St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery.
Before we go in, a quick reminder of exactly where we are. The trench map above shows the locations of St. Quentin Cabaret and, just half a mile south east at the very bottom of the map, the two cemeteries at La Plus Douve Farm that we visited recently, and their proximity to the front line trenches in the upper right quarter. The road through Wulverghem leads directly to Messines (now Mesen), less than a mile away off the map to the east (right).
The layout of the cemetery is unusual (and to my eyes somewhat unsatisfactory, but that is beside the point), consisting of two large plots set at right angles to each other. St. Quentin Cabaret itself was an inn before the war, and often used as a battalion headquarters during it. There was also a Regimental Aid Post here, as the rows of headstones attest.
Plot I, the earliest, comprises all the headstones in the foreground that face away from the camera, Plot II all the headstones facing roughly north (to the right) in the background (see St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery Plan). The cemetery was begun in March 1915 (there is a single burial from November 1914) and used regularly until the front lines moved west in June 1917 after the Battle of Messines. Thereafter only a handful of burials were made between July & December, the area was captured by the Germans in April 1918, and just two South Wales Borderers were buried here during the final British offensive in early October.
At the end of Plot I Row F one of only six unidentified burials, out of a total of 460 men interred here, lies next to three men of the South Staffordshire Regiment. Although a few burials had already been made in March, from early April 1915 the South Staffordshires became the first regiment to use the cemetery on a regular basis.
Looking down the length of Plot I Rows G (left) and F. The unidentified burial in the previous photo is the headstone nearest the camera, and most of the other burials in Row F are South Staffordshires, who left 32 of their men here when they were relieved in June 1915. Going back to my earlier comment, if you are looking at the cemetery plan, don’t you think it looks rather like someone’s chucked three walls around the two plots using the space provided, and added a low circular wall beneath the Cross of Sacrifice that doesn’t bear much relation to the headstones it immediately faces (the wall and headstones pictured above, in fact)? Not Mr. Charles Holden’s finest hour in my humble opinion, although I suppose you might ask what else could he do?
Something better, frankly.
Having said all that, I do think that Holden’s design of the cemetery entrance, with a gate on either side of the Cross of Sacrifice, looks impressive, both from within the cemetery, and without (see first photo). Somewhere near the top of the list, I think (yes, of course I have a list of ‘Favourite Cemetery Entrances’. Doesn’t everyone?). This view looks north east across the headstones of Plot I, the Cross of Sacrifice and cemetery entrance in the background. There are 68 Canadian burials in the cemetery, many of them in Rows B & C (second & third rows), and most killed during the last few months of 1915.
The lone headstone of Lance Corporal Troughton of the Border Regiment, killed in the days prior to the Battle of Messines, stands at the end of Plot II.
Looking east across Plot II, with Rows R & P in the foreground and the headstones of Plot I in the background…
…and panning right from the same spot, looking down the length of Plot II with the end of Row P now nearest the camera. Note the German grave at the end of Row L, and another in Row N. To avoid any confusion, I ought to mention that Rows I, M, O & Q do not exist (check out that cemetery plan again)!
The far, southern, end of Plot II, Rows A (background) to D. You will notice that Row C contains nothing but New Zealand burials, nearly all of whom are Otago Regiment men killed on 24th March 1917. The New Zealanders set up an Advanced Dressing Station at nearby Kandahar Farm in preparation for the Battle of Messines, and sited two Regimental Aid Posts nearer the front lines, one at La Plus Douve Farm, as we have seen, and one at St. Quentin Cabaret. Both places were linked to Kandahar Farm A.D.S., from here just a quarter of a mile away to the west, by trench tramway, and both were equipped with an ambulance. Between March and June 1917 64 New Zealand burials were made here, all in what is now Plot II.
Back at the Cross of Sacrifice Baldrick replaces the cemetery register before we take our leave…
…because if we’re quick about it, there’s just time to visit the men whose war ended at the A.D.S. at Kandahar Farm before the sun finally sets.
The Author of “A Rifleman went to War” Capt. Herbert W. McBride was an American who traveled to Canada to enlist in the 21st Battalion C.E.F. This book and his other “The Emma Gees” are both available free, or close to free on the net. His first day on the front line happened to be in front of Messines in the fall of 1915. The first night Oct 3rd, an 18 year old in his section Pvt. James Bowyer was killed in his first night venture into No Mans Land. The next day William Starkey peeked over the parapet to get a better view and was taken by a sniper.
To quote Capt. McBride from the book ” We buried the two of them in a garden back of the lines, where many others of the best and most famous British line regiments also lay.”
