The Elverdinge Burial Grounds Part One – Hagle Dump Cemetery

At the end of the previous post we found ourselves here (see inset), if you remember, having just spent some time in Red Farm Military Cemetery, one of the smallest cemeteries in the Salient.  The four tall poplar trees that grow almost alongside Red Farm can be seen here in the background, right of centre of the main picture, and, by the way, in due course we shall be visiting all the cemeteries between there and Ypres (Ieper), three and a half miles further east. 

But for now, a quick reminder of where we are.  The Poperinge-Ieper road crosses the bottom of the map just above the railway line, with Red Farm Military Cemetery marked as a small red oblong.  Further along the road to the left, the blue dot shows the position from where the first photograph and inset were taken, and from where our walk to Hagle Dump Cemetery, marked in mauve, begins.

And as the map shows, after about half a mile,…

…we duly arrive.

The gateless cemetery entrance…

…is dated 1915-1918,…

…but the truth of the matter is that this cemetery did not exist until 27th April 1918,…

…when twenty three men, all casualties during what would prove to be the final days of the Battle of the Lys,…

…were buried just off the road here in what is now Plot I.  As always, the cemetery plan can be viewed here, courtesy of the CWGC.  About two miles north east of here the market town of Elverdinge, itself a couple of miles behind the front lines throughout the war, has five CWGC cemeteries officially within its environs, Hagle Dump being the final one to be created.

The ten rows of graves in Plot I are all casualties from between 27th April & July 1918,…

…except for the front row, Row AA,…

…these men all killed between 8th & 13th August 1918 (above & below).

The burials in the adjacent Plot II are all from between mid-July and mid-September 1918, and we shall be taking in both Plot I & Plot II as we make our way towards the far, western, end of the cemetery.

So, back in Plot I, this is Row A (Row AA now out of shot to the right), and just visible on the far right,…

…the first graves at the start of Plot II Row A, these men killed in July 1918.

Plot I Row B, and the grave of Lieutenant John Illingworth M.C., West Yorkshire Regiment, who died on 3rd June 1918, aged 26.  Killed by a stray shell, his captain reported, ‘The shell burst on the road quite near to him, and the shock was sufficient to cause his death. My traffic sergeant was killed by the same shell.’  Which allows me to restate my theory, entirely apposite for this particular post, that more men were killed by shock from explosions than by any other means during the Great War.  A sentence I always follow with ‘disprove me’, because I don’t believe you can.

Plot II Row B,…

…and the grave of Captain Hugh Roger Partridge M.C., R.A.M.C., killed on 24th July 1918 aged 27.

Back in Plot I, these are burials from May 1918 at the end of Row C,…

…but eight of the burials in Row C are men killed on 27th April 1918, when the first burials in the cemetery were made, all in this row, or in Row D immediately behind.  What is of most interest to us about this photograph (click, as with almost every picture I publish, to enlarge), however, is that two of the headstones in the front row, and the majority of those in Row D, as you can see, bear the emblem of the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).  And why is that significant?  Well, the explosion that took place somewhere hereabouts on 27th April 1918 killed a lot of men, and we paid our respects to those who were already wounded and being treated at a nearby casualty clearing station which was caught in the explosion when we visited Red Farm – and, as I have just mentioned it, quite possibly blast victims, I would have thought – but I said that we would be searching for the other victims of that day, and it seems we may just have found them.

Let’s backtrack slightly, photographically and textually.  In order to ascertain who else might have been killed in the explosion of 27th April 1918, it seemed smart to begin my research with all the men listed as killed on 27th April 1918, research which revealed that 798 identified British soldiers died on that date and are buried in CWGC cemeteries on the Western Front, 285 of whom are buried in Belgium.  And as one looks down the list of these 284 soldiers and one sailor, it soon becomes clear that, other than losses among the artillery regiments, it was the 10th Bn. Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), with twenty men confirmed as killed on that date, who suffered the most casualties.  Finding the names of all the 10th Bn. men killed on 27th April led to burial sites and grave references, and wouldn’t you know it, sixteen of them are buried here at Hagle Dump Cemetery, confirmed as victims of the explosion by the war diary, as you will see later on.

