Tyne Cot, originally “Tyne Cott.” or “Tyne Cottage”, was a name applied to a farm building which stood near the level crossing on the road from Passchendaele to Broodseinde. Around it were a number of blockhouses or ‘pillboxes'.
The origins of the name Tyne Cot are debated. The Ypres Times in 1923 indicated that the name was given by the Northumberland Fusiliers, several battalions of which first served in the area in May 1915. While trench maps, dating from as early as mid-1916, show a number of nearby features named after rivers including the Marne, Moulin, Rhine, Seine, Thames and Tyne.
Whatever the origins of the name, Tyne Cot and the surrounding five or six German blockhouses were captured by the 3rd Australian Division on 4 October 1917, in the advance on Passchendaele.
One of these pillboxes was unusually large and was used as an advanced dressing station after its capture. From 6 October to the end of March 1918, 343 graves were made, on two sides of it, by the 50th (Northumbrian) and 33rd Divisions, and by two Canadian units. The name Tyne Cot became associated with the cemetery at this time. Tyne Cot was in German hands again from 13 April to 28 September, when it was finally recaptured, with Passchendaele, by the Belgian Army.
Tyne Cot Cemetery is in an area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.
The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.
There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.
The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September.
Tyne Cot Cemetery was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck, and from a few small burial grounds, including the following:
- Iberian South Cemetery and Iberian Trench Cemetery, Langemarck, 1,200 metres North of Frezenberg, close to a farm called by the Army "Iberian". These contained the graves of 30 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in August-September 1917, and March 1918.
- Kink Corner Cemetery, Zonnebeke, on the road to Frezenberg, containing the graves of 14 soldiers from the United Kingdom, nine from Canada and nine from Australia, who fell in September-November 1917.
- Levi Cottage Cemetery, Zonnebeke, near the road to Langemarck, containing the graves of 10 soldiers from the United Kingdom, eight from Canada and three from Australia, who fell in September-November 1917.
- Oostnieuwkerke German Cemetery, in the village of Oostnieuwkerke, containing the graves of 20 soldiers and two airmen from the United Kingdom and two soldiers from Canada who fell in 1915-1917.
- Praet-Bosch German Cemetery, Vladsloo, in the forest on the road from Kortewilde to Leke. Here were buried six officers of the R.F.C. and R.A.F. who fell in 1917-18.
- Staden German Cemetery, on the South-East side of the road to Stadenberg, containing the graves of 14 soldiers from the United Kingdom and 10 from Canada who fell in 1915-1917.
- Waterloo Farm Cemetery, Passchendaele, 650 metres North-East of Gravenstafel, containing the graves of 10 soldiers from Canada, seven from the United Kingdom and two from New Zealand, who fell in 1917-18.
- Zonnebeke British Cemetery No.2, on the road between Zonnebeke and Broodseinde, in which the Germans buried 18 men of the 2nd Buffs and 20 of the 3rd Royal Fusiliers who fell in April 1915.
King George V visited Tyne Cot Cemetery in 1922 during his visit to the cemeteries of the First World War. At his suggestion, a Cross of Sacrifice, also called the Great Cross, was placed on the original large blockhouse. Two remaining German blockhouses can be seen today.
There are now more than 11,900 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery. More than 8,370 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to more than 80 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate 20 casualties whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. There are also four German burials, three being unidentified.
The Tyne Cot Memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery and commemorates nearly 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom and New Zealand who died in the Ypres Salient after 16 August 1917 and whose graves are not known. The memorial stands close to the farthest point in Belgium reached by Commonwealth forces in the First World War until the final advance to victory.