…and these men at the other end, including one of just eleven Australian casualties buried here.  We’ve seen cards such as the one left at the base of the headstone of the Royal Irish Rifleman at the end before, and I’ll show you exactly what they are later.

But we’ve reached the end of Plot II, at which point we turn around,…

…and head for the far end of the cemetery.  Plots III & IV are immediately beyond the Cross, with the two remaining plots beyond the two trees,…

…Plot V on the right,…

…and Plot VI on the left.

And beyond Plots V & VI, at the far end of the cemetery,…

…the Stone of Remembrance.  Behind the Stone, the remaining twenty German casualties are buried in what is referred to as ‘German Trench A & B’,…

…but is in effect a single row with a gap in the middle.  These seven headstones, which constitute Trench A, are all inscribed with two names except the one nearest us, marking the graves of thirteen men who died between 1st & 16th August 1917,…

…16th August also being the same date when the final mass British burials were made here, men we visited earlier in the rows on either side of the cemetery entrance.

German Trench B, and again three of the headstones are inscribed with two names, men killed between 16th & 19th August 1917,…

…only the final headstone bearing a single name.

After the mid-August German & British burials just mentioned, the cemetery was in effect closed down, only being used for the burials of five more Germans and two more British soldiers before the end of August, and, some weeks later, on 5th October 1917, one last German, Gefreiter Uto Buchheister, buried beneath the headstone nearest the camera.

Looking down the length of the cemetery from in front of the German graves, with Plot VI immediately ahead of us,…

…and in the background in this shot, and turning to our left,…

…Plot V, and we shall be exploring this side of the cemetery next.

All eighty seven burials in the plot are men who died between 8th & 15th August 1917,…

…including the single unidentified man in the plot (and, I think, the only unknown soldier in the cemetery), the headstone in the centre here, near the end of Row F, a Royal Munster Fusilier who died on 12th August.

Row E, the private at this end of the row a holder of the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Private L. Lewis, Machine Gun Corps, would never know that he had been given the award.  It was gazetted on 26th January 1918, five months after his death, ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He went forward with his machine gun during an attack, and when it was destroyed by shell fire he at once returned through the barrage and obtained another. He went forward alone again, found his team and got his gun into action. He maintained his position until he was seriously wounded, setting a splendid example of courage and devotion to duty’.

Burials in Row D where, at the end of the row,…

…we find the graves of two R.F.A. officers, Lieutenant John Houston Mumford (centre headstone & left inset), M.C. & Bar, aged 25, and Second Lieutenant John Irvine-Watson (far right headstone & right inset), aged 21, both killed whilst asleep in a dugout on 13th August 1917.  Watson is actually given a date of death of the following day, and so we presume he died of his wounds, but as twenty seven men who died on 13th August are buried here in total, and seventeen on 14th, it seems curious that these two men find themselves buried together if they died a day apart.  Unless their colleagues deliberately buried Watson next to the already buried Mumford (whose headstone should say M.C. & Bar, but doesn’t).

Plot V Rows C, B and the shorter Row A,…

…this grave in Row B in the centre unusually telling us that Rifleman W. J. Weir of the Royal Irish Rifles, aged 27, died of wounds on 10th August 1917.  His widow Nora would have had to pay for the privilege of informing future generations of the nature of her husband’s death.

At the end of Row B,…

…this wreath, courtesy of the Special Investigation Branch Regiment of the Royal Military Police, has been left at the headstone of Lance Corporal Robert Horsfall, Military Mounted Police, Military Police Corps, who died on 12th August 1917, aged 32.

Plot V Row A, the headstone on the far left that of The Reverend Frank Robert Harbord (pictured),…

…veteran of the Boer War and Chaplain to the Forces 4th Class, who died on 8th August 1917 aged 49.

Plot III now, the burials, except for one man added later in August, all between 31st July & 10th August 1917.  Row F is nearest the camera, and on the far left, at the start of the row (and pictured in the inset above),…

…Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Henry Boardman D.S.O., commanding 8th Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, seriously wounded during the Battle of Pilckem Ridge on 5th August 1917, and dying later the same day.  He was 40 when he died, and had been awarded the D.S.O. for ‘distinguished service in the field’.

8th & 9th August 1917 casualties in Row E,…

…an R.G.A. bombardier in Row D,…

…and one of only six Canadians buried here nearest the camera in Row C,…

…seen here from the other end.  That’s a fair few wreaths stacked up in Row B behind, don’t you think?

Hardly surprising, really,…

…as this is the grave of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, aged 32 when he died, one of only three men in history whose names are followed by ‘Victoria Cross and Bar’.  And his headstone is unique, the only one in existence on which the Victoria Cross is displayed twice.

The citation for Chavasse’s first V.C. appeared in the London Gazette on 26th October 1916; ‘For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. During an attack he tended the wounded in the open all day, under heavy fire, frequently in view of the enemy. During the ensuing night he searched for wounded on the ground in front of the enemy’s lines for four hours. Next day he took one stretcher-bearer to the advanced trenches, and under heavy shell fire carried an urgent case for 500 yards into safety, being wounded in the side by a shell splinter during the journey. The same night he took a party of twenty volunteers, rescued three wounded men from a shell hole twenty-five yards from the enemy’s trench, buried the bodies of two officers, and collected many identity discs, although fired on by bombs and machine guns. Altogether he saved the lives of some twenty badly wounded men, besides the ordinary cases which passed through his hands. His courage and self-sacrifice were beyond praise.’

