Mont Kemmel Part Fourteen – Dranouter Churchyard & War Memorial

Appropriately, on Remembrance Sunday, it’s time for us to return to the battlefields of Kemmel, where the churchyards and military cemeteries still tell their sad tale of death and sorrow.  We begin Part Two of our tour at the rebuilt Dranoutre (now Dranouter) church, a mile and a half south west of Mont Kemmel. 

And this is why it was rebuilt.  Dranouter after the war.  That’ll be the church, over on the right.  Actually, just before we continue, should you now be thinking, ‘but I haven’t read the first thirteen parts yet’, then never fear.  Click on the ‘Kemmel’ link in the column to the right of this page and then find your own way back to ‘Mont Kemmel-An Introduction’, and we’ll see you back here in due course.

Meanwhile, as we all like maps, here’s a map.  And it is quite an unusual map, because it’s such an early example.  Published in 1915, before the Ordnance Survey* had begun to produce their own maps of the Western Front, this is a French or Belgian map overprinted with the German front lines in red on the far right, and with the British front line marked as no more than a dotted blue line, just in case the map happened to fall into the wrong hands.  Kemmel village is beneath the orange circle, Dranouter beneath the blue, and Loker beneath the lilac; our previous stop is also marked, the French Ossuary on Mont Kemmel that we visited in Part Thirteen highlighted as a small red triangle.  To place the whole area into a wider war perspective, the site of the Spanbroekmolen mine, one of the nineteen that would be detonated on 7th June 1917 as the Battle of Messines began, can be seen in square thirty on the far right; the front lines here would hardly change at all between the publication of this map in 1915 and the week-long battle two years later.

*Trivia question: why is the Ordnance Survey thus called?  Answers on a postcard……

And here’s the church pictured in 1911.  Unfortunately, the church tower had only been built three years earlier, and had a mere ten years of existence ahead of it.

Not much doubt that we have British graves here, evidenced by a section of typical CWGC cemetery brick wall…

…above which rises a Cross of Sacrifice.

Sir Reginald Blomfield, the cross’s designer, produced four different-sized crosses to choose from,…

…this one being the example second from left, I believe.  Or maybe third?  Oh, I don’t know!!  Dranouter Churchyard was used between early November 1914 and late July 1915, during which time ninety seven British casualties were buried here, seventy eight of whom still remain.  The CWGC database actually says seventy nine, but the discrepancy will be explained later.

Plot II, to the west of the church, is made up of two rows, twenty four graves in each,…

…these headstones, to the north of the church, are designated as Plot III,…

…and this long single row of headstones on the east side is Plot VI.  Where be Plots I, IV & V, you may well ask, and it’s a decent question?

Well, they be gone.  After the war, in 1923, when the church was being rebuilt, nineteen British military burials had to be removed and reburied in the nearby military cemetery which had been opened in 1915 after the churchyard was closed, and their names are highlighted on the cemetery GRRFs above.  The red highlights show the men once buried in Plot I (top left), Plot IV (bottom left) & Plot VI (bottom right),…

…and exactly where these plots once were is anyone’s guess, but the coloured highlights on the top right GRRF match those I have added to the above cemetery plan, and show the likely original burial sites of the eight men removed from Plot III.

As the plan shows, just the three plots now remain,…

…and as we are looking at the single row of seventeen burials that makes up Plot VI, we might as well stay here.  There was fighting around Dranouter in the early months of the war, the British occupying the village on 14th October 1914, after which it would remain in Allied hands until 25th April 1918.  As already mentioned, the British would bury their dead in the churchyard between November 1914 & July 1915, before issues of space necessitated the opening of the nearby military cemetery.  And most of those dead, let’s not forget, would have been killed or mortally wounded in the trenches several miles to the east, as seen on the earlier map.

The earliest graves in the row, although not the earliest in the churchyard, are those at the front.  The first eight burials are all officers, the first five pictured above in the order in which they are buried. Anti-clockwise from top left, Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Staniland, 1st/4th Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment, killed by shrapnel at Pond Farm, Lindenhoek, on 13th April 1915, aged 34, whilst trying to get his men out of a barn to a place of safety; Second Lieutenant Wilfrid Bertram Hirst, 1st/4th Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment, who died of wounds on 25th April 1915 aged 25; Lieutenant Douglas Edward Gosling, Royal Engineers, killed whilst digging out a buried officer on 20th May 1915, aged 21; Lieutenant Charles Hugh Ellwood, 4th Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment, killed in action on 1st June 1915 aged 27; Lieutenant Colonel John William Jessop, commanding 1st/4th Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment, killed by shellfire on 4th June 1915 aged 55.  Jessop had been due to retire after the 1914 annual summer camp, from which his regiment returned on 2nd August 1914.  Two days later his retirement plans were abandoned as Germany declared war, his battalion embarking for France, after further training, on 1st March 1915, their first experience of trench life being in the Spanbroekmolen area in early April.  On 4th June 1915, Jessop was attending an officers’ meeting in Kemmel village when German artillery began shelling; Jessop was killed, and at least one other officer wounded.

