From Dickebusch Lake to St. Eloi Part Five – Voormezeele Enclosure No. 3

The understated entrance to Voormezeele Enclosure No. 3. 

And before you ask, should you be unaware, yes, we did indeed cover the first two enclosures,…

…here marked in green, last post.  And the fourth one, which no longer exists.  Our current location is marked in pink, Voormezele churchyard in yellow.

From a casualty point of view, Voormezeele Enclosure No. 3 is by far the largest of the three enclosures that still remain,…

…over 1,600 men buried within its walls.

There are over 900 identified burials here in total, the first of which was made by Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment), and all the burials that you can see along this, the cemetery’s eastern boundary wall, are men of the regiment.

This map shows the P.P.C.L.I. positions at St. Eloi (in blue) in early 1915, with the German front line in red.  Over in the top left you can see a small cemetery marked as P.P.C.L.I. Regimental Cemetery, which, much larger, of course, is now Voormezeele Enclosure No. 3.

Two of the most important figures in the history of P.P.C.L.I. are buried here, in the front row, beneath the two graves closest to the camera.  The central headstone with the little Canadian flag bears the name F. D. Farquhar,…

…and it was Lieutenant Colonel Francis Douglas Farquhar D.S.O., seen here on the left, who was instrumental, along with the man who, in August 1914, offered to fund a new regiment (his offer was accepted) in the first place, Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault (not pictured), in founding and raising P.P.C.L.I.  In fact it was Farquhar, ex-Coldstream Guardsman and at the time Military Secretary to Canada’s Governor General, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, who had asked his boss’s permission to name the regiment after his daughter, and who would become its first commanding officer.  When Farquhar, who was 40, was killed in action at St. Eloi on 21st March 1915*, his replacement would be another Englishman, 34 year-old Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Cecil Buller D.S.O. (above centre & right), originally appointed the regiment’s adjutant, who would himself be killed in action, on 2nd June 1916, at Mount Sorrel.

*contemporary sources suggest he died of wounds on 20th March.

Buller’s headstone is closest to the camera.  Although fourteen months had passed between the two men’s deaths, their relationship could perhaps be summarised by the fact that their men buried them, as one report (pictured later) puts it, ‘in the same grave’.  Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry used this as their regimental burial ground between 8th January & 24th March 1915, during which time 56 identified men were buried here, all in Plot III near the eastern boundary wall.  There is one later burial, which must be, as we know, Lieutenant Colonel Buller (actually Buller was a colonel who, as commanding officer, had the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel), who, as we also know, died in 1916.  But actually, the P.P.C.L.I. officer concerned is another Englishman, Lieutenant Michael Hubert Alexander Spruyt De Bay, aged 27, who was killed in action at Sanctuary Wood (close to Mount Sorrel) on 2nd June 1916, the same date that Buller was killed, and whose grave can be found in Plot XI Row A.  Which means that, including Buller, there are 58 identified men of the regiment buried here in total, even though the records say 57.

There is an explanation.  Buller was appointed adjutant by Farquhar in August 1914 having spent the last fourteen years with The Rifle Brigade, and he is still listed under The Rifle Brigade, if you look up his details.  Thus he is not included in the casualty numbers relating to P.P.C.L.I., even though his headstone is inscribed with the regiment’s name and the Canadian maple leaf emblem.  The GRRF on the left, dated June 1920, lists Buller as P.P.C.L.I., but the undated copy (a copy, and therefore, presumably, later) on the right has ‘Rifle Brigade’ added in pencil alongside his name.

Buller (left) & Farquhar (right), with the P.P.C.L.I. regimental colours, the inset showing the report mentioned earlier.  And if you look closely at Buller’s cap badge, yep, that is the emblem of The Rifle Brigade (Farquhar’s cap badge is, of course, that of P.P.C.L.I.).  Buller has even got a mountain in Alberta, Canada – Mount Buller – named after him, for heaven’s sake!  Mind you, if all old-Etonians, as he was, would just be satisfied with having mountains named after them, instead of dabbling in politics because of some ridiculous class-based belief in their inbred superiority*, then maybe the world would be a slightly better place.  Little bit of politics, as Ben Elton used to say.  We move on.

*although this has, it might also be said, often proved an asset in wartime.

Farquhar’s death is mentioned in the newspaper report on the left, as is that of another P.P.C.L.I. officer, Lieutenant Frederick Lawrence Eardley-Wilmot, pictured on the right.

Eardley-Wilmot, buried at the start of the second row, Row B, was killed in action on 19th March 1915, aged just 20.

