From Dickebusch Lake to St. Eloi Part Three – Voormezele Church & Churchyard

The rebuilt church at Voormezele. 

It all looks fine today,…

…unlike 106 years ago, the inset photograph taken on 30th April 1916.

Look out for these green signs, if you are touring an area for the first time, signifying that there are Commonwealth war graves within – in this case just a single war grave.

Although this might appear at a distance to be the grave we are looking for, it actually isn’t,…

…closer inspection revealing that this is the grave of Michael Stennett, CWGC employee, who lived and worked in Belgium.  A quick interweb search (thank you Traces of War) revealed that Michael Stennett’s Uncle, Charles Stennett, was killed during Third Ypres, and that Michael later moved to Belgium, working for the CWGC overseeing and maintaining the cemeteries, including Tyne Cot.  Good man.

But no, this is the grave we are looking for,…

…a lone white headstone…

…amid so much grey.

The headstone is that of a cavalry officer, Lieutenant Edwin Winwood Robinson, 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers,…

…or at least the grave is believed to be his.  Robinson was killed in action on 25th October 1914 aged 26,…

…although other documentation suggests he died a day later.  Certainly, the lancers were fighting as infantrymen when he was killed, the early days of cavalry fast becoming a distant memory.

A quick search inside the church…

…reveals two Great War Rolls of Honour, the first listing the dead,…

…the second listing those who fought (‘outstrijders’ means ‘veterans’),…

…along with a Second World War Roll as well.

Display of historical, some wartime, images of Voormezele.

It is perhaps somewhat curious that this single grave remains in the churchyard, because Voormezele hosts two other CWGC cemeteries.  Or is it three?  Or even four?  I’ll explain next post.

Postscript: Now that we are, what is it, thirteen years past the death of the last British Great War veteran, Harry Patch – you may or may not know that I attended his funeral back in 2009; there are some snapshots here – we are quickly approaching another sad milestone.  Have you ever considered that there are people alive today who still mourn a father killed during the Great War?  Not many, though.  But, as of 2022, one such is 105-year-old Joyce Dawes, whose father, Second Lieutenant Alexander Cowling of the Cambridgeshire Regiment, was killed during the German bombardment of Voormezele on 26th April 1918 aged 32.  She still has a letter from him to her mother, dated March 1918, enquiring as to the health of his baby daughter, Joyce.

Alexander, whose body was never found; Alexander & Joyce; Joyce in 2022; and the panel on the Tyne Cot Memorial with Alexander’s name fourth from the top of the left-hand column.  Our tour, meanwhile, continues here.

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4 Responses to From Dickebusch Lake to St. Eloi Part Three – Voormezele Church & Churchyard

  1. Morag L Sutherland says:

    Could you please share order of Service for Harry Patch ? I have often wondered what hymns and readings there were. Also my husband’s father’s cousin fought with CEF stayed on in Poperinge post 1WW and looked after Lijssenthoek. We heard today his son George almost 101 is poorly in hospital. The enclosure cemeteries in Voormezele are very interesting. I have photos of these one Easter look forward to reading what you have discovered.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Now, you have got me searching for something that I may or may not possess. If I do possess a copy of the Order of Service, why did I not upload a scan of it? And yet I am sure I must have a copy somewhere. I shall continue searching, but am also spring cleaning the Man Cave and everything is a bit topsy-turvy at the moment.
      The Voormezeele cemeteries are indeed fascinating, and complicated, at times. As you shall see. Soon.

  2. Mike Barber says:

    Quite sad really that he was not buried alongside some of his comrades. I’m sure there must be a good reason for it. I suppose in a way, it makes him extra special!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Yep Mike, I know what you mean. I suspect the family may have had something to do with his body remaining in the churchyard. That wouldn’t surprise me. Friends in high places?

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