The Vlamertinge Burial Grounds Part Five – Hop Store British Cemetery

The first of three cemeteries we shall be visiting in Vlamertinge, this is Hop Store British Cemetery. 

251 men are buried within, all British with the exception of a single Canadian, one of the first burials made here.

Now, you can see, as clearly as I can, the inscribed name at the cemetery entrance.  It says Hop Store British Cemetery, does it not?  Before we go any further, here’s what to do next.  Open up another browser and cut & paste the cemetery name into Google (other search engines are available), and see what comes up.  Go on.  Then come straight back here.

It seems that hardly anybody, including the CWGC, knows the correct name for this cemetery.

And I suspect that the error can be traced all the way back to this official IWGC illustrated guide to the cemeteries, originally published in 1929 (this is my 1993 reprint), the page open at Hop Store.

And to put the matter to bed, here’s a random GRRF from this cemetery.  Note the cemetery name.

Moving on, this map shows the juxtaposition of the three Brandhoek cemeteries we have recently visited with those at Vlamertinge, the distance between Brandhoek Military Cemetery (in red), and Hop Store British Cemetery, in orange (centre top & below)…

…no more than three quarters of a mile.

The words granting this land ‘In Perpetuity’ are inscribed around the base of the Cross,…

…and once inside we are greeted by four long lines of headstones, with a fifth shorter one in the middle distance on the left,…

…and if we look to the south, the tall building that is just intruding into this photo is actually the rebuilt Hop Store itself, but unfortunately this is the only shot in which it makes any kind of appearance.

So, we shall head for the far end of the cemetery,…

…and begin our short tour from there.

Here’s the cemetery plan for your pleasure, courtesy of the CWGC, as always.  Note that, as is usual in the smaller CWGC cemeteries, there is no Stone of Remembrance to be found here.

Vlamertinghe, now Vlamertinge, although just within range of German artillery for much of the war, was an important link in the chain of evacuation of the wounded from the front lines east of Ypres, particularly from May 1915, when two advanced dressing stations were sited here, right through until June 1917.  This map I first used a couple of posts ago shows the position of the British medical units supporting 5th Army on 31st July 1917, the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, with two walking wounded collecting stations, in purple near the centre of the map, now marked at Vlamertinghe, and the three casualty clearing stations at Brandhoek marked in orange.

The CWGC website says the following; ‘The Hop Store Cemetery, opened in May 1915, was on the safer side of the village but it remained a small cemetery because of its position between a hedge and the premises of the hop store itself. The site was low and marshy, particularly at the west end, and was drained by the Royal Engineers early in 1917.’  And certainly, the small pool on the map near the cemetery is still there to this very day, even if it is east, not west, of the cemetery, although as we have already seen, and as this map shows, the Hop Store buildings were a distance away.  Enough for the cemetery to expand, at any rate (the R.E. had drained the place, after all).  But it didn’t.

The first burials made here, in early May 1915,…

…can be found in Row E, near the small bush at the far end of the row, and we shall get there in a while, but first,…

…there are a number of graves at this eastern end of the cemetery set slightly apart from the others,…

…although I can see no real reason for this.  My immediate thought, that perhaps they were brought in post-war, is not the case, but as these are the final burials made here (three from early August 1917, two from May 1918, and one from June 1918), perhaps the boggy nature of the ground to the west that the CWGC tells us about dictated these final burials had to be made at this end of the cemetery.  I doubt we shall ever know for certain.

The headstone at the start of Row B, the second row in this shot, and one of the May 1918 burials, is a special memorial to a Buffs private ‘Buried elsewhere in this cemetery’.

The rest of the burials here are mainly from between May & December 1915, and the two months between late May and late July 1917.  Apart from the two May 1917 burials, centre & left in the front row here, the headstone nearest the camera is a November 1915 burial, those pictured in Row B behind are from October 1915, those in Row C are September 1915 burials,…

…and the burials in Row D, and these Durham Light Infantrymen in Row E, are from August 1915.

