South of Ploegsteert Part Three – Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery

Just a couple of hundred yards east of Gunner’s Farm Military Cemetery, on the opposite side of the road, lies the third cemetery on our tour – Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery.  Begun late in November 1914 by men of the Essex Regiment (a single grave of a Royal Lancaster Regiment man, now situated near the rear of the cemetery, had been here since late October), the cemetery was used on a regular basis until September 1915.  Thereafter it was used only sporadically, most notably in June and July 1916 when a number of men from the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) and the Queen’s Own (West Kent) Regiments were buried here, until the final burial was made in January 1917.

If we were to stroll a further mile down the road we would be standing where the front lines ran for much of the war.

All of the 218 burials in the cemetery are identified.

The Cemetery Plan, courtesy of the CWGC, can be viewed here:

Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery Plan

Looking east towards the Cross of Sacrifice with Plot IV Row A nearest the camera and the first three rows of Plot I beyond.  Plot IV contains the later burials made here, alongside 20 men of the Worcester Regiment who all died between the end of April and early June 1915.

By the end of April 1915 the Essex Regiment had buried 85 of their men in this little cemetery…

…and the Monmouths 45.  This view from the northern corner looks south east across Plot I, by far the largest of the four plots.

View from the same spot as the previous picture, this time looking south west.  Plot IV, which we shall visit next, is in the background.

Two of a handful of men of the Royal West Kent Regiment who were buried here in July 1916.  Left to right:


On the evening of 24th June 1916, after a quiet day in the trenches, the Germans began a bombardment of the Queen’s positions not far from here.  Eight men buried in Plot IV tell the tale of that night, as does the Battalion War Diary (courtesy of the Surrey History Centre):

The final three burials in the cemetery, left to right:


Update December 2016: Almost exactly four years after I first published this post, I am now fortunate enough to be able to add a face to a name (big thanks to Ian Newman – see the comments section at the end of the post):


This is Corporal William Henry Jenkin, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), photographed in early 1916 with his wife Selina and new baby William Ernest.


Brothers in Arms: In an earlier photograph Will stands at the back, staring straight into the camera, along with his brothers, from left, Fred, Percy & Ernie, all three of whom would survive the war.


In case you hadn’t realised, Will’s headstone is the one on the left of the three headstones three photos back.

Plot III, at the back of the cemetery, is made up of 22 men of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), who died between July and September 1915.

Plot III Row D, the final Buffs burials from September 1915.

Plot II consists of five men of the Suffolk Regiment, alongside three more Essex men, all buried here in July 1915.  Plot III is in the background.

View from the eastern corner of the cemetery, looking west (above), and north west (below).

Should you ever visit Calvaire and should you decide to take a wander round the back of the cemetery (below), as I did, I suggest you take great care; the picture above doesn’t really show it, but there is a huge drop down through these trees that would do you serious damage were you to lose your footing.  Anyway, time to move on.  Still three more cemeteries to visit before the end of the tour.

Next stop: Motor Car Corner Cemetery.

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21 Responses to South of Ploegsteert Part Three – Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery

  1. Clare Davies says:

    found your impressive blog through Google – just wanted to say thank you for these photos which show my grandfather’s uncle’s grave. It’s the first opportunity he has had for seeing the grave of his mum’s favourite brother – Dickie Jones. Keep up the sterling work!

  2. Magicfingers says:

    That’s brilliant Clare. I am so pleased. Thanks ever so for your kind comments.

  3. Joe Orgar says:

    I must thank you for a great web site and photographs.

    This is the area where my grandad was in August 1915 with the 6th Buffs.

    Did you manage to identify where Despierre farm is in this area?

    • chris Price says:

      Hi Joe, do you know much as to what the 6th Buffs were doing in the area at the time. I am doing a little research on HC Friend of the Buffs who is buried in this cemetery

  4. Magicfingers says:

    Hello Joe. Thanks very much indeed for your kind comments, and to answer your question, I certainly did. Click on the Tour Maps link up near the top of the page. You will see I have put a yellow marker on the map just east of Calvaire; this was the site of Despierre Farm, and yes, it is quite deliberately placed just to the west of where the new farm now stands.

