Mont Kemmel Part Eight – La Laiterie Military Cemetery

Half a mile south of the American Memorial we visited last post, we find La Laiterie Military Cemetery. 

The first burials were made in late 1914, the last in October 1918,…

…and today approximately 750 men are buried here, 180 of whom are unidentified.

Cemetery entrance.  Laiterie, by the way, is French for dairy, the cemetery named after an adjacent dairy farm…

…which today is apparently some sort of vast hardware store.  On our left, as we enter,…

…this large group of headstones is Plot II, the four rows nearest us, and Plot I, the four rows behind,…

…although there is a fifth row in Plot II on the right here, along the cemetery’s eastern boundary, that we shall take a look at near the end of the post.  By the way, before we continue, it so happens that, for entirely different reasons, constructing a decent tour of this cemetery and another we shall be visiting in a couple of posts has proved a far from easy task, but at least with this post, with its almost gratuitous use of GRRFs, I think we get there in the end.  You might disagree.

As the headstones are all facing away from us,…

…a quick teleport to the southern corner of the cemetery seems in order, the entrance steps now in the background, centre right.  More than half of the unidentified burials in the cemetery can be found in the two rows nearest us, Plot I Rows D & C, the headstones in both rows notably closer to each other than in the rows behind,…

…which often suggests possible reinterments.  In fact, the CWGC website tells us that ‘After the Armistice, graves were brought into the cemetery from the battlefields north and north-east of Kemmel’, and indeed they were, but you have to dig deep to find the evidence, because unidentified men are difficult to trace.

So, and here we have the perfect example, it is only the three Cheshire Regiment men on this GRRF listing some of the burials in Row D, along with the red ‘C’ added beside each man’s grave number, that provides the proof that the unidentified soldiers listed are indeed reinterments.  GRRFs that list exclusively unidentified men, and there must be some, are unavailable, because there are no names by which to search for them,…

…and the same applies with regard to Concentration of Graves forms.  However, the three Cheshire men are listed on this particular Concentration of Graves Burial Return form, the only obvious problem being that it contains no mention whatsoever of La Laiterie Military Cemetery!  Oh, and the fact that it also says ‘no remains found’.  What is going on here?  What I can tell you is that these three men are not buried at Bedford House, whatever the form says, and if they are buried anywhere, which is debatable, it must be here,…

…because the three highlighted headstones are indeed theirs.  Their dates of death now all say 25th October 1918, incidentally, and the GRRF, after changes, supports this, although the Concentration of Graves form, you will notice, does not.  And, despite the annotation on the GRRF, Corporal Chalkley was not the recipient of a Distinguished Conduct Medal (note that the form also shows that his headstone was originally listed as a special memorial, ‘Believed to be’, in the first column, subsequently being crossed out).

Other than the three Cheshires, just six men in Row D, in the foreground above & below,…

…and only thirteen in Row C behind,…

…are identified, out of a total of 116 burials in the two rows.  The two GRRFs shown above, both listing men in Row D (again, note the red ‘C’ for ‘concentration’), include just the occasional named soldier,…

…despite quite a number of the unidentified men’s regiments being known.  The two identified Australians near the bottom of the left-hand GRRF are buried far left & centre of the seven headstones in the foreground of this shot.  Only three Australians are buried in this cemetery, the other being another reinterment in Row C behind, although not pictured here.

Looking towards Plot III, after the gap, and the rest of the cemetery beyond, with the last few headstones of Plot I Row D in the right foreground.  I suggest a look at the cemetery plan might be required if you intend to make any sense of what is to come.

Meanwhile, still in Plot I, these two Queen’s Bays reburials begin Row C, the identified man on the left given a date of death of 31st October 1914, his name at the top of the list of concentration burials on the left-hand form below; other than Plot I Rows C & D, all the remaining burials in Plots I & II were made during the war.  Behind, in this shot, Row B begins with three of ten identified men of B Company, 1st Bn, Wiltshire Regiment, all of whom (and at least two others further along the row) were killed on 12th March 1915 during a diversionary attack at Spanbroekmolen, now the site of a vast water-filled mine crater we visited a while back, to support what would become known as the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.

The earliest original burial in the cemetery appears to be the corporal of the 12th (Prince of Wales’s Royal) Lancers at the end of Row B at the bottom of the right-hand form, and certainly, all the early wartime burials can be found in the first two rows of Plot I.

