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Artillery Wood Cemetery

Updated: Apr 8


Until July 1917, the village of Boesinghe (now Boezinge) directly faced the German front line over the Yser canal, but at the end of that month, the Battle of Pilckem Ridge pushed the German line back and Artillery Wood, just east of the canal, was captured by the Guards Division.


They took an almost empty German front line on the first day of Third Ypres. The Royal Engineers had to cut through the canal bank to build a bridge over the canal and the Germans mistook this for the British laying a mine. They withdrew some 200m to their reserve lines leaving the line thinly held and as a result, the Guards took the line.


The Guards began a small comrades cemetery just north of the wood when the fighting was over and it continued as a front line cemetery, being used by other units, until March 1918.


The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.


Cemeteries concentrated here

BOESINGHE CHATEAU GROUNDS CEMETERY, on the South-West side of the road between the village and the station, containing 19 graves of soldiers from the United Kingdom (mainly of the Guards Division) who fell in June-August 1917. BRISSEIN HOUSE CEMETERY, BIXSCHOOTE, 2 Km North of Langemarck village, a French Military Cemetery in which 22 soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried in December 1917-March 1918. CAPTAIN'S FARM CEMETERY, LANGEMARCK, 3 Km West of Langemarck village, a group of graves in which 63 soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried in July 1917-March 1918, chiefly by the Guards and 29th Divisions.


Cemetery Location

Boezinge is located north of the town of Ieper on the N369 road in the direction of Diksmuide. The Cemetery is located in the Poezelstraat, east of the village. From the station turn left along the Diksmuidseweg then take the second turning right into Brugstraat. Go to the end of Brugstraat, over the bridge, and straight on along Molenstraat. Poezelstraat is the second turning on the right after the bridge and the cemetery is on the right hand side, about 200 metres from the junction of Molenstraat.

Linesman Map showing positions prior to Third Ypres and location of Artillery Wood

Two of the Twelve Poets of the Ypres Salient

This cemetery is the last resting place of two famous poets of the First World War.

Grave II.F.11. Private Ellis Humphrey Evans, better known as ‘Hedd Wyn’, 15th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 113th Infantry Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division. He died at a nearby aid post on Pilkem Ridge on 31 July 1917, age 30.

Ellis Evans was the oldest son of Evan and Mary Evans who lived on a hill farm near the village of Trawsfynydd, North Wales. He won the first of his six bardic chairs at Bala in 1907 and was given his bardic name ‘Hedd Wyn’ at a concert held in Merionethshire in August 1910. Early in the war he wrote four lines that mourned the death of a man from a neighbouring village:


His sacrifice will not pass, and his

Dear name will not be forgotten

Though Germany has stained

Its iron fist in his blood

(Quoted from A DEEP CRY a work that includes the poems of sixty British First World War poets)


In October 1916, he started work on his awdl ‘Yr Arwr’ (The Hero) , a long eisteddfodic poem, for the 1917 Eisteddfod to be held in Birkenhead. Before he could complete this he was called up in January 1917 and enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was sent to Litherland Camp near Liverpool for his training. He was granted seven weeks leave in the Spring of 1917 to return home and work as a ploughman on the farm. During this time he continued his work on ‘The Hero’ and returning to his battalion he completed it in mid-July in France as the battalion moved to the Ypres Salient for the Third Ypres offensive.


The battalion arrived in the Canal Bank area on 20 July and crossed the canal in the early hours of the 31 July to take up their positions for the attack. The 38th Division quickly took their objectives however, they encountered fierce German resistance at Battery Copse with every officer either killed or wounded and the Regimental Sergeant Major taking command of the battalion. Having reached Iron Cross Ridge, some 200 yards short of the Green Line and one mile from the village of Langemark, Hedd Wyn was wounded in the chest by a piece of trench mortar shell and later died at the aid post.


Grave II.B.5. L/Cpl Francis Edward Ledwidge, ‘B’ Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 87th Infantry Brigade, 29th Division. 31 July 1917, age 29.

Francis Ledwidge was the eighth child of Patrick and Anne Ledwidge of Slane in County Meath. His father died when Francis was five years old and they lived in poverty for many years. He left school at the age of fourteen working first as a farm labourer then on the roads and in 1908 he was working in a local copper mine and was a founder member of the Meath Labour Union.


His first poem was published in 1910 and from 1911 he contributed a weekly article, partly written in Irish, to the Independent as well as having poems published in various local publications.


In 1912, he sent his copybook of poems to Lord Dunsany who arranged for one of them to be published in the Saturday Review and he also introduced Ledwidge to Ireland’s literary inner circle. He returned to working on the roads, following his dismissal from the copper mine for organising a strike for better pay, until the November 1913 when he took up the post of Secretary to the County Labour Union. In the Spring of 1914 he joined the newly formed Irish Volunteers and was elected Secretary of the Slane branch. The aims of the Volunteers was to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland.


