Track X Cemetery is sited in what was once No Man’s Land prior to 31st July 1917, the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres. The distance between the opposing trenches at this point was little more than a hundred yards, and this view, taken from just in front of the British front line, looks east, towards the German lines.
It’s always the strangest feeling, standing in a place that you know was once No Man’s Land. As the name implies, there was a time when no man could have stood where you are now standing and survived, and if that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, then I don’t know what will.
A grass path leads us to the cemetery entrance (below)…
…inside which we find the Cemetery Register & Visitor’s Book. Should you visit any of the CWGC cemeteries along the Western Front, try to remember to sign the Visitor’s Book. It’s useful information for the CWGC, and anyway, it’s interesting to see where, and how far, people have come from to visit, to read their often poignant comments, and to see how many, or sometimes how few, visitors there have been in recent times.
There are just 129 burials in this little cemetery, 27 of which are unidentified.
Of the other 102, 29 are men killed on 31st July 1917, all but four buried in Row E, to the right of the above picture.
56 of the identified men buried here were killed during August 1917, and twenty during September as the fighting continued, after which, as the tide of battle moved slowly east, only a further thirteen burials were made here before the end of the year. For reasons unknown, there are two Royal Irish Fusiliers graves here from May 1918, one in the front row above.
Looking west down Row E, Row D to the right. Two Sherwood Foresters, killed on 30th July 1917 and buried in Row E, are actually the earliest burials in the cemetery but, considering the site of the cemetery was in No Man’s Land at the time, they cannot have been buried until 1st August or even later, along with the men killed on 31st July.
The four men killed on 31st July 1917 not buried in Row E are all to be found here, the first four identified graves at the start of Row D (foreground).
Along the northern cemetery boundary, Row A contains five identified burials, four of whom are Canadian privates who were all killed, presumably together, on 6th November 1917. Apart from the two Royal Irish Fusiliers mentioned previously, these are among the final burials made here, the cemetery being closed down on 9th November 1917.
As we leave this lonely little spot…
…and return to the relative warmth of the car…
…pity the poor soldiers…
…who were out in these conditions, day after day, night after night.
Year after year.
He doesn’t look a very happy bunny either, does he? And why should he? He knew we still had three more cemeteries to visit, weather permitting, on this freezing afternoon.
Before we continue, if you were to follow Buffs Road west on the above map, you would soon come across three cemeteries you may, or may not, remember we visited some time back: Divisional Collecting Post Cemetery & Extension , New Irish Farm Cemetery , and La Belle Alliance Cemetery, (all marked in blue. Click the Divisional Collecting Post link to continue the Road to Passchendaele tour). Otherwise, you can continue our afternoon excursion by clicking here.
Hello. While I was doing some research into the Battle of Sanctuary Wood in June 1916, I found a site at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada that contains a wealth of trench maps and aerial photos from WW1. I learned how to read the coordinates on the trench maps and was able to pinpoint the original resting place of Pte. Farquhar McLennan, 58th Battalion, CEF, before he transferred to Bedford House. Then I managed to overlay a trench map from June, 1916 onto the Sanctuary Wood satellite photo in Google Earth. I don’t know if you have tried this but the results are amazing in terms of being able to where the trenches were, superimposed on today’s topography. I was then able to mark the burial spot using the coordinates from the CWGC documents from Bedford House.
Rick, you tell me all this just days (literally) after I’ve shelled out loadsamoney on the Linesman GPS trench-overlay software!! And I can’t make head nor tail of it at the moment!! In all seriousness, what you have managed to do sounds very cool to me (I am aware of the McMaster University site). I hope you’ve checked out the Sanctuary Wood/Hill 62 category on my site though; unfortunately I haven’t yet uploaded my photos of Sanctuary Wood Cemetery itself, with six inches of snow on the ground which I took last year, but they will be uploaded at some point later in the year. You’ll find Bedford House here too (use the Search box). Anyway, thanks for taking the trouble to post your comments. Much appreciated.
Excellent site and great information! I was checking out the site, as the Unknown Canadian in grave A.4 has been identified as Pte G A Jeannotte #10001066 of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Infantry. Thanks goes out to Bec Linton from Australia for making the identification of the 4th man. I looked into the details of what happened:
The key component may be the 4th Canadian man in that cemetery (FERGUSON 124th Pioneer Battalion – Grave A.2). He was KIA by bomb shrapnel near Spree Farm on the Zonnebeke Road, while with a working party. Coincidentally, the 16th Battalion had 3 men KIA and 1 man MIA, who were also in a working party of 50 men. They were not in action in the trenches on either the 5th or 6th. I suspect they were assigned to the same work with the 124th Pioneer Battalion.
There were 12 men of the 124th Pioneer Battalion KIA that day in the “Railway Party”, and the evidence suggests they are in the Tyne Cot Cemetery with O’Sullivan and Goggin (CWGC COG-BR Link). The same day the “Road Party” had only 1 man KIA, so that must be Ferguson. They were carrying out planks for the road to as far as 28.D.14.b.25.85. That specific location is at the Spree-Gravenstafel road junction to Zonnebeke where Ferguson was reported killed. Spree Farm is at 28.C.18.d.1.3, on the same road leading from Ypres to Gravenstafel, the main supply line feeding the troops at Passchendaele.
This all makes good sense, as the 16th Battalion was at the rest camp at Wieltje at about 28.C.28.b.2.7 on the 5th and 6th, also on the same road from Ypres through Spree Farm to Gravenstafel. From that we know that they were not in the front lines at Passchendaele, so the entries on some of the casualty reports of “Trenches at Passchendaele” is very generic.
There was also the question as to the two men reported KIA 26 May 1918 from the 1st Bn Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers). I had to look into that one as well (war diary page 25 of 617 on Ancestry):
It turns out they were KIA on the 25th when Mouse Trap Farm (north of Wieltje at about 28.C.22.b.8.8) was heavily shelled. Track X Cemetery was close by at 28.C.22.a.4.5 and convenient for their burial.
Hello Richard. Thanks for your kind words and for taking the trouble to type that explanation. I truly appreciate it – adds to the stories of these men and of course is wonderful to hear. I have managed in recent times to get some incorrect headstone dates changed, but never yet managed an identification!