Mont Kemmel Part Four – Vierstraat: Klein-Vierstraat British Cemetery

Mont Kemmel.  Now. 

And Mont Kemmel.  Then.

The first burials here at Klein-Vierstraat British Cemetery were made in January 1917, and, being some distance behind the lines at the time, over the next year the cemetery was used on a regular basis as field ambulances disgorged their bloody cargoes, and units returned from the front lines with their dead, those whose bodies could be recovered.  And if it looks like a regularly laid out cemetery from here,…

…then not so much from here.

The first thirty graves in this long row of burials are all from either May or July 1915 and as you can see on the edge of the final headstone, are designated as Plot VII Row B.  If we follow the hedge on the right, there’s another row hiding behind this one,…

…which just happens to be Plot VII Row A, the burials also from May 1915, with a single burial from April 1918 nearest the camera,…

…who appears, along with the captain who is still buried alongside him, on this Burial Return form, and thus we know that both are post-war reburials originally buried elsewhere.  In fact the cemetery is a mix of war burials and post-war concentrations; all of these burials at the upper end were brought here after the war,…

…and further research shows that all forty one men buried in the two rows of Plot VII were once buried in Ferme Henri Pattyn-Vanlaeres Cemetery, which was a little way south of Poperinge (and a little under five miles due west of our current location) and is marked, according to the map reference on the Burial Return form, by a mauve dot on this map.  The reason for the green dot will be revealed later.

So let’s look it up.  However, even searching through the White Cross Touring Atlas, originally published in around 1920 (and available again today, less than £20, probably discounted on Naval & Military, and highly recommended if you ever find yourselves doing the kind of stuff that I do), that ostensibly names and plots every single British Great War cemetery on the Western Front (many now long gone), comes up with no sign of its existence, nothing at all marked in the relevant square on the map, although at this point it occurred to me that there may be good reason for this.  With a name like Ferme Henri Pattyn-Vanlaeres Cemetery, it was almost certainly French-administered and contained mainly French graves, and it was when these were moved post-war, probably to the French ossuary on Mont Kemmel, that the British graves were moved too.

Next, we come to Plot V, with Row E, the fifth and final row of the plot and in effect a continuation of Plot VII Row B, nearest the camera.  Actually, the row is split into two sections, eight burials here,…

…four of whom appear on this form, and all of whom were also originally buried in Ferme Henri Pattyn-Vanlaeres Cemetery (the cemetery name is not mentioned on this form, but the map reference is the same as on the earlier Burial Return form),…

…and nine here, all still casualties from May 1915,…

…and likewise all originally buried in Ferme Henri Pattyn-Vanlaeres Cemetery, again four of the casualties shown on this Burial Return form.  Ferme Henri Pattyn-Vanlaeres Cemetery thus once contained at least fifty eight British burials, and further research shows that in fact seventy British soldiers once buried there now lie here.  What is interesting about these two forms is the men listed as ‘died of wounds’, which surely suggests a first aid post of some sort, presumably French-staffed, and which in turn would explain a burial ground nearby.

The remainder of the graves in Plot V are also all post-war reburials, mostly British, some from 1915, the majority from 1918.

The cemetery plan, courtesy of the CWGC, shows you that the plots have a slightly curious numbering system, particularly at this end of the cemetery.  Plots I, II & III were all made between January 1917 & January 1918, the majority of the burials in Plot IV are casualties from the Battle of the Lys from April 1918, and although most are reburials, a few men were buried here at the time, and Plots V to VII and a few burials added to Plot I are all post-war reinterments. History explains the dates when the cemetery was used; a secure site in 1917 became impossible to use in the spring of 1918, and unnecessary when the Allies advanced so quickly later in the summer.  Of the 805 men buried here, 109 are unidentified.

So, on the left of the Stone of Remembrance we have Plot VI, with Plot IV in the right background,…

…and Plot V here, with Plot VII, the first headstones we saw on entering, beyond, and Kemmel No. 1 French Cemetery in the right middle distance.

The two headstones positioned against the boundary wall,…

…are both special memorials, the headstone on the left to a Durham Light Infantry corporal who is ‘Believed to be buried in this cemetery’, that on the right to a North Staffs private ‘Known to be buried in this cemetery’.  Both bear Rudyard Kipling’s inscription ‘Their glory shall not be blotted out’.

Looking north from the southern corner of the cemetery.  Plot VI is nearest the camera here, but only consists of the first two rows.  Were we to follow the western boundary, on our left, down the hill, we would find Plot III from the third row onwards, and at the bottom, Plot II.

Almost one fifth of the unidentified men buried here are to be found among the thirty burials in Plot VI Row B, such as these East Surrey men at the start of the row,…

…and these men further along.  The CWGC website mentions that some burials here were brought from Mont Vidaigne Military Cemetery, presumably another French cemetery,…

…and indeed twelve British soldiers in Row A behind, some listed on this Burial Return form (their dates of death all July 1918), were once buried there.