In October 1914 he enlisted in the 5th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Regiment that Dunsany was serving as a Captain. He saw service at Gallipoli and Salonika, were, following inflammation in his back he was sent hospital in Cairo and was in hospital for four months before being sent to hospital in Manchester in April 1916. The Easter Rising and the execution of his friend and fellow poet Thomas MacDonagh, deeply affected him. He was court-martialled in May 1916 for insubordination and overstaying his leave.

He remained in Ireland for the next seven months at Ebrington Barracks before he rejoined the Battalion and was posted to ‘B’ Company, 1st Battalion in France. He fought at Arras before the Battalion moved to the Ypres Salient for the attack on 31 July 1917. The Battalion arrived in Proven on 26 June and spent time in and out of the trenches and at the Canal Bank under heavy shell fire. When in a rest camp near Proven he wrote to a friend on 20 July:

We have just returned from the line after an unusually long time. It was very exciting this time, as we had to contend with gas, lachrymatory shells, and other devices new and horrible. It will be worse soon. The camp we are in at present might be in Tir-na-n’Og, it is pitched amid such splendours. There is barley and rye just entering harvest days of gold, and meadow-sweet rippling, and where a little inn named ‘In Den Neerloop’ holds its gable up to the swallows, bluebells and goldilocks swing their splendid censers.

(Quoted from A DEEP CRY a work that includes the poems of sixty British First World War poets)


On the 31 July, the opening day of Third Ypres, ‘B’ Company was on working party duties behind the front line laying a plank road on Pilkem Ridge. It had been raining and the men were wet through and had paused for a welcome mug of tea when almost immediately a shell exploded nearby killing him instantly.


A Soldiers Grave

Then in the lull of midnight, gentle arms

Lifted him slowly down the slopes of death,

Lest he should hear again the mad alarms

Of battle, dying moans, and painful breath


And where the earth was soft for flowers we made

A grave for him that he might better rest,

So, Spring shall come and leave it sweet arrayed,

And there the lark shall turn her dewy nest.

(Quoted from A DEEP CRY a work that includes the poems of sixty British First World War poets)


Grave III.D.12 Second Lieutenant E Lee, 4th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment, 49th Division. 11 July 1915. The War Diary records that he was shot through the head by a sniper at 4.40pm. The Company Sergeant Major, Parkin, was severely wounded by a shell at the same time.

(Authors image)
(War Diary entry recording his death)

Grave V.A.2. Second Lieutenant David Charles Phillips, 4th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, attached 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers, 29th Division. 16 August 1917. Age 22. Son of Charles and Elizabeth Phillips, of The Albion Inn, Murray St., Llanelly, Carmarthenshire.


The Battalion was involved in Third Ypres and had their HQ at Sentier Farm opposite the Steenbeek and were attacking the German positions at Wijdendrift north of Langemark. Second Lt Phillips was in ‘C’ Company which was on the right of the battalion and he was killed in the attack. His headstone has a private memorial attached from his parents. They visited the grave in 1928.

(Authors image)
(War Diary entry recording his death)

Memorial to Gassed Algerian and French Troops

At the Carrefour de la Rose ( Crossroads of the Roses), some 250m to the south of the cemetery, is a memorial to the 45th (Algerian) Infantry Division and the French 87th (Territorial) Infantry Division. The latter consisted of ageing Breton reservists. These Divisions faced the German gas attack on 22 April 1915. After the war this area became a pilgrimage for many of the Breton families, many of the dead subsequently exhumed by the French and returned to their villages. A memorial was created to remember the fallen and this is in the form of a calvary made of sixteenth century pink granite, a pre-historic megalithic dolmen table, and eight boulders that have the names of the regiments who fought here. They are laid out in a memorial garden that represents the Brittany countryside.


FALKIRK AND DISTRICT MEN BURIED HERE


Larbert

263026 Private Matthew McNicol

5th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders

(Authors image)

Age: 33

31.7.17

IV.E.3

Husband of Annie McNicol; father of Matthew Hodge, born before they were married. They lived at 18 Argyle Street, Alexandria, Dumbarton. He was the son-in-law of Mrs Jeanie Hodge, Wheatsheaf Buildings, Larbert https://www.theypressalient.com/post/matthew-mcnicol


Burials

At the time of the Armistice, the cemetery contained 141 graves (of which 42 belonged to the Royal Artillery) There are now 1,307 First World War casualties buried or commemorated in this cemetery of which 506 of the burials are unidentified.


UK – 1243

Australian – 5

New Zealand – 2

Canadian – 30

South African - 1

Know unto God – 5

Unnamed - 506


There are Special Memorial to twelve British men buried with the unnamed.

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