Lancashire Cottage Cemetery is situated about three quarters of a mile east of Ploegsteert Village along what was once the main route to the front lines, only a short distance down the road in front of the hamlet of Le Gheer (now simply Gheer). Begun by the East Lancashire Regiment and the Hampshire Regiment in November 1914, the cemetery was used regularly until early 1916, and occasionally afterwards.
View from the western end of the Cemetery looking east. The headstones nearest the camera comprise Plot III, while Plot II begins just past the shadow of the tree, with Plot I in the distance. The cemetery entrance is to the left of the tree, the road is just beyond the cemetery wall, and in the left background Ploegsteert Wood can just be seen to the north of the road. The front line ran from north to south down the eastern edge of the wood (from left to right in the photo) just half a mile away from here. Here’s the CWGC cemetery plan:
Lancashire Cottage Cemetery Plan
Two special memorial headstones, both “Known to be buried in this cemetery”. Left to right:
|PRIVATE T. J. DAVIES||SOUTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||08/11/1915||Spec. Mem|
|PRIVATE A. CHAPMAN||CHESHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||08/11/1915||Spec. Mem|
Four Durham burials from the last few months of the war, tucked away in the south east corner of the cemetery. Left to right:
|PRIVATE H. IREDALE||DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY||19||01/10/1918||III E 1|
|PRIVATE G. W. GROUNSELL||DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY||19||29/09/1918||III E 2|
|PRIVATE J. SHEARD||DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY||18||30/09/1918||III E 3|
|LANCE CORPORALT. H. CORNER||DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY||25||30/09/1918||III E 4|
View looking east from Plot II towards the Cross. Note the German headstones beneath the southern wall of the cemetery. The headstone nearest the camera is that of Private B. Broomfield (see next photograph).
The lone headstone of Private Broomfield.
Baldrick, here looking particularly stylish, peruses the German headstones.
Three East Lancashire Regiment burials from 1914, left to right:
|LANCE CORPORAL S. LINNEY||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||26||10/11/1914||I A 1|
|PRIVATE E. BICKERSTAFFE||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||11/11/1914||I A 1|
|PRIVATE R. THOMPSON||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||36||09/11/1914||I A 1|
Three East Lancashire Regiment burials from 1915, left to right:
|PRIVATE E. HIGHAM||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||32||29/01/1915||I E 12|
|LANCE CORPORAL J. SELF||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||18||29/01/1915||I E 12|
|PRIVATE J. T. DEWSNIP||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||28/01/1915||I E 12|
Lancashire Cottage Cemetery is unusual in that, apart from a few examples in the previous and next two photos, many of the headstones are spaced some distance from each other, as this view across Plot I looking south west shows.
There are some unusual headstones in this cemetery too. Here the headstones to the left and right are each inscribed with two names, whilst the middle one is blank except for the cross, presumably because of the lack of room for a cross on those on either side. The names on the headstone to the left are:
|SERJEANT J. P. CORBETT||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||24||02/11/1914||I A 2|
|LANCE CORPORAL P. DEAKIN||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||02/11/1914||I A 2|
The names on the right are:
|PRIVATE G. SCHOLES||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||03/11/1914||I A 2|
|PRIVATE H. CLARKE||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||02/11/1914||I A 2|
On this occasion the two end headstones are inscribed with three names each, and again the middle one has just a cross. The names on the headstone to the left are:
|PRIVATE G. RAYNER||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||33||12/11/1914||I A 5|
|PRIVATE W. LYNES||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||14/11/1914||I A 5|
|PRIVATE R. GREEN||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||35||13/11/1914||I A 5|
The names on the right are:
|PRIVATE W. VAREY||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||09/11/1914||I A 5|
|PRIVATE G. WILSON||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||12/11/1914||I A 5|
|PRIVATE M. JOYCE||EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||25||11/11/1914||I A 5|
A decorated Corporal of the Devonshires.
Our journey now continues along the southern boundary of the wood to the hamlet of Gheer (visible on the horizon in the picture below). From there we shall head north, following the front line up the eastern edge of the wood, before finally turning west and ending our tour back at Prowse Point Military Cemetery, where it all began.
Watch this space folks. There’s more to come…
I remember one particular excursion which involved a farmer, his son, and, one might say, a rather muddy road…
You call that a road?
No, but you did!
Ha! That I cannot argue with. But, as the farmer’s son said to us, “At least now you have a better idea of what it was like for the soldiers”.
Hello again! I’ve been binge-viewing your blog over the holiday, and enjoying it immensely. Question… I’ve noticed that some of the headstones are placed quite close together, while others are evenly spaced. Still others are off on their own. Why is that?
A good question Eric, and the answer often depends on the site of the cemetery. Firstly, the further away from the front lines, the safer it was to bury men, and thus the cemeteries behind the lines tend to be more structured, evenly spaced etc, than those made under shellfire, where the idea was to get men buried as quickly as possible without losing any of the burial party. Touching headstones can mean a number of things; if the dates are the same and a handful of headstones are touching it could well mean that a shell caught a group of men and it was not possible to identify them individually, so they are buried together under touching headstones. Or it may be that men were simply buried close together so that when their original crosses were replaced by CWGC headstones, then the headstones ended up being very close to each other. Single graves can be for all sorts of reasons, but one common one was if a man was killed and there was a nearby battlefield cemetery then he would probably be buried there, but without being too gruesome, for sanitation purposes not too close to the men already buried there; also there would quite probably be shell holes in the cemetery during its time of use, which can account for gaps in cemeteries. And often those gaps once contained burials that were lost due to shellfire. That is a very brief answer to your question, but of course there might be all sorts of other reasons for specific burials that we simply do not know about.
Excellent. Thanks for your insight. Your comment that those headstones pressed close together possibly indicates the impossibility of individually identifying the men makes a lot of sense. This past fall, I visited the Cambrai Tank Museum. Five of the crew of D51 Deborah were killed when the tank was struck by shells, and are buried together in the adjoining Flesquieres Hill Cemetery. The headstones are close together. In looking at the tank, I can imagine it was quite difficult to discern who was who within the wreckage.
Absolutely right. Sadly, that is a perfect example.
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