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Hooge Crater Cemetery

Updated: Mar 4


The entrance to Hooge Crater Cemetery. Authors image

The Cemetery has a formal layout and has good views to Sanctuary Wood with the fields beyond the boundary wall at the bottom of the cemetery were once the site of the shattered Zouave Wood. As you enter the cemetery there is a circular feature which represents the mine crater blown in 1915.


On the other side of the Menin Road from Cemetery stood the Hooge Chateau, only the stables remain now as a hotel. The Bellewaarde Water Park now stands on the site of the Chateau , which was the HQ for various units. It was being used as the joint HQ for the British 1st and 2nd Divisions on 31 October 1914. Major-General’s Lomax and Munro, General Officers commanding 1st and 2nd Divisions respectively, where in conference there when at 1.15pm the Germans laid down a heavy barrage registering a direct hit on the Chateau Annex. A number of officers were killed, General Munro was stunned and in a state of shock and General Lomax was seriously wounded, dying in England in 1915.


IWM Q 57200 The left wing of Hooge Chateau as seen from the road, 31 October 1914. The destruction was caused by the bursting of an 11 inch shell

With the commands in chaos at a critical juncture in the First Battle of Ypres, General Haig took command and reorganised the command of both Divisions. The dead are buried at Ypres Town Cemetery. https://www.theypressalient.com/post/ypres-town-cemetery-and-extension


Cemeteries concentrated here

Hooge Crater Cemetery was begun by the 7th Division Burial Officer early in October 1917. It contained originally 76 graves, in Rows A to D of Plot I, but was greatly increased after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields of Zillebeke, Zantvoorde and Gheluvelt and the following smaller cemeteries:


BASS WOOD CEMETERIES No.1 and No.2, ZILLEBEKE, on the East side of the Bassevillebeek, 1 Km South of Herenthage Chateau. They contained the graves of 48 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in December 1917 - March 1918. KOELENBERG GERMAN CEMETERIES, GHELUWE, close together on the South side of the Menin Road, in which were buried ten soldiers from the United Kingdom.

K.O.S.B. CEMETERY, GHELUWE, on the Menin Road, 1 Km West of Gheluwe. Here were buried, after the capture of Gheluwe by the 34th Division, in October 1918, 18 soldiers from the United Kingdom, of whom ten belonged to the 1st/5th K.O.S.B.

LA CHAPELLE FARM, ZILLEBEKE, between Chester Farm and Blauwepoort Farm, where 17 soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried in February and March 1915.

MENIN ROAD PILLBOX CEMETERY, ZILLEBEKE, between Herenthage Chateau and Gheluvelt, where 20 soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried in October 1917.

NIEUWE KRUISEECKE CABARET CEMETERY, GHELUVELT, on the South side of the Menin Road, where 21 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from Canada were buried in October 1918.

PILLBOX CEMETERY, ZONNEBEKE, 500 metres North-East of Westhoek, which was used in October 1917; there were buried in it 34 soldiers from Australia, 26 from the United Kingdom, two from Canada and one of the British West Indies Regiment.

SANCTUARY WOOD OLD BRITISH CEMETERY, ZILLEBEKE, within the wood and North-East of the present cemetery; there were buried in it, in 1915-1917, 50 soldiers from the United Kingdom (of whom 30 were unidentified) and four from Canada.

TOWER HAMLETS CEMETERY, GHELUVELT, between Gheluvelt and Bass Wood, on the West side of a row of "pillboxes" called Tower Hamlets; it contained the graves of 36 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in the winter of 1917-1918.

WESTHOEK RIDGE SMALL CEMETERY, ZONNEBEKE, in Westhoek village, "near the Area Commandant's pillbox and the A.D.S."; it was used in the autumn of 1917, and it contained the graves of 16 soldiers from Australia and six from the United Kingdom.



The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.


Cemetery Location

Hooge Crater Cemetery is 4 Kms east of Ieper (Ypres) town centre on the Meenseweg (N8), connecting Ieper to Menen. From Ieper (Ypres) town centre the Meenseweg is located via Torhoutstraat and right onto Basculestraat. Basculestraat ends at a main crossroads, directly over which begins the Meenseweg. The cemetery itself is located 3.5 Kms along the Meenseweg on the right-hand side of the road.


