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British: Essex Farm ADS

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

This is probably the most famous and visited site in the Ypres Salient. The cemetery gets its name from the small farm building that was here in the War and which the Dressing Station was established in April 1915.

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The 4th Division took over this sector in April 1915 and an A.D.S. was established by their Field Ambulance. The land south of Essex Farm was used as a Dressing Station cemetery from April 1915 to August 1917. The burials were made without definite plan and some of the divisions which occupied this sector may be traced in almost every part of the cemetery, but the 49th (West Riding) Division buried their dead of 1915 in Plot I, and the 38th (Welsh) Division used Plot III in the autumn of 1916.

The concrete bunker that can be seen today was built on the site of the original ADS dating from 1915, used by John McCrae. This ADS dates from 1916 and was made a permanent structure in time for Third Ypres in 1917, although Duhallow became the main ADS for this sector of the front in time. A protective bank of earth shields one elevation and extends over the roof. The front was protected by a wall of sandbags and this made the structure impervious to all but a direct hit. The chambers included an operating theatre, several wards and treatment rooms.

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Linesman map showing the location of Essex Farm

During Third Ypres the 51st (Highland) Division had their ADS at Essex Farm which was located on the west bank of the Yser canal. Colonel David Rorie provides a vivid account in ‘A Medico’s Luck in the War’ - 'Our bearers had preceded us for the ADS at Essex Farm on the canal bank, a hot spot; and on the evening of our arrival four of them were killed by a shell which crashed into the shelter where they were at The Willows Collecting Post in front of this.'

On the 31 July 1917, the 1/9th (Highlanders) Royal Scots, part of 51st (Highland) Division, were waiting by the cemetery before attacking as part of the second wave. Two officers were stood on the canal bank watching the progress of the 1/4th Gordon Highlanders and ignored advice to take cover. A shell exploded next to them killing one and blowing the arm off the other. The wounded officer was loaded into an ambulance that was then hit by a shell and destroyed.

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