Here I have highlighted all the headstones in Rows C & D that bear the date of death of 27th April 1918.  Sixteen sport shades of red, and these are all Queen’s Own burials, five in Row C, and eleven, in two blocks, in Row D behind.  The two blue headstones are Royal Engineers, the three orange headstones in Row D are Royal Garrison Artillery, and the two green headstones in Row C, although unidentified, are both inscribed with a date of death of 27th April 1918.

This is the left-hand block of six Queen’s Own burials in Row D, with one of the two Royal Engineer casualties on the far left, and the only officer killed, Lieutenant D. F. Anderson, on the far right,…

…and this is the block of five Queen’s Own burials further along the row (also below).  The close proximity of most of the headstones in Row D suggests that individual identification of the remains after the explosion may have been problematic.

So to be clear, sixteen men of the Queen’s Own, along with three artillerymen, two Royal Engineers and two unidentified men, twenty three men in total, all of whom were killed by the explosion on 27th April 1918, are buried in Rows C & D, and it is their graves that constituted the beginnings of this cemetery.  Some three weeks later another burial would be added to the row, the headstone on the far left here,…

…and the only headstone coloured in mauve here.  This artilleryman was buried on 18th May 1918, in the gap between the 27th April casualties, and he was the next burial to be made here, although it would be June before the cemetery would begin to be used regularly.  So, whereas the bodies of the already wounded who were killed were moved a short distance to what would become Red Farm Military Cemetery, these casualties were brought here to be buried in what was nothing but an empty field at the time – almost certainly this was where they were laid out to be identified.  Thus both Red Farm & Hagle Dump cemeteries owe their existence entirely to the explosion.  Neither would have been created had the events of that fateful day not occurred.

And we shall return to the explosion one more time before we end this post, because there are still questions that remain unanswered.  In the meantime, here we have an early August 1918 burial at the end of Plot II Row D,…

…and it is in Plot II Row D, and in this shot the headstone nearest the camera,…

…that we find the grave of Private George Ainley, aged 20, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who was executed for desertion on 30th July 1918.  Ainley had been arrested and tried in January 1918 for a self-inflicted wound and it seems that between then and the summer of 1918 he deserted three times, making his likely execution once he was apprehended almost inevitable, I would have thought.

This extract from the register of soldiers’ effects shows that Ainley’s war gratuity, a payment introduced in December 1918 for men who had served for any length of time abroad, or completed six months duty at home, was considered ‘not advisable’.

Beyond these graves, across in Plot I, the nine headstones of Row E can be seen, and three headstones from this end of the row,…

…lies another man who was executed for desertion.  Private Walter Dossett, aged 22, had served with the Machine Gun Corps prior to his transfer to the York & Lancaster Regiment.  He went absent from his battalion during the German offensive in the spring of 1918 and I think, from what I can deduce, it was probably quite some time before he was apprehended.  The document below – not my scan – from the Yorkshire Telegraph & Star of 3rd February 1917 sheds some light on his later execution, because his desertion in 1918 was clearly not the first time he had gone missing.

The relevant piece being, ‘Walter Dossett, a deserter from the 25th Machine Gun Corps, whom the detective was looking for at the house……was also remanded for military escort’.

June 1918 casualties in Plot I Row F,…

…and August 1918 casualties across in Plot II Row F.

Still in Plot II, casualties from early September 1918.  Second Lieutenant Alfred Charles Ransdale, buried beneath the middle of these three headstones, was born in Rosario, Argentina, on 8th January 1895, to a British father and Argentinian mother.

He was conscripted into the Argentine Army in 1915 but with Argentina remaining neutral throughout the Great War, he set off for England, arriving in May 1917 and enlisting as a private in the Lincoln’s Inn Officer Training Corps before being commissioned into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in May 1918.  He joined 15th (Service) Battalion in Belgium on 27th August 1918, and survived precisely four days; on 1st September he was supervising a working party in the front line when the party was subjected to a particularly heavy German artillery barrage and he was killed.  As an afterword, the battalion suffered only two officers and twelve other ranks killed during their year abroad between July 1918 & June 1919.