  5. chris Price says:

    Hi Joe
    any knowledge as to what the 6th Buffs were doing here I have an interest in HC Friend, the Buffs buried here.

  6. John Watkins says:

    Visited Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery in April 2014 to pay respects at the grave of Pte. Bertie Boosey, 2nd Bn Essex Regt, died 16/04/1915 near here. Bertie is named on the Foulness Island War Memorial in Essex and is a family relative on my maternal grandmothers side. hope to vist again, on the centenary of his death, this time with trench map and Bn War Diary to hand. Thanks for this site and photos.

  7. Ian Newman says:

    Just found your brilliant website whilst doing a Google search.

    Thanks very much for your consideration in posting your excellent pictures. My Mother’s Uncle Will’s [Corporal William Henry Jenkin, “D” Company, 11th.Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey regiment)] headstone appears in the “Last three buried” photo above (Calvaire (Essex) Military Cemetery) and although we had already a good photo of it from the War Graves Commission, yours shows the nearby graves as well, which is nice. “One day” I hope to go and visit.

    I do have two photographs of Will in uniform, one with his other three brothers (who survived), one with his wife and young son, should you be interested in seeing the face
    behind the headstone so to speak. Seeing the Army despatches you posted now gives me a link to try for more info on how he fell. Thankyou.

    Another of my Mother’s Uncles lies in the Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery, Somme, France. He was Robert (Bob) Whincop Ayres (Rifleman 3598, 8th Battalion, London Regiment [Post Office Rifles]). Another fallen Family member I hope to visit.

    Anyway, again – thanks.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hey Ian, you are too kind! Thanks so much for your nice comments. You take the photos, you write the text, you upload the post, the regulars, bless ’em, read it, but its always great when someone stumbles across this site and finds it of interest……and bothers to tell me about it! I don’t know what you think of this, but I’d be most happy to add a photo of Will (if I may call him Will) to this post. There is nothing quite like putting a face to a name. Let me know if this would be acceptable and if so I will email you off-site.

    • Juley Ayres says:


      I found this blog on a general google with my Grandfather’s name, very interesting blog.
      I was responding to Ian’s comment above. My name is Juley Ayres, my Grandfather is Robert Whincop Ayres mentioned above. I have a copy of a of photo of Will from my Gran’s collection ( she was Susan Ellen Ayres ne. Jenkin) it is marked ‘Our Will’ written in pen in top left corner and also a group one of the family. Ian, If you’d like a copy please let me know.
      My grandfather was killed when my own father was a babe in arms and I know so very little about him and it seems every puzzle piece is of interest, however small.
      Thanks for the blog.
      Best wishes,

  8. Ian Newman says:

    Not a problem – feel free to email.

  9. Ian Newman says:

    Photos finally sent!

  10. stephen binks says:

    My early photographs are really poor, so together with your images and the cwgc plan, I can make sense of my notes. Here at Calvaire, after research, I found there are four 16 year old boys buried here:
    2192 Private William Arthur Day
    2932 Rifleman John Francis Saunders
    2130 Private Henry Shaw
    G/3974 Private John Seaman

    • Magicfingers says:

      That’s very interesting Stephen. And one of the things I try to look out for these days; these pics were taken a few years ago now in the relatively early days of this site. At some point over the next couple of years, if I’m spared, I intend to revisit all the Ploegsteert cemeteries, see what has changed, and add stuff such as these four boys (so if you have, or find, any details on them, any chance of sharing? I rarely have the time to research individual soldiers – takes enough time writing this stuff as it is!). Anyway, it’s a future project. Glad I could be of help anyway.

  11. Miles Gentle says:

    PTE Mark Steward (2bn, Essex Regiment), my great grandfather, lies in grave 1A6.

    Aged 28, he died on 17th December 1914. He was a silk dyer from Bradford Street in Braintree before volunteering. My grandmother remembered waving him off before his death a only few days later, likely (according to the Essex Regiment Museum curator) the victim of a sniper.

    I visited Calvaire in 2017, finding it peaceful and beautifully kept.

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