Mont Kemmel Part Fifteen – Dranoutre Military Cemetery

Now there’s an interesting, if curious, still-life for you. 

And panning out a bit doesn’t really help.  However, if we take a peek around the hedge on the far right,…

…we find a neatly mown grass pathway,…

…which apparently leads…

…to the entrance to a cemetery.

Here’s a map of Dranouter, the church in the centre of the town square, with three aerial shots beneath showing the village at various stages of the war.  The cemetery at which we have just arrived is marked on the map in green, as it is in the left & centre photographs; you can try and spot it yourself in the right, and latest, photo.  Good luck.

Nicely inlaid stonework, the dates 1915 – 1918 inscribed on the two outer pillars,…

…with the cemetery name in the centre,…

…beyond which just over four hundred and fifty men, over 90% of whom are British, are buried.

If we take a walk along the front of the cemetery,…

…we find, although it’s not that obvious, that it is effectively split into two plots,…

…Plot I to the left of the steps,…

…and Plot II on the right; we shall encounter the single row of Plot III much later.  Here’s the cemetery plan for your perusal.

Making our way towards the Cross of Sacrifice (below), you can see that we are just a few hundred yards from our previous stop at Dranouter church, in the background.

View from the Cross looking south east,…

…and south west across the whole cemetery.

The CWGC website tells us the following; ‘Dranoutre Churchyard was used for Commonwealth burials from October 1914 to July 1915 when the military cemetery was begun. It was used by fighting units and field ambulances until March 1918 (Plots I and II), many of the burials being carried out by the 72nd Brigade (24th Division) in April-June 1916’,…

…but the reality is a little more complex than that.  The coloured sections of the inset plan of Plot I actually show you the cemetery as it looked at the end of March 1916, at which time only thirty burials had been made here, those in orange (men) & mauve (officers) from 1915, those in light blue early 1916 burials.  It’s interesting to note that in 1915 officers & men were still being buried separately here.  Not as a matter of policy, I should add, but just because someone in charge presumed it was the ‘done thing’.  Vestiges, still, of the old, pre-war, British Army.

As the cemetery plan extract shows, the first five burials in Plot I Row A, pictured in the foreground here,…

…and the first three in Row B, pictured here, are all original burials from 1915,…

…as are those, from the spring of 1916, that follow in Row B.  You will doubtless have noticed a number of Canadian headstones among these early burials, and indeed the nineteen Canadian burials in this cemetery were all made between October 1915 and March 1916.  Eight of them, five infantry, two pioneers, and the sapper on the left above, were killed on 16th March 1916,…

…the 3rd Field Company, Canadian Engineers’ war diary…

…listing him as the only man killed that night.

‘Gone but not forgotten’, Plot I Row D.  As the blurb from the CWGC website quoted earlier suggests, well over half the burials here were made in the first seven months of 1916.

Plot I Row E, these graves from May 1916,…

…the message on the wreath reading, ‘Eternal thanks for your sacrifice for our freedom’.

There’s a single German soldier buried here, towards the back of Plot I, in the centre of this shot; Infanterist Hans Held died on 7th June 1917, the first day of the Battle of Messines, of course, and is buried among nine British soldiers killed the same day, all in Row J.  You can also just see the German grave on the far right a couple of rows back in the shot below,…

…which shows Plot I Row G, the burials all from July 1916 except the two nearest the camera, both of which were made in early August,…

…and one of which had not only a wreath at the time of our visit,…

…but also a faded photograph.  R.I.P. Private Lewis.

Plot I Rows E & F, the burials in Row E all from April or May 1916, those in Row F, barring a single July burial, all from June 1916.  The rows that follow continue the chronological burials, Row G containing mainly men killed in July 1916, Row H burials from August 1916 to April 1917, Row J all burials from May & June 1917, and Row K men who died in late 1917 or early 1918.

There are few unidentified men to be found here, and exactly how these two men came to be buried here on their own in a single grave behind Plot I Row K I really do not know.  But I can imagine.

On to Plot II, and this is Row A,…

…the burials all from the last ten days of May 1916 (above & below), as is one in Row B behind.

The other fifty five burials in Plot II Rows B, C, D & E are all from June 1916, as are four of the burials in Row F (nearest camera), the remainder in the row from July.  The burials in Row G (just creeping into the picture on the right) are all from between June & September 1916, after which the cemetery was hardly used until January 1917, the earliest 1917 burials beginning in Plot I Row H,…

…and continuing here in Plot II Rows H (left) & J, the men buried in these rows killed between April & October 1917.

Seven headstones from this end of Row J is the grave of Private Frederick Broadrick, a Brummie by birth, and a Kitchener volunteer, who enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment on 1st September 1914.  His military service lasted precisely fifty six days during which time he served fourteen days Field Punishment No.2 for refusing an order, after which he absconded from camp and when arrested soon after, was found to be drunk.  His C.O. considered him ‘a most insubordinate and bad character, is not fitted to be a soldier.’  So they kicked him out.  His second encounter with the military came in March 1916 in the form of letter of conscription, followed in due course by a posting to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.  He managed five days before his first misdemeanour, and others followed.  In France, despite being described by his company sergeant major as a hard and willing worker who kept a cool head in action, Broadrick deserted in November 1916, and on being found, was sentenced to death at a Field Court Martial in February 1917, the sentence later commuted to ten years penal servitude, suspended, after which he rejoined his regiment.

