A Tour of Zillebeke Part Two – Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm)

A short distance north east of Bedford House, just south of Zillebeke lake and about a mile and a half west of the village of Zillebeke itself, lies Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm).  This cemetery is another large one, containing nearly 2500 burials, of which 430 are unidentified.  Bounded to the north east by the Ieper-Zillebeke road, and to the south west by the Ieper-Comines railway, the cemetery is sited in a position slightly sheltered by the marginally higher ground towards the east, and during the war the railway embankment provided cover for the numerous dugouts that were constructed in its side.  A small farm also stood on this site; the British, it seems, referred to the place as either Railway Dugouts or Transport Farm (this was the final stopping point for supplies being transported up to the front lines around Hill 60), hence the current title.

You can check out the cemetery plan, by kind permission of the CWGC, here:

Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm) Cemetery Plan

First used in April 1915, the cemetery increased in size greatly during 1916 & 1917 at a time when Advanced Dressing Stations were situated in the dugouts and in the farm; many of the burials here would have been of wounded men who made it this far from the trenches but, sadly, would go no further.  As at Bedford House, other graves were brought in after the Armistice from the battlefield and smaller cemeteries nearby.

A large number of graves here were lost due to heavy shelling, particularly during the summer of 1917, and the Stone of Remembrance is surrounded by special memorials to men “known to be buried in this cemetery”.   The trees in the background line the banks of Zillebeke lake.

Waterlogged Indian graves just inside the entrance in the eastern corner of the cemetery.  Left to right:

NAIK DEVI SINGH40th PATHANSu/k26/04/1915Indian Plot
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Indian Plot
Gr 4

Panoramic view of Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, taken from the circular rows of memorial headstones surrounding the Stone of Remembrance, looking south west towards the railway embankment running across the photograph in the background.  The hill on the horizon just to the right of centre (behind the pole) is the strategically important Kemmelberg (Mont Kemmel), one of the few areas of high ground behind the British lines, and only finally taken by the Germans after heavy fighting in April 1918.

Four headstones in Plot VII next to the cemetery boundary with the railway line and embankment beyond.  Right to left:

A 4
A 3
A 2
A 1

View from near the south west corner of the cemetery looking south east along Plot I Row B (foreground), with Row A behind.

View from Plot I looking the other way across the western wall of the cemetery with the railway now on our left.  Note the single German headstone by the wall at the very end of Row A to the far left of the picture.  Although it might be tempting to wonder whether the water-filled depression in the background is the result of military action, a careful look at the accompanying trench map shows this to be a natural feature.  That’s a pond to you and me.

Trench map of the area south of Zillebeke Lake in June 1916, showing the route we are taking in yellow, and the cemeteries in green; we shall find ourselves to the north east of the lake much later in this tour (and much later in the year, as you’ll see when we get there).  Transport Farm is marked just south west of the lake; the German trenches are marked in red.

View looking north, still from Plot I (first two rows); beyond, all the headstones in front of the two trees comprise Plot II; those in the far centre background make up the tiny Plot V; the remaining headstones (right background and the two rows parallel to the cemetery wall to the left) are Plot IV.  The two headstones in the foreground are, left to right:


Plot I Row M (the second row in the previous picture), looking north east past the Cross of Sacrifice towards the two cemetery entrances in the distance.  A hooded Baldrick (you were wondering where he’d got to, weren’t you?) gazes wistfully across the headstones of Plot II and wonders whether he’ll ever feel his toes again.

Three Durham Light Infantry men in Plot II, left to right:

H 3
H 2
H 1

The lone grave of Private Rumbelow stands slightly apart from the rest of Plot III.  The headstones behind are all in Plot IV.

B 1

An interesting group of three headstones in Plot IV (if you look carefully you can see them in the previous photograph).  The one to the left has two carved regimental badges, the one in the centre is for three unknown Royal Field Artillery drivers, and the headstone to the right has three names but is otherwise entirely plain.  All have the same grave reference.  Left to right:

A 1
A 1
A 1
A 1
A 1

Still in Plot IV (Row M in the foreground), this view looks east towards the Cross of Sacrifice with the Stone of Remembrance beyond.