The citation for his second V.C. appeared on 14th September 1917; ‘For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty, when in action. Though severely wounded early in the action whilst carrying a wounded soldier to the Dressing Station, Capt. Chavasse refused to leave his post, and for two days not only continued to perform his duties, but in addition went out repeatedly under heavy fire to search for and attend to the wounded who were lying out. During these searches, although practically without food during this period, worn with fatigue and faint with his wound, he assisted to carry in a number of badly wounded men, over heavy and difficult ground. By his extraordinary energy and inspiring example, he was instrumental in rescuing many wounded who would have otherwise undoubtedly succumbed under the bad weather conditions. This devoted and gallant officer subsequently died of his wounds.’

Nurse Kate Luard, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve, was Sister in Charge of No.32 Casualty Clearing Station at Brandhoek at the time, and recorded the following in later published letters; ‘Yesterday morning Capt. C., V.C. and Bar, D.S.O., M.C., R.A.M.C. was brought in badly hit in the tummy and arm and had been going about for two days with a scalp wound till he got hit. Half the Regiment have been to see him; he is loved by everybody. He was quickly X-rayed, operated on, shrapnel found, salined and put to bed. He is just on the borderland still but not so well to-night. He tries hard to live; he was going to be married.  Sunday, August 5th, 11.30 p.m. Capt. C. died yesterday. At his funeral to-day his horse was led in front and then the pipers and masses of kilted officers followed. After the blessing one Piper came to the graveside (which was a large pit full of dead soldiers sewn up in canvas) and played a lament. Then his Colonel, who particularly loved him, stood and saluted him in his grave. It was fine, but horribly choky’.  Quite how Sister Luard knew he had a Bar to his V.C., when it was awarded after his death, is something no one seems to have addressed……

And I don’t think Chavasse managed a D.S.O., either, but he did have a Military Cross.  Suffice to say that he was clearly a very brave man.

By one of those strange coincidences that litter history, the man in charge of 46th Field Ambulance, where Chavasse was first treated after his injuries before arriving at Brandhoek, was one Lieutenant (probably acting-Captain) Arthur Martin-Leake, who had served in South Africa where, in 1902, as a Surgeon-Captain of the South African Constabulary, he had been awarded a Victoria Cross for continuing to attend to wounded men close to the Boer lines, despite being shot three times.

Not only that, and here’s the real coincidence, folks, but the following appeared in the London Gazette thirteen years later, in February 1915; “Lieutenant Arthur Martin Leake, Royal Army Medical Corps, who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 13th May, 1902, is granted a Clasp for conspicuous bravery in the present campaign: – For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty throughout the campaign, especially during the period 29th October to 8th November, 1914, near Zonnebeke, in rescuing, whilst exposed to constant fire, a large number of the wounded who were lying close to the enemy’s trenches.”

At which point Arthur Martin-Leake, who would survive the war and die in 1953 aged 79,  became the first man, two years before Noel Chavasse, ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice.

The final row we have yet to see in Plot III is Row A, which contains just six graves, including another lieutenant colonel, three graves from the left.

Lieutenant Colonel James Cosmo Russell D.S.O., an Indian Army officer with 9th Hodson’s Horse, attached & commanding 6th Bn. Cameron Highlanders, was killed in action near Potijze on 31st July 1917, aged 38.

Russell is pictured here in the centre; on the left, Lieutenant John Carrick, also 6th Bn. Cameron Highlanders, Mentioned in Despatches, was killed in action the same day aged 21, and on the right, Captain Robert Downie Wylie, 3rd Bn. attached 6th Bn. (presumably on account of their earlier officer losses) Cameron Highlanders, was killed on 23rd August 1917, aged 33.

Looking across Plot III, in the foreground, Plot II in the left background and Plot IV, the smallest plot, in the right background.  The first row in Plot IV, beyond the grave of Noel Chavasse, is actually Row B, and there is no sign of Plot IV Row A either on the cemetery plan, or here within the cemetery.  I have no idea why – perhaps French graves, possibly more Germans (or even the original site of the Germans now buried beyond the Stone?), maybe even Americans, but long gone now.  Talking of the Stone of Remembrance,…

…we need to return to that end of the cemetery to see Plot VI,…

…Row F in the foreground here,…

…Row E here, and Row D in the foreground below.

Three-quarters of the men buried in the plot died between 10th & 13th August 1917, the remainder on the days either side.  Three rows back in this shot,…

…and marked in mauve in this one, is the grave of Private Charles Arundel Rudd, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment), who was killed on 10th August 1917 aged 20.  Rudd had previously served as Noel Chavasse’s batman.

And here’s another one of these, and I have ceased my explanations of what they are.