On 1st July 1917, Fred Broadrick was found to be absent from his billets in Dranouter.  Four days later he and another soldier from the same regiment (11th Warwicks) were apprehended on the outskirts of Calais, from where they were escorted back to Dranouter to face a Field Court Martial which took place on 20th July 1917.  Broadrick told the court, ‘I was out of my mind at the time. I have been like that since I fell off a roof about 20 years ago. I had some drinks of white wine and I did not know what I was doing for a couple of days. When I came to myself I was about 20 kilometres from Calais, and I was going to give myself up, when the police saw me. When I found myself so far away I thought it better to give myself up. I was not in my right mind. The doctors think it only bluff, that is why I don’t go to them. When I fell off the roof I fell on my head. I was unconscious for a week. I have been in France 13 months, with the 11th Warwicks. I was in action at Arras. I have had the same trouble in civilian life. I am not frightened to go over the top. I met another man of my regiment near Calais. I thought he was after me at first.’  Bearing in mind the suspended sentence already hanging over him, this did not go down too well.  He was executed on 1st August 1917.  As far as I can see, the man arrested alongside him, Private Arthur Hood, got away with it.

Beyond Row J, on the left here, the final row in Plot II is Row K (the headstone of the two unknown soldiers we visited earlier in the right mid-distance).  You may remember that during our visit to Dranouter churchyard I mentioned that the remains of nineteen British soldiers were moved here in 1923 during the reconstruction of the church.  Today, they lie here in Plot II Row K.  Meaning that the cemetery entrance really should now say 1914-1918, as opposed to 1915-1918.  Or should it, because then you have a cemetery inscribed with a date at which time the cemetery actually didn’t exist.  Complicated stuff.

At the rear of the cemetery, along the eastern boundary, we find Plot III, all but two of the thirty identified burials – there is a single unidentified soldier – made in September 1918,…

…the later burials at this end,…

…and the earliest at this end.  The last twelve headstones at this end of the row are all men of the Royal Irish Regiment who were all killed on 2nd September 1918.

View from the cemetery’s north eastern corner looking south, the headstones of Plot III in the background on the far left,…

…and now looking towards Plot I.  The row nearest us, Row K, contains fifteen of only seventeen Australian graves in the cemetery,…

…all fifteen killed between late December 1917 and March 1918.

Final view before we return to the entrance,…

…because it’s time, as ever, to move on.

As we go, here’s an aerial shot of a shattered landscape, apparently without much to help pinpoint the area on a map,…

…but, after a false start or two, there proved just enough, and I think you’ll find this be the spot, the green rectangle marking the site of the cemetery, and as we leave and return down the grass pathway to the road (the small horizontal track just north of the cemetery on the map),…

…a glance away to the west, to our left, looks directly at the once-devastated area shown on the aerial photo; the rebuilt buildings of Pigot Farm (in the centre of the aerial photo and marked on the map) can just be seen on the far right.

British troops pass through a battered Dranouter in 1918.

Less than half a mile north of here is the next cemetery on our tour; Locre No.10 Cemetery, although small, is quite an unusual cemetery, having been begun by the French, and containing, as it does, a number of German mass graves.

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11 Responses to Mont Kemmel Part Fifteen – Dranoutre Military Cemetery

  1. Annie says:

    I found the account about Private Frederick Broadrick particularly poignant, for it would appear that he had sustained a traumatic brain injury 20 years prior to his testimony. I can’t imagine trying to navigate in a theatre of war under normal circumstances, but with the very real challenges of his condition (one often unrecognised and misunderstood), it must have been very difficult for him. May he rest in peace.

  2. ALAN BOND says:

    Thank you for a very intersting post

  3. Morag Lindsay Sutherland says:

    we had not visited this cemetery not quite sure how we missed it- poor man shot at dawn – thanks as always

  4. Gordon Plimmer says:

    Another excellent post M/F.

    I note in the Canadian Engineers war diary mention of a casualty in ‘CHESTER LE STREET’. I presume this was the name of a trench.

    One of the headstones you feature is of a DLI casualty. Would I be correct in assuming that battalion would name the trench?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Good questions Gordon, and ones I thought I’d be able to answer. The Wulverghem Switch mentioned was about a mile and a half to the west of the Messines front lines in December 1916, and one would presume that Chester le Street, whether a trench or a stores dump or whatever, was close by. I say a possible dump because Chester le Street doesn’t appear as a trench name in Rats Alley, which lists them all, and the other trenches mentioned in the war diary are C & D, for example!!! There were a couple of trenches known as Chester Street but both are on the Somme. What I would say is that the DLI probably named it in the first place, whatever it was, as you rightly suggest. And bear in mind that many trench names were simply named by the battalion defending them, the names never actually appearing on a map.

  5. Gordon Plimmer says:

    Thanks for the information M/F. What you say makes sense considering Chester le Street is a market town in northern County Durham about which the volunteers of any of the @ twenty battalions of the DLI would have been familiar.
    Although no mention is made of the occupying battalion in the war diary, I suppose it is possible that it could have been one from the DLI Regiment. I am aware that the 20th Battalion was in that vicinity in September 1916

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