Plot II begins with Row AA, in the foreground in this shot.  All but one of the burials in the row are identified, all but three died between 2nd & 8th June 1917, and nineteen of those, including the seven men whose headstones are pictured, were killed on 7th June 1917, the opening day of the Battle of Messines (we are, as the crow flies, under two miles from Wytschaete village up on the Messines Ridge).  As none of the men buried in the row, nor those in the rows on either side, are reburials, these graves must have been slotted into the gap between two rows of already buried men, which may not have been the most pleasant of tasks.  Behind, the graves in Plot II Rows A & B are all men of the 26th Bn. (New Brunswick Regiment),…

…those in Row A all late 1915 casualties, those in Row B a mix of 1915 & 1916 burials.

You’ll find Private Moses Gallant at the bottom of the first form,…

…and Private Steeves, nearest the camera here, is the final name on the second form.  Around half the burials in Row C, on the right, are also Canadians, again all 26th Bn., all casualties from March 1916 (the fifteen British casualties in the row are from between April & July 1916).  And, as we shall see, this plot is a precursor to much of the rest of this cemetery, and the reason behind the plethora of GRRFs throughout this post, in that we shall find groups of battalion burials throughout.

Plots I (right) & II (left), with the cemetery entrance in the centre background.  Turning to our left,…

…looking north east towards the Stone of Remembrance (below).

Beyond the Stone, we begin the rest of the plots,…

…with Plot IV, the nearest headstones in these four rows.  Many of the burials in Rows C & D, on the right here, are unidentified,…

…and the reason becomes clear as the relevant GRRFs show that the burials in these two rows are also all concentration burials (red ‘C’s once more), brought here post-war.  There’s an identified Coldstream Guardsman, Private A. Higgs, near the bottom of the left-hand list, whose date of death of 25th October 1914 is the earliest date to be found in this cemetery.  Look him up on the CWGC database and there is no suggestion that he is a reinterment, none of the usual forms you would expect, but it seems pretty clear from this GRRF that he is indeed a reburial.

The first two rows of the plot (excluding the grave of Private Barker of the West Yorkshire Regiment, nearest the camera, which is actually in Plot V) are, however, all wartime burials and contain mainly Northumberland Fusiliers, ten of whom are 4th Bn. men killed in 1916.  Plot V, incidentally, also contains a small number of post-war reburials,…

…as you can see on the left-hand form above, although Private Barker, the final name on the form, is not one of them.  Although not photographed, Plot VI Row A contains only 7th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers killed in June or the first few days of July 1916, while Row B contains mainly unidentified reburials (see right-hand form above).

With Plot IV Row A now on the right, the remaining headstones here are the four rows of Plot III.  The first two rows are exclusively Canadian, all men of the 25th Bn. Nova Scotia Regiment killed at the end of 1915 or early 1916, as are ten of the burials in Row C.

In all, there are sixty one graves in the four rows of Plot III, and of the twenty one identified burials in Rows C & D that are not Canadian, thirteen in Row D, on the left here, are men of the 4th Bn. East Yorkshire Regiment who were killed between 13th July & 1st August 1916.

At which point, should your agenda be tiring, there’s always this handy little structure in which to have a kip,…

…peruse the In Perpetuity tablets,…

…and view the visitors’ book, where you can add your name to those of mine & Baldrick.

Looking north east across the cemetery at the Cross, Plot III in the foreground,…

…and the view the other way, the headstones of Plot VI in the foreground – unfortunately from behind – and Plot III now in the left background.

Plot VIII consists of the first seven headstones in Rows D (nearest camera), B & A, and the first eight in Row C,…

…and as you can see, nearly all are men of 5th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers, again all 1916 casualties.

Plot VII consists of four rows containing a total of 88 burials, nearly all from 1916,…

…most of the graves from the Durham Light Infantry, Royal Irish Regiment, Royal Munster Fusiliers, Royal Welsh Fusiliers,…

…and the Yorkshire Regiment, such as those nearest the camera here in Row D.

Eastern view from the cemetery’s western corner, Plot X nearest the camera.

Plot X contains sixty six burials,…

…all Canadian, all Victoria Rifles (24th Bn.),…

…the burials in the plot ranging from the latter months of 1915 to the summer of 1917.  There are, in total, 190 identified Canadian burials in this cemetery.