Final row in Plot VI, the wreath left at the base of the headstone…

…of Private Myles McNally, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who died on 8th August 1917 aged 32.

The final plot we have yet to see is Plot IV, just five rows (no Row A, remember) Row F nearest us in this shot,…

…nearly all the burials in the plot from the first week of August 1917.

Ulsterman in Row E,…

…Jewish casualties in Row D, one with a Military Medal,…

…a ‘South East London Boy’ in Row C,…

…and another Ulsterman in Row B, the final row, with one of those encapsulated cards at the base of his headstone,…

…which I promised to show you earlier on.

Time, I think, to nip across the road to the third Brandhoek cemetery.  Nearly time, as a matter of fact,…

Postscript

…because I returned to Brandhoek New Military Cemetery with Baldrick earlier this year, before the world changed, my first visit in 2019 having been a solo trip.

No wreaths this time, just a handful of crosses,…

…and fewer leaves on the trees.

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19 Responses to The Vlamertinge Burial Grounds Part Two – Brandhoek New Military Cemetery

  1. David Phillip-Pritchard says:

    Thank you for your work in your photography and descriptions.

  2. Andy Mowatt says:

    So sad and very moving. Well put together.

  3. nicholas Kilner says:

    Fabulous! what a cracking post, and what a fascinating cemetery! Unusual entrance way, presumably a result of the houses being built in close proximity. And have we done something to offend the Belgians that we don’t get an information board in good old English? quite possibly I suppose LOL.
    Thats a pretty substantial number of German burials. I wonder if it was deemed to be too far to transport them when the German cemeteries were being concentrated? Curious the odd German headstone. Notably it is newer than the rest, I wonder if it was done in error? Perhaps they’ll do the rest to match.
    Really unusual to see ‘Shoeing Smith’ on a headstone, ‘Farrier’ is far more common. The distinction (for anyone who might be interested) is that a shoeing smith worked in metal as well as shoeing horses, whereas a farrier was solely occupied with shoeing. The two trades were separated completely in 1975 with the introduction of the Farriers registration act, when the RSS qualification (registered shoeing smith) began to phased out in favour of the DWCF, which is the one I hold.
    Major Gawain Murdoch Bell, now thats a name. I wonder if his parents were fans of Arthurian legend. Poor chap obviously went bald pretty early, he’s got less hair than me!
    Military Mounted Police, thats another one you don’t see often!
    Very unusual seems to be the story of this cemetery, especially given that two of the only three double V.C’s are in here as well, Incredible! I wonder how many of those awarded the V.C. were RAMC? A pretty high percentage I would guess. Brave men all
    A really superb post MF, thank you.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Yeah!! Cool. Thanks mate. As you know, it was a tricky one. Excellent stuff on shoeing smiths, thank you, a distinction I certainly wasn’t aware of. Afa the info board, if you look carefully at the previous photo, you will see a metal post which, well, let’s just say that it was one helluva squeeze getting it in my pocket.
      And I have changed, slightly, the details about Arthur Martin-Leake; he is not buried here, indeed he survived the war. As did Charles Upham, the third of the VC & Bar men (a New Zealander, his were WWII awards, and he is the only combat soldier to receive two VCs). Which is why Chavasse’s headstone is unique.

  4. Morag Lindsay Sutherland says:

    brilliant as always
    i did not know about Martin- Leake so that was a bonus thank you

    but why was Cosmo Russell buried so far from where he was killed and there are cemeteries aplenty at Pojitzie

    Nick I have quite a few photos of Shoeing Smith on grave markers……..each to is own as they say

    • Nick Kilner says:

      Hi Morag
      That’s interesting to hear, they are certainly less common than ‘farrier’ headstones. Possibly because the army trained their own farriers, and still do. I very nearly signed up in order to train, but was offered an apprenticeship in civvy street first. I sometimes wish I’d gone the army route, I think the lifestyle would have suited me well

      • Morag Sutherland says:

        Shoeing smith Garvey was the first one we ever saw. And it stuck as it was unusual! But over the years we did spot more. Reliance on 4 footed beasts I guess…
        I am sure your choice of career worked out for you

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks Morag!

  5. Margaret Draycott says:

    Excellent post again M have visited this cemetery wish I had known all the interesting parts, graves, people when I visited always makes the visit more relevant.
    Thanks for your info Nick re Farrier and Shoeing Smith never knew there was a difference, that’s the other interesting thing about this site the stuff you learn from the likes of yourself and others.

  6. Jon T says:

    As always fascinating MF. Don’t know if either yourself or anyone saw this news story earlier in the year about the discovery of Noel Chavasse’s (and his brothers) teenage scrap book they made together while living in Oxford.

    Amazing and gives perhaps a bit of an insight into the mind set and inspiration of that generation for whom service and if need be self sacrifice were so central it seems to me. Hope putting the link here is ok ? Story was published elsewhere too but the DM link is the first I just came across !

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8203999/Poignant-childhood-scrapbook-discovered-119-years.html

  7. Margaret Draycott says:

    Fascinating Jon thanks for the link. A younger brother was also killed in ww1 and 3 cousins.

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