May 1916 (left) and May 1917 (right) casualties in Row A.  Pictured on the left…

…is Major Harold Payne Philby, Commanding 2nd Bn. York & Lancaster Regiment, who died on 17th May 1916 aged 28, one of just seven 1916 burials in the cemetery.  His headstone is rather unusual in that the inscription contains ‘R.I.P., ‘commanding’, & ‘killed in action’, the details laid out (including font sizes) on the form below.

Twice previously Mentioned in Despatches, Philby was awarded the D.S.O., along with his first M.i.D., in September 1915, ‘For conspicuous and consistent good service throughout the campaign, notably during the fighting at Hooge on the 9th August 1915, when with the greatest coolness and energy he frequently visited all portions of the firing line under heavy shell fire, and personally supervised the despatch of reinforcements, bombs, etc.’  Philby had two brothers, one of whom had been killed in action in December 1914, while the other, who survived the war, would later have a son called Harold, although better known as ‘Kim’ (if you need to, look him up.).

Most of the burials in Row A are from 1917, such as these May 1917 casualties,…

…whereas, in the rows behind, the burials at this end of the cemetery are all still from 1915,…

…as are most of these headstones, August 1915 casualties buried in Row B in the foreground, and men who died in July 1915 in Row C behind.  The lone Canadian headstone is in the back row, furthest right.

Early June 1917 burials in Row A in the foreground (above & below), the burials in the rows behind from July & August 1915,…

…and some here from November.  In the background, however,…

…these May 1915 graves in Row E are among the first burials made here,…

…those in Row D in front from August 1915.

Vlamertinge was the site of a main dressing station as early as April 1915, as shown on this map dated 21st April 1915, the day before the start of the Second Battle of Ypres.  However, as Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, just up the road from here, has many more burials from the spring of 1915, there must have been two medical facilities in the village at around that time.

Queen’s Westminster bugler near the end of Row E,…

…the four headstones in the background here the final ones in the row.  In Row D, in the foreground, the two burials on the left are from October 1915, that on the right the grave of Captain J. N. Armstrong (pictured), Royal Army Medical Corps, who was killed in action on 22nd August 1915, aged 26.

November & December 1915 burials in Rows C & D.  Of the seven burials made here in 1916, three were in January, and the earliest of those is in Row D, second from left here.  The single headstone in the right background is the final grave in Row E.

Looking west towards the cemetery entrance, and panning to our right,…

…the casualties nearest us in Row B from November 1915.  Six headstones from the right in Row C,…

…well, I call that a pretty impressive knitted poppy.

Five men, including the three in the foreground in Row A, are buried here who died on 7th June 1917.  Now, I know I always follow that with ‘the first day of the Battle of Messines’, but there is a very good reason.  Let’s look at some figures.

Average daily British losses in Flanders in the week prior to 7th June 1917 were 123.  The daily wastage of war.  7th June 1917 – despite being one of the most successful days – the most successful day – for the British in three and a half years of fighting in Flanders, nonetheless saw 3,424 British deaths – one of the highest casualty rates of the war.  By comparison, when the battle ended six days later, a further 2,217 British soldiers had died, and, of course, others would do so after its official end.  All of which means that whenever we see burials from that date, although we know that not all of them would have been Messines victims, we do know that many, undoubtedly the vast majority, were, and thus I always mention the significance of the date.

As a footnote, an estimated average of 6,000 soldiers died across all the combatant nations per day during the Great War.

July 1917 burials in Rows C & D.

Returning to the reason why this cemetery ceased to be used after July 1917, I think the clue to the most likely answer, as opposed to those I quoted earlier from the CWGC (and this extract from the medical evacuation diagram we saw earlier backs me up), is that it was walking wounded who, at that time, were directed to the aid stations at Vlamertinge.  And walking wounded are, generally, not expected to die, certainly not in the initial hours after they were wounded.  Blood infections from wounds, a major problem in pre-antibiotic days, would take a while to take hold, by which time these men would hope to be in hospitals far to the west, where the best medicines of the time could be administered.  Men more seriously wounded, patched up at one of the advanced dressing stations further east of Vlamertinge (the series of red dots on the diagram), would be packed into ambulances whose next stop would be the casualty clearing stations newly arrived at Brandhoek, by-passing Vlamertinge village completely, or simply passing straight through.  And the proof is that neither of the Vlamertinge cemeteries to the north of the Ypres-Poperinge road contain any casualties from Third Ypres (the third cemetery, half a mile south of the village, is another story).