The four rows of Plot X, the western corner of the cemetery now in the background.  Turning to our right,…

…we find Plot XI, actually just the first two rows here, mostly Northumberland Fusiliers,…

…although this time 6th Bn., again their dates of death all between April & June 1916.  Note that the three unknown men at the top of the right-hand form (the headstones nearest the camera on the right below) are marked as concentration burials.

Looking south east up the centre of the cemetery, Plot X on our right, the two short rows of Plot XI now on the left, beyond which…

…we find Plot XII, which consists of this long row of thirty two graves, and a shorter row of eight headstones you can see further up the cemetery along the boundary hedge; over half the identified burials in the plot are 7th Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers killed in May or June 1916 (right-hand form below),…

…but once again we find more concentration burials at the start of the row (left-hand form above).

Looking south at the whole cemetery from the northern corner.  Before we make our way back to the entrance, the two headstones just visible in the foreground, although somewhat detached from the rest of the plot, are actually a third row of Plot XII, Row C.

Both are R.F.A. men, one a subaltern who died on 24th September 1918, the other a signaller who died on 9th October 1918, and was the final burial made here before the post-war additions.

Cross of Sacrifice.

Looking north west, Plot I on the right, Plot II on the left,…

…and further left, the Stone of Remembrance, and beyond, the final row of Plot II, Row D, along the cemetery boundary,

The inset cemetery plan shows this particular row in blue; the various areas of concentration burials are marked in orange.

The identified burials in Row D are all from 1918.  The headstone fourth from the right,…

…is that of Lieutenant Henry Eric Dolan, an Englishman who had emigrated to Canada before the war.  Enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1914 as a private in the 2nd Bn. (Queen’s Own Rifles), and subsequently sailing for England on 3rd October, he received a commission into the Royal Field Artillery in November 1914 with whom he served until April 1917, his Military Cross gazetted on 1st January 1917.  He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in August 1917 and was posted to No. 74 Squadron where his flight commander was one of the most famous of the Allied Aces, Major Edward Corringham ‘Mick’ Mannock V.C., D.S.O. & two Bars, M.C. & Bar, with whom he would later share two aerial victories.  Flying a SE.5a, Dolan’s time as a pilot was initially a great success, until it suddenly wasn’t.  Between 12th April & 11th May 1918 he scored seven victories, and then on 12th May he was shot down and killed by the German ace Raven Freiherr von Barnekow of Jasta 20, still at the age of just twenty two.  Incidentally, as there is no suggestion that any of the burials in Row D are concentration burials, and as Dolan died in May 1918, it’s highly likely, I would have thought, that some, most probably all, of this row were buried by the Germans.

At the end of the row are two special memorials, which is slightly odd, because if you look at the cemetery plan, you will not find them positioned here, but then I suppose a special memorial can be moved without ramifications.

The cemetery plan shows fifteen headstones in the row; the two special memorials mean that today there are seventeen.

Which brings us back to the cemetery entrance,…

…from where we turn left, our next stop Kemmel village,…

…or more specifically, Kemmel church, which once upon a time looked like this.  Before the soldiers came.

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3 Responses to Mont Kemmel Part Eight – La Laiterie Military Cemetery

  1. nicholas Kilner says:

    Absolutely fascinating! what a mess! This one must have been a real headache to sort out. superb research. I wonder if the same person was responsible for the irregularities with the concentration forms in Godezonne farm cemetery?
    You’ll be pleased to know that I emailed the CWGC after our previous conversation on the question of GRRF’s which only contain unknown soldiers. However, as I am still awaiting information requested last September, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. I would assume, or at least like to think that they still hold every GRRF, regardless of whether there are named casualties on them or not. We shall see.
    I do wish the local councils would step in and do something about shielding cemeteries from monstrosities like those surrounding this one, even if its just planting trees. Too much to ask?

    • nicholas Kilner says:

      Klien Vierstraat, not Godezonne, sorry. I’m losing track lol

    • Magicfingers says:

      Ah, thanks ever so mate. It was so tricky to work out and, having first started writing this one a year ago at least, I only had the final idea of adding the cemetery plan with concentrations marked this week! It may have been this cemetery that began our conversation about GRRFs with unknown soldiers, I cannot remember.

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