More September 1918 casualties buried in Plot II Row H (above & below),…

…as are those in the row behind, the final row of the plot, Row J.

And these are the final rows of Plot I,…

…including two R.A.F. men in Row J, presumably ground crew, both killed on 10th July 1918.

Behind them, the single headstone of Plot V,…

…marks the graves of two Germans who died on 28th September 1918.

Looking roughly east across Plots V & I,…

…and on our left,…

…Plot VI,…

…with Plot IV on the far left.

Plot VI contains forty three graves, four rows of nine and this final row of seven,…

…almost all the burials from mid to late September 1918.

The headstones on the far left of the front row…

…are both Royal Field Artillery casualties killed on 14th September 1918. On the left, Second Lieutenant James Kenneth Mathewson, just 20, and on the right Captain J. E. Brown, aged 33.  Note the two different styles of the R.F.A. emblem used here (we saw similar with two R.G.A. headstones in Red Farm), and the difference in the engraving – on the left a laser-etched modern replacement headstone, and on the right, a much older hand-engraved one.

Row B,…

…and burials in Row C, these men killed on consecutive days in late September 1918.

In the final row, four men who died in early October 1918, the only non-September burials in the plot.  One of them, the third headstone from the left, is that of another Queen’s Own man, Major Vernon Holden D.S.O., M.C., Royal West Kent Regiment, who died of wounds on 2nd October 1918 aged just 25.  Holden had enlisted in July 1915 as a private in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, rapidly rising up the ranks and gaining a commission.  Mentioned in Despatches, awarded a D.S.O. during the Battle of the Somme and a Military Cross a year later, one wonders where his career might have taken him had he survived another few weeks.  At which point…

…we find ourselves back at the front of the cemetery, this time looking south west from the eastern corner with, nearest the camera on the right, Plot III.  Incidentally, at the war’s end there were twenty six Americans and two French soldiers also buried here, the Americans, I would imagine, buried somewhere here at the front of the cemetery, as they would have been the final burials to be made.  All were removed after the war.

Plot III is made up entirely of men brought here after the war from battlefield graves, along with twenty men (including four Canadians), who were killed between April 1915 & September 1917 and originally buried in Brielen Military Cemetery, near Brielen village, three miles to the east of here.

Many of the graves in this plot, such as these four in Row AA, the front row, are unidentified, although quite a few of the unidentified men buried in the plot – ninety five out of 137 graves in total are unknown – have some information on their headstones, be it nationality (far right), regiment (two of the above), rank, or date of death.

Plot III Row AA on the right, and Row A on the left.  The single grave at the far end of Row B, in the background on the left,…

…is a special memorial headstone, inscribed with ‘Buried near this spot’, to a Private R. Clark of the D.C.L.I. who died in December 1915.  He was originally buried here as an unknown soldier,…

…as this GRRF shows, his name once upon a time to be found on the Menin Gate, and it seems rather unfortunate that his exact burial spot has been lost.

Further along Row B, another D.C.L.I. man ‘Buried near this spot’ (right), and you will find Serjeant Duff’s name on the GRRF too.

Beyond Row C, the shorter row pictured above,…

…Row D contains more unknown burials (above & below),…

…and more special memorials inscribed with ‘Buried near this spot’, again D.C.L.I. men killed in December 1915, and again their names are to be found on the GRRF from earlier.

You might have spotted, a couple of shots back, how the trees had miraculously shed their leaves, and so, just for comparison, these are the same headstones pictured on a different visit; both Private Richards’ & Private Hughes’ names also once appeared on the Menin Gate.

And yet more unknown burials further along Row D, with a guardsman killed in October 1917 at the end.

The final two burials in Row E are both men killed in 1917,…

…as are the other identified men buried in the row.

