South of Ploegsteert Part Four – Motor Car Corner Cemetery

As is invariably the case, thanks to the CWGC, the route to Motor Car Corner Cemetery is clearly signposted, as are the two other cemeteries we have yet to visit on this tour.

So we’ll go that way then, shall we?

Parking just beyond the cemetery, this view looks north back along the road down which we have just come.  Ploegsteert Wood is about a mile and a half away, obscured by the row of trees to the right of the picture.

Motor Car Corner is the odd one out of the six cemeteries on this tour.  This is not a cemetery from the early years of the war, but from the summer and autumn of 1917; the first three burials were made on 7th June 1917, the opening day of the Battle of Messines (Messines – now known as Mesen – village is only about four miles north of here), and the cemetery was rarely used after the end of the year.

Cemetery entrance.  Motor Car Corner was thus named as it marked the furthest point east that military vehicles were allowed to travel on their way to the front line.  Relief parties would begin their journey to the trenches from here; men would be met by guides who would conduct them to the front lines, and supplies would be transported via the light railway that ran alongside where the cemetery now stands.  If you look at the Cemetery Plan, presumably drawn back in the 1920s and used by kind permission of the CWGC, you will see that the railway is still marked.

London Rifle Brigade Cemetery Plan

The majority of the burials here are New Zealanders; of the 131 burials in the cemetery 84 are from New Zealand.

Middlesex and Australian burials from late 1917 at the end of Row A.

When the area was in German hands between April and September 1918, they buried a number of their dead alongside the British, New Zealand & Australian graves already here.  All were removed after the war except, for some unknown reason, the one pictured above at the end of Row C.  As far as I can ascertain, the German graves were originally in the cornfield beyond the rather curious zigzag wall (see previous photo) here at the northern end of the cemetery.

The next headstone is the final British burial, that of Captain William Forsyth of the R.A.F..  Buried by the Germans in June 1918, he was originally an Artillery Officer and one wonders whether he met his death as an observer spotting for British artillery.  Perhaps his pilot survived and was captured, or perhaps he is buried elsewhere.  Who knows.  The graves at the end of Row D in the background are the final Australian burials from early 1918.

View looking south east from the cemetery’s northern boundary.

Above & photos below:  The earliest burials in the cemetery, men of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment buried in Row A in early June 1917…

…and men of the Otago, Auckland & Wellington Regiments who were killed during or just after the Battle of Messines.

Last view of Motor Car Corner Cemetery before we head a few hundred yards east where the fifth cemetery on our tour, Tancrez Farm Cemetery, awaits.

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4 Responses to South of Ploegsteert Part Four – Motor Car Corner Cemetery

  1. Desmarets Réal says:

    Two brothers are buried here….Allan Holz (A15) and Ernest Holz (A16) Wellington Regiment, N.Z.E.F.
    At 1.30 a.m. on 13 June 1917, a shell fired by a German artillery unit on the far side of Messines ridge landed several miles to the west in Pont-de-Nieppe, hitting a room in which a number of New Zealand soldiers were staying. The explosion killed brothers Allan (24) and Ernest Holz (33), and left their brother William (30) with severe shrapnel wounds to his abdomen, wrist, hip and foot.
    Allan and Ernest were buried beside each other in the Motor Car Corner Cemetery on the outskirts of Armentières, while William was evacuated to England for surgery. The severity of his wounds saw him classified as medically unfit for further service, and he returned to New Zealand on the hospital ship Marama in mid-July 1917.The three Holz brothers had volunteered in Wellington in September/October 1916. By January 1917 they were on their way to England to complete their training. As sons of a German immigrant (who had become a naturalised British subject in New Zealand in 1884), it is likely that they faced some prejudice and social exclusion in the training camps in England. Reinforcement troops with German ancestry were often assigned to base details or as camp labourers. Despite this policy, the brothers spent just a month at the New Zealand Depot at Sling and Codford before heading to France on 27 May 1917 to join the 3rd Battalion, The Wellington Infantry Regiment. Within a fortnight, all three had become casualties.

    After learning of the Holz brothers’ fate in early July, New Zealand’s Minister of Defence, Sir James Allen, visited their widowed mother in Wellington to deliver the sad news personally. Contemporary newspapers recorded the poignant event:

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Réal. I suspect you added something from the papers at the end of your comment which hasn’t appeared? Anyway, thank you very much indeed for the above. Fascinating, I must say. I showed a couple of people at work your comments and also showed them on a map where the Holz brothers were when they were hit, and roughly where the German artillery would have been. You just weren’t safe anywhere, from anywhere, if you see what I mean. I visited Pont-de-Nieppe late last year and photographed all the cemeteries in the area; the results will all appear here sooner or later.

  2. Réal Desmarets says:

    Nothing is missing to comment!! a little sad not to be able to put the picture of the Holz brothers

    • Magicfingers says:

      If you will allow me to email you off-site (I have your address), and I wouldn’t do so without your permission, then I would be happy to add a picture to the post of the Holz brothers if you send me one.

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