Behind the first five headstones, the officer burials continue.  Pictured are Lieutenant Leslie Hall Douglas (bottom left), Royal Engineers, who died on 9th July 1915 aged 27; Lieutenant Kenneth Rowley Forde (right), The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), killed in action on 23rd July 1915 aged 28; and Lieutenant Basil Lee Nicholson (top left), Royal Field Artillery, shot in the head by a German sniper whilst trying to assess the accuracy of an artillery barrage on 24th July 1915, aged 24.

Beyond the officers,…

…the row continues with a number of privates, including the East Surrey man who served under an alias in the foreground, and then two more officers near the end, both 1st/4th Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment, and both killed on 29th July 1915.

The penultimate headstone in the row is that of Second Lieutenant Wilfrid Armstrong Fox, aged 22 (left inset), and the final burial that of Captain Meaburn Staniland (right inset), aged 35, and brother of Geoffrey, the first burial at the far end of this row, whose picture we saw a few shots back, the row thus topped and tailed by Stanilands.  Meaburn Staniland was apparently inspecting his company’s sentry posts when he was shot in the face, dying within three minutes.  A contemporary report reads as follows; ‘Thursday 29 July. Fine day. In the early morning we were heavily bombed with trench mortars and ‘sausages’ (black cylinders about 18″ long and 6″ in diameter, filled with high explosive and a time fuse). Our field artillery replied very effectively and eventually quietened them. Captain Staniland and Lieut. Fox of the 4th Lincolns were killed’.  Six of the officers buried in the row are men of the 1st/4th Lincolns, the battalion using an advanced dressing station somewhere close by during the summer of 1915, and explaining why Meaburn Staniland is buried here, in the same churchyard and the same row as his brother, despite the three month’s gap between their deaths.

Back at the start of the row, the headstones at the far end of this shot…

…those of Plot II.

The burials in Plot II, split into two rows, were all made between 15th January & 30th March 1915, except the R.F.A. driver on the right here at the end of Row A, who died on 6th July 1915.

As a pensive Baldrick ponders the meaning of life and death and why he ever got himself involved in all this,…

…we move to the start of the plot,…

…where the earliest burial in the plot at the start of Row A is that of Captain Basil John Orlebar, Bedfordshire Regiment, pictured on the left, killed on 15th January 1915, aged 39, when a shell came through the roof of his dugout, and also pictured, Lieutenant R0bert Bradford Flint DSO, four times Mentioned in Despatches, Legion d’Honneur, Royal Engineers, who died of wounds on 23rd January (his DSO had been awarded for his actions at Missy on 14th September 1914).  Both men were killed in the trenches at Wulvergem, as were the first two burials in Row B behind.

Both are also officers, both served in the war in South Africa at the turn of the century, and both died on the same day.  Acting Captain William Henry Fitzroy Landon, Bedfordshire Regiment, who had only joined his battalion at the front on 28th January 1915, was aged 47, and Captain Robert John Charles Otter, Norfolk Regiment, was aged 34, when both were killed in action on 15th February 1915.

The final group of headstones, Plot III, can be found to the north of the church, these burials the earliest military burials remaining in the cemetery,…

…but first, we have a war memorial to look at.

Belgian & Flemish flags fly…

…above a stoic Belgian soldier.

On the base, a dying or dead soldier at a roadside calvary, the Lion of Flanders beneath.

And next to the memorial,…

…that’ll be the vertical stabiliser from the tail of a Spitfire, or at least a model of one, if I’m not mistaken, and recently refurbished too, if the inset picture is anything to go by,…

…beneath which a plaque reveals the reason for its placement here.  Briefly, on 5th May 1942, an aerial dogfight above Flanders’ fields resulted in the loss of five R.A.F. Spitfires and four pilots – one British, one Canadian, one Belgian, and one Czech – the only survivor, Squadron Leader František Fajtl, another Czech, eventually making his way back to England via Spain some three months later.  The Belgian pilot, Flight Lieutenant Baudoin de Hemptinne, is now buried in the Belgian Airmans’ plot in Brussels Town Cemetery.  More about the others, or more specifically one of them, later.

The fourteen burials that remain in Plot III were made between 2nd November & 14th December 1914, although at one point, as we know, there were more.