The “garden” what ever it was before and during the Great War became St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery. I have seen intelligence photos of the area where a triangular wall seems to have existed in the exact same location as the present CWGC cemetery wall.
Privates James Bowyer, and William Starkey are buried side by side in Plot 1, Row C Graves 2, and 3.
Now that is interesting stuff, my friend.
Now onto that distant literary connection I mentioned in your La Plus Douve posting. Later in “The Rifleman Goes to War” Captain McBride, 21st Battalion CEF describes moving west along the front line trench and to the old rail cutting that runs along side Hill 60… during the furious shelling that followed the Canadian advance on June 13, 1916. The end of the Battle of Mount Sorrel. He describes the minenwerfer barrage he could see hitting the Canadian held trenches ahead of him in front of and just past the front of Hill 60. Precisely where, and when my great uncle James of the 7th Battalion CEF was killed in action. And he quite possibly saw in person, how he was lost.
Quite possibly he did. And when you get to Flanders yourself you will be able to follow in his footsteps. It is difficult to put into words exactly what it is like to stand, all these years later, where you know a particular piece of action took place. Knowing that a relative fought there and, in your case, died there, is not something I have experienced. My Grandfather fought, and was wounded, on the Somme and in Salonika, and a Great Uncle, whom I remember when I was a child, won a Military Cross on the Somme on 1st July 1916 and spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W., but thankfully both survived.
Of course there is another McBride elsewhere on this site…
I cant find my uncle who is supposed to be buried in the above cemetary. He was Private Herbert Edward Lewis (27897) 3rd Btn Worcestershie Regiment. He was killed in action on the Messines Ridge, France on 16th June 1917. CWGC doesnt seem to have a record of him. The Cemetary came up on a local website. He is remembered on two War Memorials in his home town of Malvern Worcs.
Hello Mary. Your Uncle is buried here (Plot II Row K15) but the CWGC has him under B. Lewis (for Bert I assume) as opposed to H. Lewis (you might like to contact them and get that changed). There’s a mention on one of the headstone documents of a Mrs E. Lewis, West View, Upper Howsell, Malvern. If you look at the photo four from the end, and spot the German grave at the end of Row L, your Uncle’s headstone is almost entirely obscured directly behind, in the row behind, the German one (click the photo to enlarge it). Sorry about that! But he is there.
Thanks for sharing the excellent info and photos on your site.
Just wondering if I could pick your brains prior to my first visit to Belgium.
I will be visiting my Great Uncle’s grave at St Quentin Cabaret cemetery in a couple of weeks. Rifleman John McCoubrey, 9th Royal Irish Rifles, died 26th Dec 1916.
I’ve downloaded the 9th Btn RiR war C/O’s diary and no mention was made of wounded or killed that day.
Mentioned were two men of a lewis gun team were killed on 25th, one of which (I assume) is the person buried beside J McCoubrey, and the other nearby. Prior to that the only ‘wounded’ were on the 23rd from a failed raid on enemy trenches, but still no idea if he was one of those wounded.
I’m hoping to re trace the last journey from billets in Neuve Eglise (22/12/16) to the front line trench (or as close as possible without trespassing!). Just wondering if you or other readers would have any pointers on where else to research. The only relevant map in the 9th RiR war diary was of the Wytschaete are dated April 1917 – 9th & 10th Btn RiR HQ are showing just west of Kruisstraat on this map.
Hello Andrew, and thanks for your kind comments. My best suggestion is to invest in Linesman, pop it onto your phone, and you will have all the trenches you need and GPS to tell you where you are in relation to them. Honestly, it works! Have a fabulous first trip. Come back and tell us about it!
Thanks for that, I’ll check it out.
Meantime, I found the national library of Scotland has trench maps overlaid onto satellite maps.
No problem. I should have mentioned them (also McMaster University in Canada have lots of online trench maps to download – try their site too – I use both). Linesman is expensive, but I have stood in the cemetery below the Thiepval Memorial and used it to follow the German front line through the cemetery, for example. Amazing. And no, I don’t work for them!
I see you’ve joined up Andrew. Welcome. Plenty of stuff to explore from the last six years of this site. It’ll keep you busy for a while!
It certainly will, thank you.
McMaster uni has a MASSIVE resource worth exploring. Thanks for the top tip.
Yep definitely trawling trough all the valuable info l the site.
The McMaster Uni website has a lot of brilliant resources whoch I’m currently going through. Thanks for the top tip. Recommend resource for anyone doing research.
I’m quite good with top tips! And it seems I too shall be in Flanders again in a couple of weeks time.