Plot VI Row R, with the base of the Cross behind and more special memorial headstones (see next photo) just visible in the right background.  Left to right:

R 1
R 2

Valley Cottages Cemetery and Transport Farm Annexe Memorials.  The two rows of Plot VIII can just be seen in front of the wall in the background.

Another view of the special memorials in the previous picture.  The memorial stone (see next picture) is in the centre on the far side of the circles of headstones.

Memorial stone to the seventy two soldiers originally buried in Valley Cottages Cemetery and Transport Farm Annexe whose graves were later destroyed in battle, and who are now remembered here.

A sight the soldiers who lived and died here never saw.

Three of the special memorials that surround the Stone of Remembrance, all for men ‘known to be buried in this cemetery’.  Headstones in Plot VII (the rows directly behind), and Plot VI (the largest plot) can be seen beyond.  Left to right:


The Stone of Remembrance, surrounded by special memorials (Rows B & F nearest camera), with one of the cemetery entrances behind.  This view looks almost directly east where, as you can see, the ground rises ever so slightly, giving this area at least a little shelter from the German machine guns beyond the horizon.  Artillery, as we have already seen, would have been an entirely different matter.

The tops of the four Indian headstones we visited on entering the cemetery are just (and I mean just) visible beyond the headstones to the right of the Stone.

Special memorials Row C (left) and row G (right).  You can clearly see the identification letters inscribed on the edges of the headstones at the end of each row.

Final view from ouside the cemetery boundary.


Addendum March 2016:

Graves Registration Report Form

Graves Registration Report Form (above) and Headstone Inscriptions document (below) showing the details of some of the special memorials in this cemetery (see Terry Williams’ comment below).

Headstone Inscriptions

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49 Responses to A Tour of Zillebeke Part Two – Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm)

  1. John says:

    Thanks for an extraordinary tour of Railway Dugouts. My great uncle is buried at VI D 17. Killed in action 13 June 1916 at Hill 60, the last day of the Battle of Mount Sorrel. CEF 7th battallion British Columbia Regt.

  2. Magicfingers says:

    And thank you for your kind words John. Very sad that your great uncle was killed on the last day of the battle, I would guess during the final Canadian counterattacks early that morning, or perhaps as a result of the German bombardment later in the day once they realised the extent of their positional losses. When I next find myself passing Railway Dugouts I shall most certainly pay my respects.

    • John says:

      I researched my great uncle James Battalion’s War Diary for June 1916. I found it a bit haunting that they had been billeted at Railway Dugouts on the June 1, and June 2 in Brigade Reserve just two weeks before he fell at Hill 60, and returned to rest there.

  3. Julie Patterson says:

    Great site,

    My great uncle was killed in the trenches South East of Zillebeke and has no know grave. Thank you for all your hard work with this site, it is really appreciated. Do you know of any know trench maps for the area south east of Zilleke?

  4. Magicfingers says:

    Thanks ever so Julie. It’s nice to be appreciated. I have just uploaded a trench map to accompany the Tour of Zillebeke which might be of help. Check the Trench Maps section on the home page.

  5. John says:

    I just noticed two weeks ago that Google Earth has finally posted the Ypres area on Street View. I have been virtually touring the roads in the area since. It has been a great help understanding the scale, and lay of the land in the battle areas as well.

  6. Magicfingers says:

    Hi John. Yes, it’s very useful, I must agree. Mind you, they’d better not start wandering around the cemeteries themselves or they’ll make me redundant! And we can’t have that. Certainly not.

  7. Excellent website and information.
    May I ask a question please?
    I’m trying to identify a location called “Gordon Siding” but have failed so far. I know it is in the Zillebeke area and may be close to the railway line that goes south of Zillebeke.
    I would be grateful for any assistance you could provide, please.