Unidentified burials in Row F,…

…two unknown Canadians in Row G,…

…and then more unidentified burials in Row H, here a Royal Warwickshire Regiment man between two completely unknown soldiers,…

…here two men of the Royal Berkshire Regiment,…

…here an unknown Australian alongside three unidentified men of the Queen’s,…

…and here two unknown soldiers, a Canadian and a man of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, on either side of the grave of Company Serjeant Major James William Dames D.C.M., M.S.M., Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry,…

…a veteran of previous campaigns, as his entry in the Cemetery Index briefly tells us, presumably recalled, or volunteered to return, to the colours in 1914.

None of the burials in the final row in the plot, Row J are identified (above & below).

Plot IV, the five rows in the northern corner, contains seventy graves, also all post-war reburials.

Only eleven are identified, all but one of these in Rows C, D & E.  Row A (above) has just a single identified burial,…

…and Row B, the first three graves (above) separated slightly from the rest of the row,…

…none at all (above & below).

More unknown burials in Row C,…

…two named privates of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in Row D (note the headstone on the left bears the inscription ‘Believed to be’), both of whom died on 29th September 1917,…

…and another of the identified men, on the right here further along the same row, buried alongside two unidentified Australian colleagues.  What is particularly unusual about Private T. J. Bentley is that his real name was John Joseph Pierce – nothing particularly unusual about serving under an alias – but there is no mention of this on his headstone nor any of the accompanying CWGC documents, which is curious, and unusual, I think.

Australian burials in the final row, Row E,…

…all but three of these men unknown (above & below).

Final view from behind Plot IV,…

…before we return to the Cross of Sacrifice,…

…the trees lining the old Ieper-Poperinge road from whence we originally came on the horizon.

And yet still we have unfinished business around here,…

…so while Baldrick and I head up the road to explore a little further to the north, let’s do some more research and see if we can find out exactly where the 27th April 1918 explosion took place.

The following photos of trees were taken a mile north of Hagle Dump Cemetery at what was known as Dirty Bucket Sidings on trench maps.  Bearing in mind the name, it won’t surprise you to learn that a number of railway lines from the west terminated here – only one continued further east towards Elverdinge – with associated trenches and huts, but there is no obvious evidence of anything today.  As you will see.

On the night of 15th April 1918, with the German advance further south on the Lys threatening the whole Ypres Salient, the British began to withdraw from their positions to the east of Ypres, shortening the line and releasing troops for the Lys battle.  Conditions are described in the war diary of the Assistant Director of Medical Services of 41st Division; ‘…the whole of the Divisional area during April, in both back and front and intermediate system, has been more or less under constant shellfire; the shelling taking place at all times of the day and night; every kind of shell being used.  Much gas shelling has taken place, especially around Ypres and in the Vlamertinghe area, mustard being the principal gas used; phosgene and the new shell consisting of mustard mixed with a little ethyldichloroarsine. The result of this constant shelling is that for a Division, simply holding the line, our casualties, especially for gas have been fairly high – principally gas, which although not fatal caused a fair number of admissions to hospital, approximately 50% having to be evacuated.’

The war diary continues; ‘On the 27th April, at midday, a large dump at Hagle just behind Red Farm containing over 2,000 lbs of gun cotton and much 9.2 ammunition was hit by an enemy shell and exploded blowing the whole of the A.D.S. at Red Farm, in occupation of 138th FA, flat and wrecking all huts, etc. 6 officers and 40 other ranks being wounded but over 200 were killed about the dump itself. This necessitated Red Farm itself being abandoned and the A.D.S. was moved forward to the school buildings at Brandhoek.’  A large dump at Hagle. eh?  Let’s have a look on the map.

Luckily, although unmarked on every other map I could find, this map from the summer of 1918 does indeed mark Hagle, highlighted in green, adjacent to the light railway, with Hagle Dump Cemetery marked in mauve, a little further down the line.  Up at the top of the map, the blue square shows where the accompanying photos to this section of the post were taken; sometimes you just have to explore, and sometimes you find nothing at all, but you are standing in the footsteps, and sometimes you can hear the ghost-whispers through the trees.  Probably just the wind.

