The Menin Road – A Return to Birr Cross Roads Cemetery

A return trip to Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, exactly four years and one week after our last visit, but this time not a sign of precipitation in the air.

Clear and cold and, well, just about perfect, really.

Just inside the cemetery entrance, ten men ‘known’ or ‘believed to be buried in this cemetery’, with, third from the camera,…

…the headstone to Captain Harold Ackroyd V.C. M.C., this time clear to see.  His citation can be found in the previous Birr Cross Roads post, which, if you haven’t already done so, is probably worth reading first, as I have no intention of repeating myself throughout this post, the purpose of which is primarily to give you a clear view of the headstones that were blanketed in snow last time we were here.  You can, however, have another look at the cemetery plan if you wish.

Plot IV, to the right of the cemetery entrance…

…and looking south east down the length of the western half of the cemetery.  Although Plot I is out of shot in the eastern half of the cemetery, the whole of the row on the left of this picture is designated as Plot I Row J, the six headstones nearest the camera in the row…

…containing one unknown soldier and five Maori graves, three killed on 30th November 1917, the other two killed a week later on 7th December.

Above & below: Plot I Row J in the foreground, Plot II behind.

Turning to our left from the previous shot, looking towards the Cross of Sacrifice, Plot I Row J still on our right, Plot III in the right background and Plot I on the left,…

…and looking across to the eastern side of the cemetery through the gap between Plot II (left) & Plot III (right),…

View across Plot III towards the Cross of Sacrifice.

Plot I Row J on the right, more of Plot I on the left.

Part of Plot III, in the south west corner,…

…looking back down the western half of the cemetery, Plot III on the left, Plot I Row J now on the right,…

…and the view across the whole cemetery from the south west corner.

Cross of Sacrifice (above & below).

Looking north down the length of the cemetery.  The wood across the fields in the distance, by the way, is Railway Wood, where we visited R.E. Grave last post.

Plot I,…

…with men killed in the last weeks of the war in Row H.  The German advance in April 1918 was halted just a few hundred yards to the west of here*, the cemetery finding itself just behind their lines throughout the summer.  When the British retook the cemetery in September 1918, these four men became the final burials made here during the war.

* now marked (roughly) by the Hellfire Corner Demarcation Stone.

Looking down the eastern side of the cemetery.

View from the southern corner, Plot I in the foreground.

The cemetery was begun in August 1917, during the early days of the Third Battle of Ypres, at which time a dressing station was situated in the extensive underground dugouts here, constructed, you may remember, by the 177th Tunnelling Company, as we saw when visiting R.E. Grave, Railway Wood…

Photo: H. Barrow

…and which, I mentioned at the time, collapsed at some point after the war, creating this huge hole in the middle of the Menin Road.

There are nine rows of headstones in Plot I (excluding Row J), now containing just over 300 graves, some of which are the original war-time burials,…

…all the other burials here being men brought from the battlefields or from a handful of nearby cemeteries, now long gone, after the war.  The regularity of these headstones near the southern corner in Plot I suggests that these are all post-war burials.

Plot I Row A, along the eastern boundary wall (above & below).

Plot I Row B (left), and the first few headstones of Row A, which continues along the boundary wall – see previous photos – on the right.  Plot V is beyond the Stone of Remembrance.

Casualties from late September 1917 in Plot I Row F; note the new, lazer-etched replacement headstone in the centre.

Plot I Row G (foreground), with Australian burials from September & October 1917 in the row behind.

Plot I, the isolated headstones of Private Brown and Corporal Nolan (see previous Birr Cross Roads post) in the foreground.

Plot I Row G.  All the identified burials in this shot are men of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps or the Queen’s who were killed in October 1914, and who were brought here after the war.

Stone of Remembrance.

More Australian burials (above & below).

Stone of Remembrance…

…with Plot V to the left.

Plot V…

…with, in the front row, one of only a dozen men killed in 1914, and the only one in the plot, who are now buried in the cemetery.

Looking north west across Plot V, the cemetery entrance beyond, the small Plot IV in the left background.

And finally, the Duhallow Block, on the eastern side of the cemetery entrance, that remembers 18 men killed in action in 1915 & 1917 and originally buried in Birr Cross Roads Cemetery No. 2 and Union Street Graveyards No. 1 & 2, Zillebeke, but whose graves were lost when these cemeteries were later destroyed.

Along the wall behind the block, eighteen headstones remember each man by name.

The next time we visit the Menin Road, we shall, at long last, take a proper look around the huge cemetery at Hooge (sorry), that, so far, has only featured on this site when I showed you a few random shots taken on a couple of previous, brief, visits.  This time we spent the proper amount of time there, and even returned the following day to make sure we hadn’t missed anything (we had).

In the meantime, another return visit coming up next post, this time to an unusual cemetery that wasn’t exactly looking at its best the last time we were there, a couple of years back.  It’s looking much better now, as you will see.

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