French Flanders: The Nursery Part Nine – Chapelle-d’Armentières Old Military Cemetery


Now this looks a bit better.  Weather-wise I mean.


Actually, I’ve thrown you a curve ball there, as you’ve probably already guessed.  It’s still pretty horrible, and my camera keeps misting up.  We are now in the middle of La Chapelle d’Armentières, just a little way south east, don’t forget, of Armentières itself.


Waterproofs on, and away we go.  There’s a second cemetery beyond the houses in the background that we shall be visiting while we’re here.


Cross of Sacrifice.


Chapelle-d’Armentières Old Military Cemetery consists of four rows of headstones, three of which run the length of the cemetery.


The other, Row C, seen above from the northern end of the cemetery looking back towards the entrance, contains the later burials in the cemetery, which was only used between October 1914 & October 1915.  Here’s the cemetery plan.


This is the grave of thirty one year old Corporal Alexander Chisholm, Royal Engineers, in Row B.  The long and the short of it seems to be that long-standing animosity between Chisholm and a Lance Corporal called Robert Lewis reached a peak in early May 1915 when, in front of witnesses, Lewis accused Chisholm of falsifying pay records.  On 4th May, outside the Estaminet du Pélican in Bailleul, Chisholm shot Lewis dead.  Two weeks later Chisholm himself was dead, executed for murder at the Armentières Asylum.  Not long after, ironically, he was mentioned in despatches for previous good work.  The unfortunate Lewis is buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.


Two other executed men also lie in Row B.  On the left, Private Alfred Atkinson, West Yorkshire Regiment, and a bit of a gambler it seems, spent his ill-gotten gains on drink and decided to go AWOL.  Arrested after three weeks absence, he was shot for desertion at Armentières Asylum on 2nd March 1915, aged 24.  On the right Private Ernest Kirk, also West Yorkshire Regiment, and also shot for desertion just four days later at the asylum.  An eye-witness account, presumably the N.C.O. tasked with choosing the firing party, relates: “I witnessed a scene I shall never forget.  Men I had known for years…screamed out, begging not to be made into murderers.  They offered me all they had if I would not take them for the job, and finally, when twelve of them found themselves outside, selected for the dreaded firing party, they called me all the names they could lay their tongues to.  I remained with the guard for three days, and I leave you to guess what I had to put up with.  I am poor, with eight children, and I would not go through…more such sights for £1000.”


Privates Atkinson and Kirk were, for all the good it did them, pardoned, along with 304 others, in 2006.  Corporal Chisholm remains a murderer.


There are 103 burials in the cemetery, all but three of which are identified.  All the burials in Row D (above) are from the summer of 1915.


The earliest burials here, from October 1914, are to be found at the northern end of Row A (apart from the headstone nearest the camera, Lieutenant Charles Chads, who was killed in early January 1915.  Just in case one of you spotted it.).


Our route to the second cemetery we shall be visiting while we are here necessitates us leaving this cemetery by way of the northern entrance.  But first…


…Chapelle-d’Armentières Old Military Cemetery was another that we found ourselves returning to later in the year.  Hence the earlier curve ball.


And, let’s be honest, some of those first photos weren’t great, were they?

Panorama (2)

These are better.  Corporal Chisholm’s headstone, by the way, is nearest the camera in the centre row.


Still being refurbished (see third photo in this post).


Headstones in Row A (above & below) along the western boundary wall.



Looking back towards the cemetery entrance, Row A just visible on our right, and Rows B & D on the left.



Some of the 1914 burials in Row A that I mentioned earlier, these four Royal Fusiliers were killed between 19th & 21st October.


Row B (foreground), Rows C & D behind.


Row C, with the final burial in the cemetery, that of Private Cross of the Durham Light Infantry, killed on 12th October 1915, nearest the camera.


Above & following: Elevated views looking south down the length of the cemetery towards the cemetery entrance, the base of the Cross of Sacrifice visible in the distance.


Rows D (background) and C…


…and Rows B (foreground) and A.


The first burials in Row B were made in early February 1915.


Northern cemetery entrance, from which…


…after a final look back, a muddy walk across a new housing development takes us from here to our next stop…


Chapelle-d’Armentières New Military Cemetery.  And, you will have noticed, back to the rain.

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