What else do we know?  A sapper of the Royal Engineers, a mile away in Elverdinge, related, ‘This morning, just about noon, I was lying in my bed feeling particularly rotten when the whole building was shaken by a terrific explosion. We thought that a high explosive shell must have hit the chateau but there was no sign of anything of the sort. Later in the day we heard that a huge ammunition dump towards Poperinge had been blown up and hundreds of soldiers and civilians killed. The frightful shock had been sufficient to kill scores of them as the sat or walked about their huts or houses. The attitude of the bodies reveals their actions at the moment the shock struck them; all further movement was suddenly suspended; hands are still raising the glass or holding a cigarette. Tait, the driver, went nearly mad and was carried off to hospital with shell shock.’

Another soldier describes the area, ‘there was the road on the left leading to Dirty Bucket Camp. On the corners of this side road was a solid farm house and a Casualty Clearing Station with behind the CCS an ammunition dump. Further along the Dirty Bucket Camp road on the right-hand side was a line of houses occupied by civilians whilst on the left and beyond the farm house a wooden shack from which two Belgian girls dispensed fried eggs and chips.  One day as we were sitting on our respective kits, eating our stew from our mess tins, the top of the Nissen hut including the sandbags collapsed on the top of us. The entrance was blocked so we scrambled out over the top only to find the air filled with exploding .303 ammunition. It was obvious that the dump had gone up. Later in the day we were able to visit the ruined hut to salvage our equipment. We found the farm house had taken some of the shock from us and the sandbagged roof the rest. The CCS did not exist, the civilian houses were shattered and a crater the side and depth of a small lake had appeared where the dump had stood. The wooden shack had disappeared along with the two girls. All the houses in the area which had not been wrecked had lost their roofs. Half-way down the far side of the crater was a baby’s pram.’  Which brings our search for the civilians buried in Red Farm Military Cemetery (inset above) to a close, sadly confirmed by the line I have highlighted on the GRRF below.

A few days later this particular soldier found himself passing through the devastated area; ‘The night before we were due to go up to Ypres I developed a temperature. The next day I had not improved, so the doctor suggested that I had better have a few days at the Transport lines. So I set off after midday to Dirty Bucket Camp and then turned to the left on the road towards Brandhoek past the shell dump which had gone up a few days before. The area looked as though a tornado had struck it.’

The best evidence, however, comes from the 10th Battalion of the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) who had moved into Dirty Bucket Camp on 9th April and spent the next week manning the front lines to the west of Passchendaele.  The following week they were employed strengthening the Ypres defences, suffering some 200 gas casualties on 26th April, and were working on nearby defensive lines at the time the shell hit.

As this page from the 10th Bn. war diary relates; ‘A serious explosion occurred behind the Detail Camp at G6 a.2.3 Sheet 28 N.W. Belgium about 12.30 pm caused by a H.V. enemy shell striking an Ammunition and Guncotton Dump. The camp was wrecked and numerous huts set on fire by the explosion. Rescue parties at once set to work to assist in recovering the numerous casualties from the debris, and extinguish the fires, in face of great danger from recurring explosions from the dump. Casualties suffered by this Battalion totalled:- KILLED –  Lieut D. F. ANDERSON, Other Ranks 17, WOUNDED –  Other Ranks 28. MISSING – Other Ranks 1.’  Lieutenant Anderson is the officer whose grave I mentioned and we saw much earlier.

Unfortunately, ‘the Detail Camp’ is not marked on any maps I can find, which seems odd, but we do now have a map reference, and that map reference…

…is indicated by the yellow dot on this map.  Let’s not forget that the shell then set off the explosion at the dump, and as the reports we have just read tell us that the dump seems to have been somewhere to the south of where we now know the shell hit (and where the map shows us a light railway with siding, and a major trench), I have added a potential blast circle approximately 1000 yards in diameter, biased to the south, as we know that the blast killed men at the aid station at Red Farm.

This photograph, looking towards Hagle Dump Cemetery further up the road, is taken exactly where I have marked the yellow dot,…

…and these two (above & below) from the light blue dot on the map; this close to the point of the explosion, the blast must have swept across this field like a scythe.