    Thanks – Bill Thompson

  8. Magicfingers says:

    Thanks for your kind comments Bill. Much appreciated. Although I have not had time to search through my library to find an answer to your question, I have uploaded two maps of the area north of Zillebeke Lake which suggest a possible answer (you’ll find them if you click the ‘Trench Maps’ link at the top of the page and scroll down to the bottom of the section). On the first map you will see Gordon House marked up near the top of the map. The second map has Gordon House marked not once but twice, in two different places, which seems rather odd, don’t you think? Assuming that the location that is common to both maps is the correct one, and as the other location of Gordon House on the second map appears to mark some railway sidings, what chance that this is actually the location of Gordon Siding(s) and is incorrectly annotated on the map? I don’t know, but it’s a theory. And I will see if I can find any reference in the library when I get the chance.

  9. John says:

    Greetings again! With some lucky research I was able to find the descendant of Lt. Harry G.H. Eamer-Goult who is buried at VI-D-16 at Railway Dugouts, on the immediate left of my great uncle James. The great nephew is in British Columbia about 3100 km from me. A surviving sniper in the Lt.’s platoon named Seymore was able to tell his grandfather in 1963 about the circumstances of the Lieutenants death. In the trench called “Glasgow Cross” on right flank of Sanctuary Hill the Lt. went out with a scouting party on patrol, and was hit in the thigh by a schrapnel ball. They got several Bavarian prisoners to be stretcher bearers to get him back. Once back in the trench the stretcher party was caught in a traverse by a minenwerfer blast, and all were killed. Whether my great uncle or the other two members of the regiment buried alongside the Lt. from VI D-15-18 were killed in the same incident is unknown. If you know anything about the location of “Glasgow Cross” trench I’d really appreciate knowing for my eventual trip to the area. An “eyes right” to you and Balderick for all the wonderful work !

  10. Magicfingers says:

    Hello again John! Good to hear from you, and an interesting tale you have to tell, I must say. By the way, I presume when you say Sanctuary Hill, you are referring to Hill 62 (which is NOT Mount Sorrel, despite the inscription on the memorial), near Sanctuary Wood, where the Canadian Memorial now stands? I ask because your original comment mentions Hill 60 and your great uncle being nearby on 1st & 2nd June and being killed there a couple of weeks later. Seeing he was killed on 13th June, which happens to be the very day that the Canadians attempted to retake Hill 62 (the Germans had taken it two weeks earlier) I’d have thought it highly likely that he was first wounded at or near Hill 62, not Hill 60. And if Sanctuary Hill is actually Hill 62, and you know that Glasgow Cross trench is on the right flank, we will certainly be able to direct you very near, at least, to where he was hit as and when you finally are able to make your European trip.

    Anyway, should I come across Glasgow Cross trench in the meantime I will most certainly let you know; oh, and before I forget, thanks ever so for your kind words. We do put a lot of time and effort into this little site, so it really is nice to know that someone out there appreciates us!!

  11. John says:

    Allo Allo ! The reference to “Sanctuary Hill” came from the great nephews reading of notes given taken by his grandfather of a 1963 conversation with a witness to 2ndLt. Eamer-Gough’s death. I believe there was an error made there somewhere. The inscription on my great uncles family gravestone in my city cemetery refers to my great uncle James as having been killed at Hill 60. I’m also sure I’ve got in my files somewhere a trench map copy from June 12-13 with the indication that the 7th Battalion was in the front line trench at the left flank of Hill 60 itself. On a modern map that is about at the area of ZwarteLeen on the Werviksestratt that is directly east of where the Hill 60 tunnels started, just over the southern wall of Larch Wood Cemetery.

  12. Magicfingers says:

    Ah. All damned confusing, Hills 60 & 62…..and Mount Sorrel come to that.

  13. Bill Thompson says:

    Firstly, apologies for the long delay in replying.
    Thanks for the information re Gordon Siding. I agree that Gordon Siding is more likely to be connected with the Gordon House on the left of the second map rather than the one on the right – if only because there seems to no railway line close to the Gordon House on the right (north-east of Moated Grange). Thanks again – Bill

  14. Magicfingers says:

    Exactly a year! Hello Bill. Glad you are still checking in, if only on a yearly basis! Lol!

  15. Christine says:

    My great uncle George Brown MM is here under reference V11.C.1 according to CWC.

    Do you know if this is a grave or a memorial stone. His details are 72678,69th Coy Machine Gun Corps (Infantry). Thank you for your photographs of this site. I have three great uncles in other war graves.