Incidentally, it would be October 1916 before the first Canadian-born commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Agar Adamson, was given command of the regiment, and he would survive the war (as would Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault, the man who financed the formation of the regiment, if you remember him from earlier, who would actually survive two world wars).  The two headstones closest to the camera on the right, both P.P.C.L.I. officers killed in January 1915, are the first two headstones of Plot III Row A, in which Farquhar & Buller are also buried.  The long line of headstones crossing this picture is Plot II Row B,…

…and if we stroll along the row,…

…we find the majority of the burials are East Surrey casualties,…

…fourteen in total,…

…the men all killed between February & early April 1915.

Which leads us to the cemetery’s south west corner, from where this view looks east, the four headstones of Plot I Row A directly in front of us, with Plot I Rows B & C, three graves and a single grave respectively, behind.  Plot II Row B, with the East Surrey graves we have just seen, stretches across the picture immediately in front of the cemetery entrance on the far right, and along the cemetery wall, closest to us and also on the right,…

…is a row of special memorials to men ‘Believed’ or ‘Known to be buried in this cemetery’.  There were originally fourteen, and there are now fifteen; I know this because the cemetery plan, with thanks as ever to the CWGC, tells me so.

Three of the four burials in Plot I Row A; all four are men of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry killed in March 1915, as are the three men buried in Row B behind.  And if you’ve now looked at the cemetery plan, you will have immediately noticed that, although just fifty yards up the road from Enclosures Nos 1 & 2 (and always assuming you read the previous post), Enclosure No. 3 is a considerably different burial ground.  A cemetery of two halves, twelve of its sixteen plots are to be found crammed, on the plan (although actually more scattered in reality) across this, the southern half, the remaining four plots, all much larger, making up the northern half.

A short distance to the right (east) of Plot I Row B are two privates, one from the Royal Warwickshires, the other a D.C.L.I. man, both killed much later in the war, in December 1917 & January 1918 respectively, their headstones designated as Plot I Row AA.

Behind (the second headstone from the left above can be seen between the two headstones in the previous shot), the six graves of Plot IV Row A contain five men of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment who all died on the same day, 24th November 1917, and a Royal Engineer who died in May 1915 (far right).

Despite the different emblems on the headstones, these two subalterns in Plot II Row E are both casualties from The Rifle Brigade, both men killed on 15th March 1915,…

…the man on the right attached from the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.  Actually, Second Lieutenant George Llewelyn Davies, just twenty one when he was shot by a German sniper during an officers’ meeting early on the morning of 15th March 1915, is a name worth dwelling on briefly, because it was he and his brothers who were the inspiration, not so many years previously, for J. M. Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’ and the ‘Lost Boys’.

An unknown man of the Cambridgeshire Regiment in Plot IX C3, one of just over six hundred unidentified burials in the cemetery.

Back at the western cemetery wall, with the three rows of Plot I Row A and the row of special memorials we have already seen in the right background, and the cemetery entrance top left.  In the foreground, the three graves of Plot V Row A with, you will notice, the headstone inscriptions all facing in the opposite direction to those we have so far visited.  These men, all London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), died in late May or early June 1915.

Plot V, Row A now the third row from the camera, more Queen Victoria’s Rifles in Row B, and the only German burial in the cemetery, alongside a Hertfordshire Regiment private, both men killed in October 1918, in Row BB in the foreground.  At which point,…

…we find the three graves of Plot V Row D, once again all October 1918 casualties, and all facing the other way again.  The row behind (once more the inscriptions change sides) appears to contain some closely packed headstones,…

…and indeed it does, not something you would gather from the cemetery plan, from which the uninitiated might presume that there are only nine headstones in Plot VII Row C, highlighted in orange on the cemetery plan inset,…

…even though that would be this many, and the row quite clearly contains far more headstones than this.  In fact, there are thirty burials in the row, three listed at the bottom of the GRRF on the left below, and all the names on the GRRF on the right, all but one men of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; note that Row B, on the left GRRF, also contains primarily K.O.Y.L.I. burials, the earliest from early June 1915.

The three 2nd Bn. K.O.Y.L.I. entries from June 1915 at the bottom of the left hand form are designated as Row C, graves 1, 2 & 3, as standard, but the entries on the right hand side, barring the first two, show that the remaining twenty six K.O.Y.L.I. burials share just five grave numbers between them (Nos 4 to 8 in the far right hand column),…

…before the row ends with a single man of the R.F.A. killed much later, in October 1918, as pictured above.

The obvious question is what happened that caused the deaths of these men, and, luckily for us, the war diary for the 2nd Bn, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry for July 1915 explains all; I have transcribed the apposite sections, but click the diary pages to enlarge if you wish to read more:

‘At 2.45 am. the Enemy exploded a mine about 15 yards in front of the parapet of Q1 trench which was occupied at the time by C Coy (Capt Buckle). The mine went up with terrific force exploding under the Pavi Road and a ruined house. About 80’ of Q1 Trench was demolished + all occupants buried. Only 5 men of No 12 Platoon survived – falling Pavi Stones + bricks which were hurled 200 feet in the air caused many casualties in R2 & R3 Trenches. The enemy shelled + Trench Mortared illegible Trenches heavily for about 1 hour after the explosion but did not attack. Our casualties amounted to 111 (29 killed + 82 wounded).’