A few final thoughts.  I am unsure of the exact number of casualties caused by the explosion, and I don’t suppose we shall ever know, although the report of two hundred deaths seems excessive.  We do know that twenty identified already-wounded casualties (killed at the A.D.S. at Red Farm) are buried at Red Farm Military Cemetery, along with three civilians, and that twenty one identified casualties are buried here at Hagle Dump.  Fifteen of the unidentified men buried at Red Farm can be presumed to have been killed on 27th April, and there are two unidentified men here at Hagle Dump who are, as we have seen, given that date of death.  Two more casualties, both Queen’s Own Royal West Kent men, survived just long enough to be taken to one of the hospitals south of the Poperinge-Ypres road at Brandhoek where they subsequently died, and are buried in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No. 3, and another Queen’s Own man died on arrival at one of the hospitals in Boulogne later in the day, and was buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery on 28th April 1918.

What about the other cemeteries in the area?  Alongside the two Queen’s Own Royal West Kent men who lie in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No. 3, one of whom is pictured above, another eight men who died on 27th April 1918 are buried in the same row (two are pictured), although as the cemetery served the Brandhoek hospitals and thus many of the burials follow each other closely date-wise, there is, as yet, no actual evidence to suggest they were victims of the explosion.

Five casualties from 27th April 1918 are buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery (above), a mile and a half nearer Ypres, but I cannot see any of the wounded casualties being taken east as opposed to west, and these men must surely be, dare I say it, part of the natural wastage – the day-to-day deaths – along this part of the front.

And the isolated Gwalia Cemtery (above), just over a mile to the north west of Hagle Dump Cemetery, contains seven men who died on 27th April, five of whom are Royal Engineers, but again there is nothing to suggest that their deaths had anything to do with the explosion.  As none of the other Elverdinge cemeteries was in use at the time, one would have to head west on a serious detective hunt (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery contains eighteen 27th April 1918 casualties among the ten thousand graves, but none are men of Kent) to find more potential casualties.  There are also eighty eight names of men who died on 27th April 1918 and whose bodies were never recovered or could not be identified on the Tyne Cot Memorial, but apart from a single 10th Bn. Queen’s Own serjeant* killed on 27th April and almost certainly one of the unidentified casualties of the shell, how many of the other eighty seven were killed here that day?  One hopes that the sixteen, in total, unidentified casualties from Red Farm are named among them.

*quite probably Serjeant George Jones (is he the missing man noted in the war diary?) is actually buried beneath one of the two unidentified headstones, one pictured below, in Row C at Hagle Dump.

All of which leaves us with a total of sixty one military casualties (forty four identified, and seventeen unidentified) and three civilians – the minimum death toll from the consequences of a single German shell – and with little idea about any men who survived for more than twenty four hours but subsequently died, nor those survivors whose lives were changed forever.  Sobering.

And after all that, we won’t be going far next post.  This map shows five cemeteries marked in various colours (Hagle Dump still in mauve at the bottom) in a rough circle to the west of Elverdinghe (now Elverdinge), and it is the smallest of these, Hospital Farm Cemetery, that we shall be visiting next time.

This entry was posted in Elverdinge, Shot at Dawn. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to The Elverdinge Burial Grounds Part One – Hagle Dump Cemetery

  1. Morag Lindsay Sutherland says:

    long time since we visited this sector on our day off as wardens at Talbot House – not a soul did we meet and I doubt many make the effort today . I always took the cemetery register with me as we walked around trying to fit the jigsaw pieces together even haphazardly
    I have learnt a lot from today’s post -as always thank you

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks Morag – I had no idea what I would find when I first visited, so had to return earlier this year to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

  2. Jon T says:

    Fascinating post about something I knew nothing about, what a terrible event. Hopefully at some point we will be able to get back across for another visit and I will make sure we pay our respects at what sadly sounds like rarely visited cemeteries.

    Very moving post MF.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Jon. Rarely visited indeed, and how many of those who do visit realize what the area looked like during the Great War? Remember that map from the Red Farm post – seventeen marked camps (ammunition dumps etc are of course not marked) in three and a half square miles. Worth remembering when you visit and find yourself walking the area.