    • John says:

      Hi Christine,
      Have you brought up the CWGC Cemetery Plan ? It’s link is here below so you can get a idea of the physical layout of the cemetery:


      Your Great Uncle’s grave is at the top left near the diagonal side of the rear cemetery wall. It is only about twenty yards from my one of my Great Uncle’s graves. James Howard Allan who rests at VI-D-17.

      Next is a link below to the photo of your Great Uncle’s actual headstone at Railway Dugouts CWG Burial Ground. It’s on the “War Graves Photographic Project” website.


      You can order a copy of the photo they say. But I have never done so myself. Your Great Uncle’s headstone is an actual physical grave it appears. Were it not, there would be a marking engraved at the top front of the stone stating the circumstances, usually when original graves, or markers were lost or destroyed in subsequent battle.

      I hope our host is not offended by me butting in. But, me thinks he is a tad busy with restoration work. 🙁

  16. Alan Spencer says:

    My great uncle is buried here. Walter Scotson of Spennymoor County Durham, Royal Staffordshire Reg. he died without reaching the front, traveling on a train a couple of months before the end of the war. (At that time, I imagined that it was a large troop train, but perhaps it was simply, a smaller narrow gauge?)..

    I visited his grave around fifteen years ago, the first member of my family to do so. The cemetery is immaculate, as to be expected & my uncles grave was very easy to locate, in the centre of the first row, which made me smile.

    I spent very little time at the cemetery, as i was traveling to Germany and I shall hopefully return soon, to pay my respects & look further around the entire cemetery.

    • Magicfingers says:

      You say a couple of months Alan, but I notice your Great Uncle was killed the day before the German’s Operation Michael began on the Somme in March 1918. No large troop trains could have got close to Zillebeke, and I suspect your theory about a narrow gauge railway is closer to the truth. Quite likely hit by shellfire, I would have thought. A sad tale indeed. He is buried in a fascinating and beautiful cemetery but I also notice that his grave reference is Special Memorial C 16, which suggests that there is a question mark over exactly where he is buried (there are 261 special memorials in the cemetery). You might well be able to find out via the CWGC or the Great War Forum. Your Great Uncle’s headstone, you probably noticed, is visible in the penultimate photograph.

  17. Alan Hughes says:

    My uncle was killed in action 02/09/1915 and is buried at location IF7 at the Railway Dugouts cemetery. I hope to be able to arrange a visit in Sept 2015 to visit the cemetery and view his stone. Thank you for a most brilliant and informative view of the area.

  18. Magicfingers says:

    Thanks Alan. Your comments are appreciated. Hope your trip goes ahead next year and you are able to visit your Uncle’s grave.

  19. Sharon says:

    Thank you so much for this fantastic informative site. My great uncle has a special memorial here C. 14 His name was Gilbert Olney . 8th Bn N. Staffs regiment who was killed in action in the field on 6 May 1917 age 24. He was from Cotmanhay in Derbyshire. I had planned to visit his grave along with his brother who is buried in Franvillers France this year but sadly had to cancel. I really wish I knew where/in which battle he was killed.

  20. Magicfingers says:

    Hey Sharon. Thanks again for your lovely comments. You really need to see the 8th Bn War Diary, from which you should be able to find out what they were up to at the time in question….or get in touch with the Staffordshire Regiment Museum (Google it). They should be able to help. The National Archives, of course, almost certainly have copies of the War Diaries, and the other course of action is The Great War Forum – there is always someone out there itching to solve someone else’s mystery, if you see what I mean.