The plot starts with three men killed between 20th & 24th November 1914,…

…and continues with three burials from mid-November, and, in the row behind, the earliest burials here, three men killed in early November 1914.

Behind, the final burials in the plot are all casualties from December 1914.

Westerly view across Plot III.  It seems pretty clear why some of the British burials in the plot, originally to the left of those remaining, had to be moved; presumably footings for a church are substantial.  The civilian grave in the centre of the shot, nearest the camera…

…is also the grave of a Great War casualty.  Norbert Albert Cornelius D’Huysser died sometime in 1917, although exactly when is unknown.  Sadly, he was not quite ten years old when he was killed, and most curiously, he is listed on the CWGC database, and accounts for their total of seventy nine war burials here.

Final view of Plot III, the war memorial in the background, which reminds me…

…that when we looked at it earlier,…

…I failed to show you the reverse side, and we can’t have that, now can we?

Returning to the memorial to the four R.A.F. fighter pilots,…

…here’s another map, this time showing German dispositions around Mont Kemmel when the area was in their hands in the summer 0f 1918, Dranouter in the bottom left corner.  The inset photo shows Sergeant Karel Pavlik, the second of the two Czech pilots shot down on the afternoon of 5th May 1942, and the red dot…

…shows where a small memorial today marks where he died.

Shot in the head, Pavlik was probably dead before his Spitfire ploughed into the ground, the photo above showing the actual crash site.  After the war, his body was found, still in the cockpit, at a depth of some twenty one feet,…

…and despite numerous other articles, no identity disc nor personal papers could be found, his body only identified by the number on his flying gloves and the known crash date.

Today he is buried, along with two of the others shot down that day, in Ypres Town Cemetery Extension, which we visited way, way back, at which time I took the above shot,…

…and a lectern was dedicated to him in St.George’s Church in Ypres a few years back, too, although long after our most recent visit; this is the information board at the crash site.

Anyway, back in the centre of Dranouter, our next stop is actually no more than two hundred yards beyond the houses across the road from the church,…

…and, if we follow this British supply waggon through the ruins of the village, we’ll get there in no time at all.

Remember

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9 Responses to Mont Kemmel Part Fourteen – Dranouter Churchyard & War Memorial

  1. Morag L Sutherland says:

    Brilliant simply Brilliant

  2. nicholas Kilner says:

    fantastic! this is actually one of the few cemeteries in the area that I have been to, the tail fin drawing our attention as we wandered toward a local bar. The layout struck me as particularly curious then, and now I know why, so thank you for that.
    Some excellent photographs, you must spend a huge amount of time searching for them, but well worth the effort I’d say.
    The case of Norbert Albert Cornelius D’Huysser is a slightly curious one. I wonder if he was perhaps being used as a runner? And you have to feel sorry for poor Lt Col Jessop, though I’m guessing he would have felt it his duty to continue. My paternal grandfather found himself in a similar situation at the outbreak of WW2. He had served with the 2nd Manchesters shortly after WW1 and was just two weeks short of coming off the reserve list when WW2 was declared. He went to France with his battalion and was caught up in the retreat to Dunkirk. He was badly injured when a train carriage he was riding in was hit be a german dive bomber. Blown clear of the wreckage he was found unconscious by a german patrol and spent the rest of the war as a POW, finally returning to England in October 1945. Five years gone, all for the sake of two weeks.
    Great post.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks mate. Great story too! Yours, I mean. Two weeks!!
      I wondered if Norbert Albert Cornelius D’Huysser was some sort of orphan mascot, but I confess I have done no research.
      Wish I’d had time to head for a local bar……

      • Nick Kilner says:

        An orphan mascot is certainly a possibility. Tbh I don’t know where you would start trying to find out. War diaries possibly.
        As regards visiting the local establishments, I always like to support small businesses if I can, I’m good like that 😉

        • Magicfingers says:

          Even Belgian websites seem flummoxed about Norbert Albert Cornelius D’Huysser – have done a quick check and here’s a typical translation: ‘Norbert Albert Cornelius D’Huysser. A 9 year old boy. Why he is mentioned on the CWGC map and website is a mystery to us. He died in 1917 but an exact date is unknown.’
          And I am currently supporting local business by sporting a locally made face mask which I refer to as Jaws – yep, just as you imagine – when I am doing my man about town bit……

  3. Jon T says:

    What a fantastic post, really interesting and as always seeing so many photos of those men buried there is very moving, especially for me in this instance the story of the Staniland brothers…

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks Jon. All of which means that it cannot be too long before we rejoin Corporal Jean Parnin and you can stop fretting (I refer to your comment when I published that frankly gratuitous ‘Coming Soon’ post in August).

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