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This site was in no man’s land until 31 July 1917. During the first day of Third Battle of Ypres, the 15th (Scottish) and the 55th (West Lancashire) Divisions captured Verlorenhoek and Frezenberg. The cemetery was begun by the 15th and 16th (Irish) Divisions on 1 August as the New Cemetery, Frezenberg. It was renamed Aeroplane Cemetery on account of a wreck of a British aeroplane being near the site of the Cross of Sacrifice that we see today.

Cemetery location

The cemetery is located on the south side of the Potijze – Zonnebeke road and 1.2km from the roundabout in Potijze. The French cemetery is located nearby.

Cemeteries concentrated here were:

Bedford House Cemetery (Enclosure No.2), Zillibeke – east of the Ypres – Wytschate Road. It contained fourteen graves from the 1st Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and six men from the 1st Devonshires who were killed in April 1915. It was separate from the others that now form Bedford House Cemetery.

Lock 8 Cemetery, Voormezeele – This was in a field 200m to the north of Lock 8 on the Ypres – Comines canal. It had nineteen British, two Australian and two German graves killed between July to September 1917.

Shot at Dawn Graves

Five men from the 3rd Worcesters, 7th Brigade, 3rd Division who had deserted in late 1914 and early 1915 were shot at dawn. This would be the largest execution that the British Army would carry out and the army’s theory that a single soldier should be executed as an example had absolutely no bearing.

Three are buried here at Aeroplane Cemetery. They had originally, along with Corporal Ives and Private Fellows, been buried in the Ramparts Cemetery but had been moved here. Ives and Fellows were moved to Perth (China Wall) Cemetery.

Private John Robinson, age 31, was a regular soldier with 13 years’ service and had been with the 3rd Worcesters since the retreat from Mons. Private Alfred D Thomson, age 25, was also a regular and had been with the 3rd Worcesters since November 191. Both Robinson and Thomson deserted together on 27 June 1915, the battalion was to take up its position in the line at Hooge, it had already been involved in the fighting at Hooge on 16 June. Both men were apprehended together on 5 July when on a train from Abancourt to Ruoen. The courts martial papers recorded that the men while good soldiers had been suffering from nervous strain.

The epitaph on the grave of Private John Robinson reads:

‘In loving memory of my dear son deeply mourned by father, mother, sisters & brothers.’

Private Bert Hartells, age 32, was a regular who had landed in France with the BEF on 12 August 1914. He was the fifth man to be executed.

The five executions took place at the Ramparts in Ypres on 27 July 1915. According to the records it was a wet and windy morning as the separate firing parties carried out their task.

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