      • Jon T says:

        Yes the whole infrastructure of the war behind the front lines themselves is something most of us don’t really think about at all especially with the passage of time meaning its all disappeared even more so than the battlefields themselves.

  3. Margaret Draycott says:

    A fascinating and very well informed post M incredible amount of research must have gone into this. How tragic to lose men that way especially for those in the CCS, very sad about the 2 girls selling the chips and the baby, probably thought they were fairly safe in the area. One wonders about the sense of putting an ammunition dump so close to a CCS. Does the crater from the explosion still exist, is that it in one of the pictures? It’s interesting when you travel round the rural area of France and Belgium how many of the farms have ponds, in my mind I attribute them all to holes created by war time explosions.

    • Magicfingers says:

      No, of the crater there is no sign. The site of the shell strike is basically now a crossroads (you are standing on the site in the second photo in the post), and the dump was in a field, which is now just a field. And surely all Belgian ponds are Great War-related!!! Lol! I’m kidding, but I tend to do the same! But I am not always right, as I often discover.

  4. Nick Kilner says:

    Tremendous detective work MF! Definitely one of those post I shall read through several times, as my brain kept going ‘oooh now thats interesting, I must look at that more closely’ and then it moved on to another just as interesting titbit, and then another, and another.
    Theres some great slow motion footage of shockwaves on youtube these days, its amazing just how far and how fast it can travel. On a related note, I recall an instance of a family being found in an Anderson shelter during WW2, perfectly intact with not a hair out of place, but all dead where they sat. The effect of the shockwave from a German bomb going off nearby. With regard to the number of casualties, its very likely that anyone in the immediate vicinity would have been vaporised by the blast, becoming ‘Pink mist’. So that would certainly explain the lack of burials. Really great post!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Most kind Nick. Yeah, I enjoyed this one. Glad you did. All sorts to keep your brain ticking.
      Pretty sure I have read about Great War dugouts uncovered with uninjured dead men sitting in them – shock victims. And I reckon anyone within, what, as much as a hundred yards, or even more (?) probably became pink mist. I think it must have been that destructive from all accounts. The ADS at Red Farm seemingly basically disappeared, we are told.

  5. Daisy says:

    When driving around France and Belgium it’s amazing to think those quaint villages, beautiful farms and ploughed fields were witness to the gruesome horrors of WW1. If any of us visit the area it will be difficult not to be reminded of a pram in a crater or 2 girls selling fried eggs and chips. I say you should go to the nearest pub and order fried eggs and chips in commemoration and remembrance of this horrific explosion.

    Our Australian from the 27th Battalion named Thomas John Bentley was actually John Joseph Pierce killed on 20 September 1917 when the AIF Battalions were the attacking troops on the first day of the Battle of Menin Road Ridge with the 27th Battalion in the leading waves…

    He was a miner almost 35 years old and enlisted in 1915 in Adelaide. In December 1916 his wife Sarah Pierce was sending letters from Sydney to the Army telling them T J Bentley was actually her husband and asking who was drawing on his pay book for she wasn’t while taking care of 2 children and had no income. Sarah thought he enlisted in West Australia therefore you would assume there was no communication between them. The Next of Kin and Will recipient was noted as his cousin Thomas Seddon Pierce who probably really was his father. Around the time of his death the Army Intelligence Branch and Sarah were comparing notes of the soldiers description.

    By 1921 the Army confirmed they paid his War Gratuity to Sarah. The Memorial Plaque was provided to Sarah in 1922 and his Victory Medal and British War Medal in 1923. I wonder which name is engraved on those medals?

    Sarah was informed in 1926 he was buried in Hagel Dump Cemetery however she had remarried by then and didn’t reply to the Army concerning words on his headstone. There is nothing official in his record about the alias, only handwritten notes but sometime after his death the Army believed he was J J Pierce. Would you think CWGC should check more thoroughly…

    Love your work Magicfingers,

    • Magicfingers says:

      Mate, I missed this one!! Just seen it. Brilliant stuff, and thanks for doing it all. I’m with you on the egg & chips.