  21. Diane Watson says:

    Thank you for all this information. I really want to make the trip one day myself to visit my great-grandfather’s marker. I know this information

    United Kingdom Private 15111 Northumberland Fusiliers 02/06/1917 Age: 40 Sp. Mem. E. 1

    and I have read the War Diaries for the 10th Battalion which state that they were stationed at the right subsection of Hill 60 but apart from this all it states is that there were 5 causalities that day so I have no idea how he died or how his body was destroyed afterwards. There is a postcard in my family that was written by him shortly before he died but I would be grateful if you could give me any more information on what could have happened to his body after his death. I have always wondered if the fact that he was a miner before he joined up meant that he had anything to do with the Australian miners, especially since my family emigrated to Australia 30 years ago and would love for there to be some prior connection to Australia!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Diane. Well, we know that Private Noble’s headstone is inscribed with the words ‘Known to be buried in this cemetery’, and we know that some graves at Railway Dugouts were destroyed by German shellfire, so it is reasonable to assume that his original grave was one of those. As for his army service, well, I suppose you need to find out whether his papers survive at the National Archives (check their website and get in touch). You have about a one in three chance, as about 70% were lost in World War II. That might give you a clue with regard to any mining activities he may have been involved in. And of course there is a Fusliers museum, who might be able to help (again, check their website).

      Good luck anyway. And before I forget, thanks for posting your comment; I do hope you get to Railway Dugouts one day.

    • john t noble says:

      Hi Diane,our g g grandfather Joseph Burdon and wife Margery also migrated to Australia in 1869. Burried at New Lambton cemetery Newcastle N.S.W.

  22. Terry Williams says:

    My wife and I are visiting the cemetery on Wednesday, 30.3.16 to pay our respects to my great uncle Arthur Richard Evans, service no. 29799, of the Gloucestershire Regiment’ He was killed on 7.5.17 and is buried here. His gravestone is located in Sp. Mem. plot E31. My query is: is he actually buried there, or is the headstone merely a commemorative one because it is known that he is buried somewhere in the cemetery.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Terry. In answer to your question I have added a couple of documents at the end of this post that should clear the matter up. When you visit, as you pass the more than 400 unidentified burials at Railway Dugouts, you will know that one of them is your Great Uncle. Incidentally, his headstone is visible in the photo five from the end (the one with the train) of the post; the headstone nearest the camera at this end of the left of the two curved rows. By the way, you might consider, if you haven’t already, looking at some of the other posts in the Zillebeke category (there are 18 in all) as you are going to be in the area. There are some fascinating sights to see within a very short distance of Railway Dugouts – Hill 60, the Palingbeek, Larch Wood, and Caterpillar Crater to name but four! I hope you have an excellent trip.

    • James Morgan says:

      Terry Williams: I am related to Arthur Evans too. Apparently, he is my great-great uncle. I have some photos of entries from his death records and also of his grave stone. I only found out about him by chance when I was researching my family tree and someone contacted me and gave me some information. Please feel free to contact me. James Morgan

  23. Lyn Cook says:

    hI fantastic Informative site . My sister and I are taking my father (89) to visit his uncles’grave on 16th April.’16 His grave is VI.Q.17 – John SINCLAIR no.15949 from the DLI. He was killed on 1.1.17 but am unaware of how or what activity was taking place at that time.
    #My query is a practical one that I hope you can help me with.We are travelling from Bruge on the Saturday pm to visit his grave and be at the Menin Gate /Ypes for the Last post. Am having problem finding a car/driver/guide who can take us from our hotel and back- probably 1pm-9pm.Any ideas or local contacts. Grateful for any help you can give me

  24. Alistair Bulloch says:


    Friends of mine are visiting the Salient next year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of their relative Gunner James Thompson (118666): he is buried in Railway Dugouts. James was in A battery of the 149th Brigade, dying of wounds. Presumably, he had been treated in the nearby ADS. Is there any way to find more information on the ADS stationed there and on the location of the battery?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Honestly, that’s a tricky one, but I will ask a few questions and if I come up with anything I will post it here. Might be worth contacting the RAMC in the Great War website with regard to the ADS.


      • Alistair Bulloch says:


        Thanks for your time – I’ll have a look at the RAMC. I’ve found one site (Derbyshire Territorials in the Great War) which pinpoints the 2nd ADS in the embankments at Railway Dugouts so there is information to be found by digging around!
        As for gun batteries, are there any war diaries for them (unlikely I suspect but …….)?


        • Magicfingers says:

          Alistair, there are indeed artillery war diaries, but whether they are available online or not I don’t know. Nor how detailed they would be. But if I come up with anything else I’ll let you know. I shall check out the Derbyshire Territorial site you mention myself. Sounds interesting.