These two men in Row B both died on 17th June 1917, and both headstones have the men’s date of death inscribed in a peculiar (although we do see this occasionally) position, almost as if the engraver missed them off when originally inscribing.  Five artillery graves are visible in this shot,…

…and although it may not have seemed so, fifty eight, over one in four of the men buried here, are artillerymen,…

…the majority at this end of the cemetery.  The first headstone in each row here (Rows A, B & C) is a Royal Field Artilleryman, with a considerable number of others to be seen further along the rows.

One last shot of the Cross of Sacrifice,…

…and a reminder, as we leave.  But we aren’t going far.  About half a mile, if you click the link.

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15 Responses to The Vlamertinge Burial Grounds Part Five – Hop Store British Cemetery

  1. Morag Sutherland says:

    How appropriate that Vlamertinge is covered today. Yvette Boutrey a great friend of Talbot House was buried in local cemetery today…..a local lovely lady so for me this was a special connection
    The main reason. We visited Hop Store a long time ago was because of a certain Philby!

  2. Daisy in Indonesia says:

    Hey Magicfingers,

    Great post, very nicely done… how is it the CWGC can get the most simple things wrong however we shouldn’t be too harsh as they get just about everything pretty much perfect… particularly the gardeners!

    Whenever I read the name ‘Harold’ it always makes me think of Steptoe and Son, totally hilarious and a casting stroke of genius…

    I love when karma happens Morag. Repose en Paix Yvette…


    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Daisy. Thanks mate. I was amazed when I first noticed the cemetery title error – nonetheless I of course agree with you that they look after the cemeteries superbly.
      You will think I’m very odd, but the theme to Steptoe is one of those recurring ear-worms that I find myself humming at times and have done for years……..

  3. Nick Kilner says:

    Great post, and very well spotted!
    Major Philby’s headstone is certainly an unusual one. Did you happen to pick up that he has three headstone documents rather than the usual two? The R.I.P is it seems a personal inscription, that is to say added and paid for by the family. Why they have chosen to put ‘commanding’ on the there is anyone’s guess. I wonder if he had only recently taken over command of them?
    That rose is a beauty!

    • Morag Sutherland says:

      I had presumed a reference to Philby was in Major and Mrs Holt but no it is in Paul Reed’s book walking the Salient page 126.includes a picture of him
      End of 1915 he was acting Adjutant and early 1916 he was appointed to command the battalion but he did not live long enough to be promoted to rank of lieutenant colonel. ….there is more if you dont have a copy of the hook let me know

    • Magicfingers says:

      I have to say that I hadn’t checked that form, so many thanks Nick, it has now been added to the post.

  4. David Wrigley says:

    My Grandfather lies in the Hop Store Cemetery, he died in July 1917, my father never knew his dad, as he was born in August 2017….Sadly I know nothing of my grandfather, but have visited his grave, each time i visit Ypres….it would be nice to know, why he’s laid there….any information gratefully received….thank you

    His name ….. Tom Wrigley….

    • Nick Kilner says:

      Somewhat curiously he’s listed as 334 Railway construction company RE. I say curiously because there only appear to have been 299 railway construction companies as far as I can ascertain. There was however a 334 Road Construction Coy, and both were referred to as RCC RE, which is unusual and confusing in itself. Unfortunately information seems to be extremely limited on their whereabouts, and I’ve yet to find anything resembling a unit war diary. The only info on the 334th RCC RE I can find related to the road construction company, which states that they arrived in Le Havre 2nd March 1917, moved to Albert 7th March 1917 and joined 2nd Army 27th May 1917 (info taken from the long long trail). It might be worth contacting the Royal Engineers museum, as they hold many of the war diaries for RE units.

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