‘The 29 men killed were buried in our Cemetery in Voormezeele.’  Well, there are twenty four K.O.Y.L.I. men who died on 17th or 18th July 1915 buried in Row C, and one wonders whether, in reality, the remaining five were never recovered from the site of their deaths.  It’s interesting to note that on 21st July ‘Correspondents of the Morning Post & Daily Mail visited our trenches’, showing that at least early in the war journalists were being allowed in the front line.

Moving on, the K.O.Y.L.I. headstones of Plot VII Row C now the third row from the front, this is Plot X Row B, with Row A behind; if you check the cemetery plan you will see that these two rows are the only ones that cross the whole cemetery.

Canadian burials at the end of Plot X Row B – the headstone on the right marks the grave of two unknown men.

Which brings us to the large space between the southern (right) and northern halves of the cemetery,…

…with the Stone of Remembrance sited along the cemetery’s eastern boundary and the two rows of Plot XII on the right hand side.  We shall return to the Stone and the burials beyond Plot XII leading back towards the cemetery entrance later on,…

…but next we shall have a look at the northern half of the cemetery which, unlike the southern, is far more structured, which is what you would expect, all the graves – well over a thousand of them – being concentration burials, the bodies brought from elsewhere to be reburied here after the war.  We begin on the far left of this picture…

…with Plot XIII Row A, and if we turn to our left,…

…guess what, we find Row B,…

…this is the view looking north east across Plot XIII.

Plot XIII Row D, the headstone nearest the camera…

…a special memorial to a London Regiment rifleman killed on 7th June 1917 and ‘Buried near this spot’.  As the majority of the posts published on this site over the last decade have featured our travels around Flanders, I would imagine that I must have typed that date several hundred times, because that was the day, as many of you know, that nineteen huge mines exploded along the German front lines up on the Messines Ridge.

Two views of Plot XIII Row G (above & below),…

…neither very informative, to be fair, although I can tell you that there are some more casualties from 7th June 1917, and the following day, buried in the row.

Beyond Plot XIII we find Plot XV.  The small tree on the left at the end of the cemetery,…

…reappears here on the right, these headstones all in Plot XV,…

…as are these, as we look north east towards the Cross of Sacrifice.

Looking west, Plot XV Row G in the foreground; note the number of unidentified men in the first two rows.

View looking south at the whole of the northern half of the cemetery from the cemetery’s northern corner, Plot XV closest to the camera,…

…and another view of Plot XV, this time from the centre of the cemetery,…

…the Cross of Sacrifice behind us.

View from the Cross, looking towards Plot XV on the right and Plot XVI beyond the Cross on the left.

Plot XVI, Row M in the foreground (above & below),…

…every grave in the row unidentified.  During the final year of the war the French had used this part of the cemetery to bury their dead, both during the German offensive in the spring, and later during the start of the Hundred Days, the final Allied advance to Armistice, the graves later cleared before the British concentration burials were moved here.

The Germans captured Vooremezele after heavy fighting on 29th April 1918 and thus may have been responsible for some of the French burials.  The map above from May 1918 shows the village in German hands (blue trenches), with the front line just yards away to the north west, the site of Enclosure No. 3 marked in pink, Nos 1 & 2 in green.

View from the cemetery’s eastern corner looking west across the cemetery.  Row M, seen in the previous shots, is to the right of, and beyond, the tree.

Looking north from Plot XVI from between Row H, crossing the picture in the foreground,…

…and these unknown men buried in Row G.  Beyond, after a larger gap than normal between the rows,…

…Row F – once more note the number of unknown burials in all these rows – and continuing south,…

…this view looks back at the Cross from beneath the tree,…

…before we arrive at the end of the plot, and Row A.  Now unfortunately I took no photographs of this particular row, at least none from the side where we might observe the inscriptions, which is a shame, really,…

…because the row contains twenty two men of 1/7th London Regiment who died on 7th June 1917, that first day of the Battle of Messines, and in total 110 identified men buried in the northern half of the cemetery died on that date.

Both sides, enquiry (left) & response (right), of a document concerning the reburial of the twenty two men.

View looking south west across Plot XIV, Row L, the final row, in the foreground.

Men of the Honourable Artillery Company, killed in the spring of 1915, at the start of Row L,…

…and unidentified men in Plot XIV.

Leaving the northern half of the cemetery, and passing the Stone of Remembrance,…

…Plot XII Row A now crossing this picture in the foreground.  Behind, we once again encounter Plot X  and the start of the only two rows, you may remember from earlier, that cross the whole cemetery.

