13 July 2017
9 CWGC cemeteries and memorials with a link to Passchendaele
By the time the last shells fell in Belgium in November 1918, the fighting had claimed more than 193,000 Commonwealth lives. Those who died are remembered at CWGC cemeteries and memorials that dot this landscape.
A few are original cemeteries created during the war and preserved largely in the same layout, but many more were expanded later. Others lay behind the lines, near medical stations and hospitals. Their location, nature and even names reveal much about the events that unfolded here a century ago.
Here are some of the cemeteries and memorials in Ieper that commemorate those who lost their lives in the struggle for Passchendaele.
Tyne Cot is the largest CWGC cemetery in the world and the final resting place of nearly 12,000 Commonwealth servicemen. It was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and John Reginald Truelove. They incorporated three German pillboxes into their design, siting the Cross of Sacrifice on top of the largest, known as the Tyne Cot blockhouse. The cemetery takes its name from these features, as men of the Northumberland Fusiliers who fought here said they looked like their cottages in Tyneside. Along the eastern boundary of the cemetery stands the Tyne Cot Memorial. It bears the names of 35,000 servicemen of UK and New Zealand forces, nearly all of who died between August 1917 and November 1918, who have no known grave.
The village of Passchendaele was captured and passed by the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade on 6 November 1917. The cemetery was designed by Charles Holden and made after the war when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields. It now contains more than 2,100 burials, of which 1,600 are unidentified. Almost all of the burials are from the autumn of 1917.
These three sites, designed by Charles Holden, demonstrate the range of cemeteries and memorials cared for by the CWGC. Buttes is what is known as a concentration cemetery – made after the war when more than 2,100 isolated burials were brought here. At one end of the cemetery is the Butte – a man-made feature that had been the Belgian Army’s rifle ranges until 1870 – on which is the Battle Memorial of the 5th Australian Division, who captured it on 26 September 1917. At the other end of the cemetery is the New Zealand Memorial to the missing. It commemorates 378 New Zealanders who have no known grave.
In contrast, Polygon Wood Cemetery, across the road, is a front-line cemetery of just over 100 graves made during the war. The random layout of the graves paints a vivid picture of the dangers involved in the burial of the dead under the constant threat of sniper and shell fire.
Of the 7,500 burials in this cemetery, a sobering 6,300 are unidentified. Among those buried here is Private John Condon of the Royal Irish Regiment, who at 14 is thought to be the youngest battle casualty of the First World War commemorated by the CWGC.
The cemetery was begun by the Guards Division in August 1917 after they had captured Artillery Wood itself (which was to the south-east of the cemetery) during the Battle of Pilckem Ridge. The cemetery was enlarged after the war and now contains more than 1,300 burials. Among those buried here are the poets Francis Ledwidge and Ellis Evans, known as Hedd Wyn.
The memorial was one of the first, and perhaps the most famous, of the many monuments constructed by the Commission around the world. Carved onto its walls and beneath its arches are the names of more than 54,000 members of British and Commonwealth forces who were killed in the Ypres Salient and have no known grave. The memorial was unveiled on 24 July 1927. At 8pm every night, the road is closed and the Last Post is played in remembrance of all those who died.
Photo credit: Battle of Pilckem Ridge. A wire-carrying fatigue party of one of the Guards battalions crossing the Yser Canal by a duck board bridge. Near Boesinghe, 31 July 1917. © IWM (Q 5715)