  25. Barbara Hancock says:

    Thank you so much for this informative site. My uncle, Private 16435 Arthur Clowes, 1st Bn. North Staffs. Regiment, was killed on 12th June 1917 and is buried here (Sp. Memorial C.8.) We are hoping to go there on the centenary of his death this year. The tour we are taking is to the Ypres area and from maps I have seen I think we should be able to take a taxi from Ypres to Railway Dugouts Burial Ground. Do you think that is feasible?

  26. Marilyn Vogel says:

    My great uncle buried here (name mentioned in above table/list). William ELENER – he left Hartlepool, UK and emigrated to Canada and joined Canadian Infantry. We salute the courage of the men who fought to free us.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Well said Marilyn. Thanks for commenting.

      • John says:

        Pvt. Elener joined up with the 7th B.C Regiment the same my two great uncles fought with. Though they enlisted with the 34th Ontario Batt., and were transferred to the 7th on Arrival in France

        One of the two, Pvt. James Howard Allan fell on the 13th June 1916 at Hill 60, about five weeks before Marilyn’s great uncle. James rests at VI D 17 here at Railway Dugouts. I’ll have a look at the 7th’s War Diaries tomorrow, and see if there are any clues there. Right away I’m seeing two different Dates of Death at CWGC for Pvt. Elener, 25, and 28 July, 1916.

  27. John says:

    Greetings my friend, and same to Marilyn !
    It is unusual, and here fortunate to see the CWGC list Private Elener’s Company assignment (1 Coy) on the certificate. The Register lists the death as the 25th July 1916, while the Graves registration form has it as the 28th. The 7th Battalion’s War Diary lists them as moving into The Bluffs sector on the 21st. The 25th July is listed as “Quiet all day”, but reports that the Germans exploded a large mine in the Bluffs Sector at 10pm that night, and that specifically Pvt. Elener’s 1st Company rapidly moved up to secure the crater while the friendly artillery, and machine guns kept the Germans in their trenches. By midnight the same night the 7th Battalion is relieved by the 4th., and they moved back to “Dominion Lines”.

    This was apparently a major action as the War Diary reports both General’s Currie, and Loomis visited the Battalion just two days later on the 27th for inspection and to “congratulate all ranks on splendid behavior night of 25th when enemy exploded mine”.

    The second date mentioned as date of death, the War Diary records as “Battalion sports this afternoon. Enemy artillery active night of 27/28.” Obviously stationed in the rear. Which to mind makes it much more likely that Pvt. Elener fell on the 25th in some manner connected to firing of the German mine, and the rush by his Company to occupy and defend the resulting crater. Though without other information one could never rule out a loss from a random artillery shell any day, anywhere in the Ypres region.

    • Magicfingers says:

      I have looked at the report forms too, and yes, surely 25th is most likely, I’m with you. There are many transcription errors on the CWGC database that I’ve stumbled across over the years, and the 28th appears to be another. Thanks for painting the picture of what happened on the 25th.

  28. Iorwerh Griffith says:

    Looking for uncle who is buried in Ypres cementry ,he was in the glouscester regiment His name Owen Griffith 39074killed in action 5 11 1917 Could you tell me the name of the cementry he is buried

    • Magicfingers says:

      I can do that. He is remembered here at Railway Dugouts, I think in the inner circle of Special Memorial headstones around the Stone of Remembrance (see photo 2 and others near the end). Which means he is known to be buried among the unidentfied burials in this cemetery, but his grave was among those lost due to German shelling.

  29. Laura Newheiser says:

    Thank you for this information, I recently found a picture of a family member standing by a war grave in this cemetery. On investigation I have found that my 2nd Great uncle fought and died in WW1 on the 10th March 1916, his name was J. raper 5th Bt Northumberland fusiliers. I’m currently a little confused as his full name is John William Raper but I seem to be finding him listed as John, James and William all of which the records place at the same address in coxlodge, Newcastle upon Tyne. They investigation continues but it is Fanta that I can place the old photo with the ones you provide. Thank you!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Laura. Yes, I know how it feels when you can add another piece of the jigsaw. Thanks for your kind words. Glad I could be of help.

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