The same two rows again, and you’ll notice something left at the foot of one of the headstones in Row B on the left,…

…which is the grave of Private John Dawson of the Lincolnshire Regiment, just twenty when he died on 7th September 1915.

His lieutenant wrote to his parents the same day; ‘Dear Mr. Dawson, I am deeply sorry to have to inform you that your son Pte. J. Dawson, ‘A’ Coy. 7th Lincolnshire Regiment, was killed on duty this morning. He was struck on the side of the head with a piece of shell, and never regained consciousness. I was with him when life expired, and I hope it may be some consolation that he never felt the slightest pain. He was buried by the Chaplain in a small cemetery where many of our brave men, who have sacrificed their lives so nobly for their country, lie at rest, and s simple wooden cross will be erected over his grave by the regiment. Will you and his mother please accept my very deepest sympathy; believe me, yours very truly. Lieut. A. H. Hadley.’  A memorial service was later held for Dawson, the first man in Leverton (near Boston in Lincolnshire) to respond to Lord Kitchener’s appeal for men for the New Army, and the first Leverton man to give his life in the service of his King & Country.

Seen in a couple of the previous shots, this is the Pheasant Wood Cemetery Memorial,…

…which remembers five men originally buried in Pheasant Wood Cemetery, although not the one with the same name opened in 2010 that we visited a while back.

And here is the GRRF for those five men (for 1919, obviously, read 1917), and an explanation.  Originally remembered by a special memorial cross, these men died – almost certainly killed by shellfire – in the days leading up to the Battle of Passchendaele,…

…and were buried on land captured during the Battle of Messines in early June.

Although I do have some excellent research material on the early days of the Western Front cemeteries, of this particular one, I can find no mention.

However, because I like to please, I thought I’d see if I could find it on a map, which for once turned out to be much easier than expected, and this one, from May 1916, shows Pheasant Wood quite clearly, behind the German lines (in red) at this time.  This area was captured by the British in the aftermath of the mine explosions of 7th June 1917,…

…and this map, with Pheasant Wood again marked, shows how far the Germans had been pushed back the previous month, their trenches in red now to the far right of the map.  Interestingly, this map is dated 18th July 1917, just a few days before the first of the five men remembered was killed.

And this map extract, which, although undated, is certainly later than the previous two, now has a cemetery (red circle) marked close to Pheasant Wood, which surely must be the site of Pheasant Wood Cemetery.

All of which leads us back to the P.P.C.L.I. graves in Plot III, Row M in the foreground, the graves of Buller & Farquhar at the far end of the plot.  To the right of Plot III the nearest headstones to the camera are in Plot IX,…

…these seven South Lancashire Regiment burials in Plot IX Row A from the summer of 1915.

Rifle Brigade subaltern in Plot II Row E,…

…and then we are back at the entrance,…

…where will hand the place over to this group of pilgrims,…

…and take our leave.  Incidentally, the cemetery register can be found just inside the entrance – do sign the visitor’s book, which you should find behind this little door along with the register in most CWGC cemeteries, if you visit.  Our journey east continues next post, so I’d click the link if I were you.

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7 Responses to From Dickebusch Lake to St. Eloi Part Five – Voormezeele Enclosure No. 3

  1. Morag L Sutherland says:

    As always amazing detail of casualties. I had expected a reference to George Llewlyn Davies as he was inspiration for Peter Pan according to Major and Mrs Holt p 183/184 extra visit section
    My edition is 2001 so page numbering might be different. He was the reason I chose to visit but yoy have supplied much for any future visit

    • Magicfingers says:

      How very interesting. My Holts volume is around 2001 too – except mine is in French!! Anyway, it’s a good job I took a pic of Davies’ headstone – I shall add something to the text. Thanks for mentioning, otherwise I would never have known.

  2. Jon T says:

    Thanks for another fascinating description of one of the less well known “Corners of a foreign field”

    I had known that George Davies met his end around Ypres but had not known until now where he was laid to rest.

    Also PPCLI seemed to have been quite a unit based on my knowledge of their involvement in some of the most challenging events in the War from Frezenberg Ridge in 1915 through to Passchendaele and many others in between.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Jon. The George Davies story had passed me by – not quite sure why – so thanks to Morag for pointing it out. And yes, I agree about P.P.C.L.I. Whenever I read about them they always seem to be in the thick of it.

  3. Peter Dawson says:

    Good to read about John Dawson, a relative of my dad’s. Strong Leverton family. I was born in Boston and lived in Wrangle. Live in Belfast and I’m returning to France and Belgium this Thursday the 16th May.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Peter! Thanks ever so for taking the trouble to comment – always interesting to hear from relatives of the men whose graves I have visited. Oh, and have an excellent trip.

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