top of page
  • Admin

Godewaersvelde British Cemetery

Updated: Mar 31, 2023


The cemetery was begun in July 1917 when three casualty clearing stations were moved to Godewaersvelde. The 37th and the 41st buried in it until November 1917, the 11th until April 1918, and from April to August 1918, during the German offensive in Flanders, Field Ambulance and fighting units carried on the burials. A considerable French plot was made on the terrace at the higher end of the cemetery in May and June 1918, but these graves were later removed.


Mont des Cats, one of the highest hills on the border between France and Belgium, rises up above the town. At the top of the hill is the Trappist monastery and the community of priests and brothers. To the British troops the difficulty in pronouncing the name of the town was easily solved by them anglicising it to ‘God Wears Velvet.’ As with the large Casualty Clearing Stations at Remy and Abeele, Godewaersvelde was on the military railway running south from Poperinghe to the railhead at Hazebrouck and from there onto the coastal Base Hospitals around Boulogne.


The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.


Godewaersvelde was untouched by enemy artillery but was bombed by enemy aircraft. A witness of one of the raids on 20 October 1917, Nurse June Catherine Macfie, was interviewed by Lyn Macdonald, the audio recording is in the Imperial War Museum archives. She recalled that from her CCS there were two casualties and that from the CCS near by a nursing sister and five patients were killed (actually three patients and three RAMC orderlies) and one hundred wounded. The sister is buried in the cemetery


Only New Zealand Nurse Casualty on the Western Front

Sister Madeleine Margaret Kemp was killed in the German air raid on 20 October 1917. She was serving with the 37th Casualty Clearing Station on attachment from the 58th CCS. Sister Kemp is the only New Zealand nurse to die on the Western Front in the War. She is buried in Plot I.M.1


Lyn Macdonald described how she must have died in her book ‘They Called It Passchendaele’: ‘There was no warning that night and Sister Madeleine Kemp was just going on night duty. Holding a hurricane lamp in her hand, she had squelched across the duckboard pathway to the big marquee of the post operative ward when an orderly ducked out through its canvas flap. She stopped to speak to him just as the first of the bombs fell. Sister Kemp and the orderly were killed outright.


She described the funeral: ‘As soon as the graves could be dug, the long funeral cortège wound its way past the tents, along the road, past the station and up the lane to the left, where row upon row of white wooden crosses marked the cemetery on the slope of the hill….. There were eighteen coffins in the cortège, and the engineers from the dump near by who had supplied them had also supplied a party of men to carry them on the 300 yard journey to the graveyard. The nurses followed, as many as could be spared from the wards, and as the cortège passed No.11 CCS other nurses joined them – Catherine Macfie, Sister Lyle, Sister King, the Matron…. There were more than one hundred mourners in the cemetery. It was a perfect autumn morning, with the bright sunshine and a hard frost and a low ground-mist drifting over the clustered white crosses and eighteen open graves. After the padre had finished the service and the coffins had been lowered, the nurses filed past, each sprinkling a handful of muddy earth on to Sister Kemp’s coffin…


Talbot House connection

Also buried here is 2nd Lieutenant, Bernard C Stenning, 5th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, age 35. Died 26 July 1917. I.A.10. He was attached to the 228th Field Company, Royal Engineers. He received the Sacrament in the Upper Room at Talbot House (TOC-H) shortly before his death. A wooden prayer desk in the Upper Room at TOC-H bears his name.


RAMC Casualties from 133rd & 134th Field Ambulances

There are two men buried here from 133rd Field Ambulance who were in the area in September 1917. The burials are recorded by Allan Jobson in his diary ‘Via Ypres. The Story of the 39th Divisional Field Ambulance.’ The 39th Divisional Field Ambulance was responsible for casualty evacuation in The Bluff and had its Headquarters at Voormezeele and the A.D.S. at Lock 8. The Divisional Collecting Post was at Larch Wood and the Advanced Collecting Post at Hedge Street for the left Brigade and Canada Street for the right Brigade. He records that: ‘The clearing of the R.A.P’s was a work which required the utmost devotion to duty, and great credit reflected on the bearers in the way in which they came through. The evacuation from these R.A.P’s back almost to the A.D.S. was carried out under the most trying conditions. Forward a perfect hurricane of shells fell and it was there we lost three gallant officers. First, Capt H.D. Field, O.C. Bearers, received wounds to which he subsequently succumbed. Immediately afterwards Capt. J.H.C. Gatchell, M.O. in charge 11th Royal Sussex, was killed, then another bearer officer, Capt, K.T. Limbery, made the supreme sacrifice.


On the 27 September , the division was relieved in the line and moved back to the Mont de Cats area. He records: ‘One of the first duties to be performed after the Ambulance had settled into its new quarters was to lay to rest the bodies of Capt. Limbery and Corp. Tallon, D.C.M., who had also paid the great price, in the little cemetery of Godewaersvelde. Parties of the various Ambulances attended the sad occasion and thus paid their last respects to these gallant men, leaving them under the serried rows of little wooden crosses and the mud of the newly dug graves. Pathetic in the rawness of their resting place, and the simplicity of their burial. While the wind made lament through the trees and the rain beat impetuously on a thousand sorrows.’





Captain Kenneth Thomas Limbery

133rd Field Ambulance, RAMC

Age 25

26.9.17

I.J.18

Son of Thomas and Margaret Limbery, of 12, Barnpark, Teignmouth, Devon.
















72320 Corporal H Tallon D.C.M.

134th Field Ambulance, RAMC

Age 28

28.9.17

I.J.16

Son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Tallon, of 17, Port Hall Place, Brighton.











Cemetery Location

Godewaersvelde is a village near the Belgian border, about 16 kilometres south-west of Ieper (in Belgium), and is half-way between Poperinge (in Belgium) and Hazebrouck (in France). The British Cemetery is a little east of the village.


FALKIRK AND DISTRICT MEN BURIED HERE

Grangemouth

169682 Gunner John Taylor Mitchell

'D' Battery 187th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

Age 23

9.8.17

I.C.43

Son of Finlay & Agnes Mitchell


Cemeteries concentrated here

After the Armistice, the graves of five soldiers of the 110th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery were brought in from a point nearer the Mont des Cats and in May 1953, four graves in Godewaersvelde Churchyard were moved into the cemetery.


Burials

Godewaersvelde British Cemetery now contains 1062 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, and 19 German war graves.


UK – 985

Australian – 65

New Zealand – 2

Canadian – 5

South African – 2

India – 3

German – 19


There is one Sister of the Territorial Force Nursing Service

118 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page