The rest of the burials in the plot are mainly from April, such as these at the end of Row B, or July 1918, with a few from August & September.  The man buried on the far right…

…appears as the third name on this form, these three men originally buried in a ‘small French cemetery’, the map reference of which explains the green dot on the earlier map.  A couple of rows back in the previous photograph, on the far right, beyond the central grass pathway, the headstone nearest to us,…

…and seen on the right here,…

…is that of Lu Yun Chieh, Chinese Labour Corps, who died on 3rd March 1919 and is now buried in Plot IV Row G,…

…and who apparently was originally unidentified.  Whether he died from accident or illness – maybe the flu – I don’t suppose we shall ever know, but it seems that he too was once buried elsewhere.

Unidentified men further along the row, the only identified man in the shot killed in early May 1918,…

…and July & August 1918 burials in Plot IV Row D (above & below), including four Leicestershire Regiment men in the centre above,…

…and a number of unidentified men in both Row D and behind in Row C.  Rather oddly, if you check the cemetery plan, the first eleven headstones from the right in the third row from us in this shot are Plot I Row H, the row continuing as Plot IV Row B, and of Plot IV Row A there is no sign, nor any sign that it ever existed.  Most likely the explanation lies in the fact that, as previously mentioned, nearly all the burials we have so far seen, most in Plot IV, and all in Plots V, VI & VII, are post-war concentrations, as are the eleven headstones designated as Plot I Row H.

Barring that single row, the other three plots are all wartime burials, so if you check the positions of Plots I, II & III on the cemetery plan, you can pretty much imagine the extent of the cemetery at war’s end.  These little crosses have been left at the base of a line of R.G.A. casualties in Plot III Row E, all members of 289th Siege Battery, which was, by the looks of it, wiped out on 29th September 1917.

More men of the Royal Garrison Artillery, mid-September 1917 casualties, in Plot III Row C,…

…and yet more in Row B and in Row A behind; 113 R.G.A. casualties are buried here, nearly all within the three plots of a little over four hundred wartime burials.

R.G.A. men in Plot II Row F, these men killed on 31st July 1917, the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

Plot I Row E, on the left, more Queen’s burials in Row D on the right,…

…and yet more Queen’s casualties in Plot I Row C, one of whom is unidentified, the six identified, and probably all seven, killed on 24th February 1917.  Twenty four identified men of 10th Bn. The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) are buried here, and a considerable number of unidentified men of the regiment too.

Two officers killed on the opening day of the Battle of Messines, 7th June 1917, and buried  on the left here in Plot II Row B.  The man pictured, Captain Noel Henry Bruce Hastings, Gloucestershire Regiment, buried beneath the right of the two headstones, had already been wounded twice and Mentioned in Despatches before his death, aged 23.  Note that the headstone in Plot I Row B, nearest the camera on the right of the shot, bears the names of two men of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps who were killed on 17th February 1917.

Cross of Sacrifice.

Looking back up the centre of the cemetery from in front,…

…and behind the Cross.

View from the bottom of the cemetery looking south, the inserted cemetery plan meaning your imagination can take a rest, as the shaded area shows you the cemetery as it was at the war’s end, our position in the northern corner marked by a red dot.  This shot, and that below taken from the western corner, also shows you exactly how sheltered this cemetery was, provided the Kemmelberg, rising in the right background above, was occupied by your friends,…

…and why Kemmel No. 1 French Cemetery, up on the crest of the slope, would surely not have been!

Final look back at the cemetery as we leave, with a superb view, away to the west, of the Scherpenberg and, beyond on the left, the Zwarteberg, and possibly also Mont Vidaigne, where those dozen soldiers now buried in Plot VI Row A were once buried, and which is also somewhere over there.  It shows you the distance that some men were brought for reburial, which may necessitate a return to this cemetery at a later date for a closer look at where the rest of the post-war reinterments were originally buried.  But for the moment it’s time for us to leave the Vierstraat area, although the next cemetery on our tour, and a picturesque little place it is too, as we move closer to the Kemmelberg, is only five hundred yards due south of here across the fields.

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3 Responses to Mont Kemmel Part Four – Vierstraat: Klein-Vierstraat British Cemetery

  1. Morag Sutherland says:

    As always thank you. It made me think of old military cemetery in Poperinge among others where there are huge gaps when French removed their war dead . And of course the sharing of cemetery space and CSS I guess with allies. Nice to stretch my brain so early in the day

    • Magicfingers says:

      And thank you Morag. Lowering the tone, I gather it has been a good sporting week in Brora. Up the Rangers!

      • Morag Lindsay Sutherland says:

        it was a proud day for the village- Stranraer at home next – and this comment from a woman who is not much interested in 22 men kicking a ball around a patch of greenery!
        but thank you for the supportive comment

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