Half a mile east of London Rifle Brigade Cemetery our second stop, Gunners Farm Cemetery, is somewhat smaller; 172 men were buried here in the year between July 1915 and July 1916 (there are three later burials and four Germans, two of whom are unidentified).
The land tablet (the cemetery entrance is obscured behind). I believe that the farm after which the cemetery is named was located across the road where the modern buildings now stand.
The first four rows contain the earliest graves, men of the Essex and Suffolk Regiments killed between late July and September 1915. The German graves in the foreground were made in 1918 when the area was in German hands. The huge mass of Ploegsteert Wood is clearly visible on the northern horizon.
Gunners Farm Military Cemetery Plan
The majority of burials in Rows E & F (right), and G, H & I (left), are Lancashire Fusiliers and men of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, killed between late October 1915 and the end of January 1916.
A closer view of some of the Lancashire men, Fusiliers nearest the camera and Loyal North Lancs in the right background. Many of the burials further back are Cameronians and Highland Light Infantry who died holding this sector in February and March 1916.
Above & below: At the northern boundary of the cemetery, the final two rows consist of men of the Queen’s and West Kents, who held the front line just east of here in the summer of 1916 (as you will already know if you visited London Rifle Brigade Cemetery with us earlier)…
…as well as a number of South African soldiers buried here at the same time.
The grave of Private Lurie, the last of nine South Africans buried in the cemetery in May and June 1916.
|PRIVATE I. LURIE||4th REGT. SOUTH AFRICAN INFANTRY||23||05/06/1916||R 5|
One of eight Queen’s graves, all dating from June and July 1916; as you will have gathered by now, the Queen’s used a number of cemeteries around here to bury their dead in the summer of 1916.
|PRIVATE F. W. BARTLETT||THE QUEEN'S (ROYAL WEST SURREY REGIMENT)||u/k||02/06/1916||R 6|
Pictured earlier (when the sun was out), these twelve men of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (the headstone to the far right is a later burial) all died on the same day in early December 1915. I have read, on too many occasions, accounts of a single shell explosion killing a dozen men, and whatever happened to these twelve, they died on the battlefield and were buried together in this mass grave. Each of the two headstones either side of the regimental badge and cross is inscribed with three names:
Those on the two headstones on the left are:
|CORPORAL J. FINALL||PRIVATE J. CRAWSHAW|
|PRIVATE G. CROOK||PRIVATE W. HARRISON|
|PRIVATE J. CONNOR||PRIVATE R. CALVERT|
|THE LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||02/12/1915|
Those on the two headstones to the right are:
|PRIVATE J. HAND||PRIVATE H. PARKINSON|
|PRIVATE T. P. RYAN||PRIVATE T. TURNER|
|PRIVATE T. EDWARDS||PRIVATE E. JONES|
|THE LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||02/12/1915|
All have the same grave reference number, H 5. The headstone to the far right is that of:
|PRIVATE W. DUTY||THE LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT||u/k||29/12/1915||H 6|
Back at Row A, the earliest burials in the cemetery, men of the Essex Regiment nearest the camera and Suffolk men beyond, with one of the German graves in the foreground.
If you were to enlarge this photo and zoom in on the gap between the trees, you will just make out the Cross of Sacrifice in the next cemetery we shall be visiting, Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery, just a few hundred yards to the east.
Cross of Sacrifice.
Baldrick inspects the visitor’s book.
Final panoramic view looking north towards Ploegsteert Wood on the horizon to the right, and west towards the farm buildings on the far left. Let’s not forget that everything you can see in this photograph was within easy reach of German artillery pretty much throughout the whole war. It’s hard to imagine what this view would have looked like in the summer of 1916. Or maybe it isn’t.
Anyway, for us, it’s time to move on. Just a minute down the road, as we have already seen, Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery awaits.
See comment below for possible relevance of the following pics:
My grandmothers older brother Lance Corporal Col Sycamore is buried there. He was killed in August 1915 having joined up in 1914 aged 17 or 18….he might well have been one of Kitchener´s “first 500,000” – I remember my Grandmother having a book entitled that and looking at it when I was a young boy…it was already very old. As a keen cyclist there is a nice memorial ride of about 180km´s all through the area in September and I was able to detour very slightly and visit his grave which was an honour. I am also very lucky to have some postcards written from Folkstone and Belgium to my grandmother by Col before he was killed. I have tracked his records down through the CWG but I was wondering did the Army/Regiment have any more detailed service records of where how and when Col was killed? ….is it possible to access these? Shame I cant post a photo or I could share with you a couple of very nice pics, but thanks for you site and work. Regards, Lee.
Lee, first of all thank you so much for your most interesting comment and kind words. If He Who Controls This Website From Afar sees this, perhaps he’ll come up with a way that you could post a photo. Me, I’m just the photographer and scribe. And researcher.
The National Archives hold what are referred to as the ‘Burnt Papers’. During WWII many of the soldiers’ Service Records were lost thanks to the Luftwaffe; the remaining two million documents (classified by the NA as WO 363) might hold Lance Corporal Sycamore’s papers. You have about a four in ten chance! And of course the regimental war diary is worth tracking down. You may find it online. You may have to pay for it though.
Finally, take another look at the end of the post above. Is that the book you refer to, by any chance? Thanks once again for commenting.
I visited this Cemetery in April 2007, with a group of people from my church on a pilgrimage. My Great Uncle Frederick Ashworth is buried here. He was a member of the Cyclist Corps and died on 16th March 1916. I have lots of information about him from my family history. I would really like to know more about what happened to him. I was surprised at how emotional I found that visit, to the grave of a man I didn’t know at all, but the connection with family was quite overwhelming, and made me realise what they gave for us. how life might have been different if he had been in my life, as were some of his brothers.
Yes Maureen, it’s a sobering thought that many, many, people could say, like you, ‘how life might have been different if he had been in my life’. The country would be so ‘different’, despite another World War, if all those who died had in fact lived full and long lives. Ifs and buts.
Have you looked for the Cyclist Corps war diaries? That’s the place to start if you already have some of his details such as medal index cards etc. Otherwise check on Ancestry.
And welcome, by the way!