    • Kevin Pierce says:

      John Joseph Pierce aka Thomas John Bentley was the brother of Thomas Seddon Pierce of Auburn NSW who is my great-grandfather.
      — Kevin Pierce, Sydney NSW

      • Daisy in Melbourne Australia says:

        Hello Kevin,

        Great to have the confirmation Thomas Seddon Pierce was the brother of John.

        You have some interesting information from this post. were you aware of it already?


        • Kevin Pierce says:

          Thanks Daisy.
          What i came to understand was:
          At about 6pm a fatigue party from the 27th Battalion was moving wire or rations forward towards the new line following the day’s advance at what became known as the Battle of Menin Road.
          Despite the relative success of the day, Allied artillery did not yet predominate. German artillery remained a problem- as the newspaper reports of the day hint amidst glowing reports of the successful advance.
          By the corduroy road near Zillebeke “Lake” a shell killed both John Joseph and Private Tom Ritch, a young man who had enlisted from Broken Hill NSW.
          John Joseph had enlisted from Kadina South Australia under the alias of Thomas John Bentley. He named my grandfather Thomas John Bentley- misspelt “Thomas Sedan Pierce”- as his next of kin. A pun on Bentley trumps Sedan perhaps?, i dont know.
          John Joseph had left Spring Street, Paddington NSW for silver mining at Broken Hill, then copper mining in “the Cornish triangle” mining town of Kadina in South Australia.
          Private Ritch is named on the Menin Gate.
          “Thomas John Bentley” is named on the Honour Board of enlistees still at Kadina Town Hall, and amongst the dead of the 27th Battalion in the Adelaide War Memorial.
          The Australian War Memorial however, names “Pierce J. J.”
          John Joseph also left two children, a daughter Irene Letitia Pierce and a son.
          The son John Joseph Pierce Jnr served in the Australian Army in the Second World War. He survived.

          Lest we forget.

          Again, many thanks,
          Kevin Pierce.

          • Magicfingers says:

            Kevin, thank you very much for enlightening us on your Great Grandfather. Very interesting indeed and thanks ever so for taking the trouble. Brings the stuff I write alive, if you see what I mean, to read such personal and specific details.

          • Daisy in Melbourne Australia says:

            Yes, thank you for the extended information. It’s important for families to know these specific details. Well done. The cemeteries in France and Belgium have many Australians in them and most would never have had a visitor from home. Some of the lonely isolated cemeteries are sad to see with no names in the visitor’s book for months. In my travels I always like to visit the cemetery out of the way where I know nobody goes to… there is generally always an Aussie buried there to have a chat with and thank him for his service.

  6. Colin Kennedy says:

    Many congratulations on your excellent research , my great uncle is buried in RedFarm military cemetery. M2/203022 Pte John Clingan Kennedy 406 MT Coy RASC age 24. John’s unit was attached to V Corps Royal Garrison Artillery who were located in the Hagle Dump area in April 1918 . It is likely he was killed directly by the explosion and not as an existing casualty in Red Farm CCS. I have visited his grave many times over the years.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Colin. Many thanks for your kind words. And for some most interesting information. Your Great Uncle is a little bit of a conundrum, though. His GRRF entry has his date written in red pen, not typed, I notice, so what do you think about his date of death being given as 29th April? Incidentally, I have just added the GRRF, for different reasons, to near the end of this post where the civilians in Red Farm are mentioned.

  7. Susan Hood says:

    Many Thanks for all your attention to detail of the Hagle Dump Cemetery and the explosion.
    My Gt Uncle was one of The Royal Engineers in Plot one, Row C, Sapper Mercer Smeaton. I have been researching his war history and now have the whole story. I could not find a War Diary for his Corp and was unsure what had happened to him.
    Thank you again,

    • Magicfingers says:

      You are most welcome Sue. It took a while to sort it all out, but I got there in the end. Glad it was of help!

Leave a Reply to Daisy in Melbourne Australia Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.