Mont Kemmel Part Two – Vierstraat: Suffolk Cemetery

The first cemetery on this tour is Suffolk Cemetery, not to be confused with Suffolk Cemetery, La Rolanderie Farm, which is an entirely different cemetery in an entirely different country.

But this is an equally interesting little burial ground,…

…containing just forty seven graves, eight of which are unidentified.

Cemetery entrance, and beyond,…

…a long grass pathway leading towards the cemetery proper, so as we make our way,…

…here’s a trench map from July 1918, the front lines by now firmly established, with the Demarcation Stone that we saw last post marked as the red circle, and Suffolk Cemetery the green circle close by.  Two more British cemeteries are marked to the north west, in orange & blue, quite literally where the forwardmost German trenches peter out and the British trenches begin,…

…the poplar trees you see here…

…growing within one of them.

First sight of Suffolk Cemetery, and a pretty little place it is too, to my eyes.

Despite just showing you a map from 1918, the cemetery was begun much earlier than that.  Between 15th March & 22nd April 1915 the 2nd Bn. Suffolk Regiment buried eighteen of their colleagues, fifteen in a single line (now Row B, above & below), in what was, at the time, just a field alongside the road.

And then the battalion left for pastures new, and here the graves remained, perhaps untended, not so far from the front lines,…

…and certainly within sniper range of Germans from the high ground at Wytschaete, at the northern end of the Messines Ridge, at least until the Battle of Messines pushed the Germans back to the east side of the ridge in June 1917.  Which probably explains why these eighteen graves were not added to, apart from a single man in November 1917, until the final weeks of the war.  Vierstraat is clearly marked on this trench map from September 1916, as are the Demarcation Stone (red) and Suffolk Cemetery (green), the other areas, marked purely for contextual purposes, being the German trenches at Bayernwald (pink), Wytschaete Military Cemetery (blue) & Irish House Cemetery (orange), all of which we have visited in days gone by.

Towards the end of the war, with battlefield clearance already in full flow in areas such as this, by then a considerable distance from any fighting, the British buried a further twenty eight men here who had lain, either hastily buried, or simply unburied, on the battlefield, ever since the last days of the German advance in Flanders in April 1918,

Hence the cemetery consists today of three rows (designated as four – see the cemetery plan, with thanks to the CWGC) of headstones, all bar one either spring 1915 or spring 1918 casualties.

Cross of Sacrifice,…

…beyond which, a little under three miles away to the west, the humpback of the Scherpenberg, on the right (with Mont Noir – the Zwarteberg – beyond and to its left) is clear to see.

The 2nd Suffolks hadn’t actually gone very far, so these views of some of their 1915 graves in Row B,…

…are interspersed with shots showing the battalion a few months later, here digging trenches in the Hooge area; note the wire mesh being used to strengthen the trench sides, an officer supervising the work, two others walking up the trench, and a fourth, in the centre background, apparently snapping the scene with his little Kodak.

2nd Suffolks pose for the camera in Bellewaerde – they referred to it as Bellyache – Wood,…

…and a third shot showing men of the battalion engaged in repair work after the Battle of Bellewaerde Wood on 24th & 25th May 1915.

As mentioned earlier, the first three headstones in the second row are also 2nd Bn. Suffolk Regiment burials from March 1915,…

…the remaining graves in the cemetery all from 1918, except the first headstone on the left  (the three in the previous picture now out of shot further left) nearest the camera,…

…which is also the grave on the left here, and is that of a Somerset Light Infantryman who died on 23rd November 1917, and is designated as the fourth and final grave in Row A; you will see a plot reference on the side of his headstone.  The remainder of the headstones in the row are all designated as Row C,…

…and all, including the three who are unidentified, are York & Lancaster Regiment men killed in April 1918.

According to the CWGC database, eighteen of the twenty identified York & Lancaster men buried in Row C (above) or Row D (below) died on 26th April 1918, the two others, for some reason, being given dates of death on their headstones of 29th April (above, nearest camera), and 12th April (below, third from left).

And, of course, these two dates prove to be quite wrong, Privates Bradbury (previous photo) &  Thomas (above) dying, as did all the others, on 26th April, as this GRRF shows.

So, two more headstones that need correcting.  What exactly happened on 26th April 1918 to the York & Lancaster Regiment, I hear you ask?  The war diary reveals all (click to enlarge):

Incidentally, Suffolk Cemetery was once known as Cheapside Cemetery, according to the CWGC – or maybe that should be Cheepside, if we go by the spelling throughout these diary pages.

The bodies of all four officers killed could not be recovered, and the names of Captain Faulder, Lieutenant Bradbury & Second Lieutenant McArdle are to be found on the Tyne Cot Memorial, that of Second Lieutenant Penrose on the Ploegsteert Memorial, and the name of the one officer posted as missing at the time (below), Lieutenant W. Beck D.C.M., can be found, for some reason, on the Loos Memorial.

And I think we know where the twenty six other ranks mentioned here, killed & missing, are now buried, do we not?

Three of the unidentified burials in the cemetery are known to be Yorks & Lancs privates, two at the far end of Row D above, and two others are known to be corporals.  Of the three nearest the camera, however, two are entirely unknown, with a third simply identified as a man of the regiment.  Could one or more of the battalion officers just mentioned be buried, unknown, here at the end of the row?

South westerly view across Rows C & D, and our first view on this tour of Mont Kemmel – the Kemmelberg – two miles away on the horizon.

The CWGC signs point not only to Suffolk Cemetery, but also Godezonne Farm Cemetery, where we will find ourselves in due course, but right now our route takes us down the road to the right, where,…

…as we saw earlier, and as the first map shows, even if the signpost doesn’t, two cemeteries await us, the first of which can be found here.

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4 Responses to Mont Kemmel Part Two – Vierstraat: Suffolk Cemetery

  1. nicholas Kilner says:

    another fascinating, and as you rightly say ( I think) pretty little cemetery. The diary entries certainly paint a picture of just how quickly what may have seemed like a good idea on paper could turn into disaster. As a friend of mine oft quotes “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”, but it seems to me this one was not too well planned to start with. Interesting irregularity on the dates too. You have to wonder where the CWGC came up with those dates from in the first place. Its crystal clear on the GRRF. And how or why Lt. Beck ended up on the Loos memorial, god only knows. His date of death is once again the 26th April, so had to have died here with the rest. All very odd indeed.
    Good post!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Nick. The Loos Memorial thing is mad, eh! And as you say, no doubt about those two headstone dates. That is a terrific quote, btw.

  2. Jon T says:

    Fascinating as always and really interesting photos of the Suffolks, both for showing another aspect to life in the trenches as well as how untouched the countryside round Hooge was at that stage despite the fighting that had already happened. Hardly looks any different than it does today….

    • Magicfingers says:

      I must admit I thought the same thing Jon, but the photo credit is categorical that it was taken at Hooge – who am I to argue? Thanks mate!

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