IWM Badly Damaged Hooge Chateau 2nd Ypres 1915

Site of the mine crater is just beyond the fence shown in the picture. The crater was filled in after the War. Authors image

3rd Division Mine 19 July 1915

In his excellent diary later published under the title ‘Armageddon Road. A VC’s Diary 1914 -1916’, Billy Congreve, gives an excellent first-hand account of the mine at Hooge exploded on 19 July 1915 by 3rd Division. He writes on 18th July: ‘We are to loose off the mine tomorrow night. It ought to be a real good explosion, as we are putting into it 3,000 lbs of ammonal over 11/2 tons! The mineshaft is at Bull Farm, and we hope the gallery end to be exactly underneath the redoubt. The idea is that when the mine goes off, the Middlesex are to seize the crater and the trench in front of Island Posts and make them good.’ The mining at Hooge was carried out under difficult circumstances by Major S.H. Cowan’s 175th tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. They had to constantly contend with sub-soil problems and worked in six inches of water. They drove the gallery, 190 feet in length, to a position calculated to be beneath the German fortified redoubt. They laid a charge of 3,500 lbs of ammonal in a chamber just above the water level. It was discovered later that the Germans had begun mining operations but had stopped because of the water problem. On the 19th July, Billy Congreve recorded in his diary: ‘.. it is to be touched off at 7pm…. The mine went off most successfully and the Middlesex took the crater without much trouble, also the piece of trench in front of Island Posts… the crater is huge, and the explosion greater than we thought possible; so great that several of the storming party were burned by falling debris, in spite of the fact that they were all withdrawn south of the main road (Menin Road)’ The Germans were taken completely by surprise and caught off balance by the explosion. Two companies of the 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment quickly occupied the crater. Their bombing parties drove the Germans back three hundred yards before they ran out of grenades and had to retire themselves. On the 30 July the Germans counterattacked in a well organised and effective attack using liquid fire (flamethrowers) for the first time.


Linesman map showing the craters at Hooge. The single crater on the left is the crater from the mine blown on 19 July 1915.


IWM HU 124655

German counterattack at Hooge, 30 July 1915. 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Keith Hedley Rae, 8th (Service) Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own). Killed in Action on 30 July 1917. No known Grave. Remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial: A Stone cross on the grass verge outside Sanctuary Wood Military Cemetery.


The following text is from the Western Front Association website:

Born on 24 May 1889 in Birkenhead, Thomas Keith Hedley Rae was the youngest son of Edward Rae, a stockbroker, and his wife Margaret of Courthill, Devonshire Place, Birkenhead. He was educated privately because of ill health but went up to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1907 and took second class honours in History in 1912. Rae founded a boys' club in Oxford which continued to flourish long after his death and took great interest in the well-being of the young. After coming down he gained his teaching diploma and taught as an Assistant Master at Marlborough College until he volunteered to fight.. Together with many Balliol men he was commissioned into the 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade in 14th (Light) Division and went to France in May 1915.


Liquid Fire

Their first major engagement was at Hooge in late July. Rae commanded a platoon in 'C' Company holding the line at Hooge Crater. Following a violent barrage early in the morning 'there was a sudden hissing sound and a bright crimson glare over the crater turned the whole scene red' wrote 2/Lt G V Carey later, 'As I looked I saw three or four distinct jets of flame - like a line of power hoses spreading fire not water - shoot across my fire trench...' This was the first use of 'liquid fire', or flame-throwers, and it wrought carnage among 'C' Company. 2nd Lt Rae was last seen burnt and bleeding, standing on his parapet firing at the attackers. He has no known grave.

Memorial to 2nd Lt Keith Rae at Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. Authors image

After the War Rae's family came to an arrangement with Baron de Vinck, owner of the land, and erected a Celtic Cross on the spot where he was last seen. Of Belgian blue stone it has a rectangular base in two stepped courses surmounted by a plinth block and cross, and it is, in fact, a replica of the memorial at Marlborough to the Assistant Masters who fell in the War.


On the bottom of the cross is inscribed:

'BE THY FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH I WILL GIVE THEE A CROWN OF LIFE' and on the plinth TN MEMORY OF KEITH RAE 2/LT 8/RIFLE BRIGADE DEAREST LOVED YOUNGER SON OF EDWARD AND MARGARET RAE WHO DIED ON THIS SPOT 30th JULY 1915 IN HIS 25th YEAR FIGHTING IN THE GREAT WAR FOR HUMANITY'.

Facing upwards on the upper base are the words:

'CHRIST'S FAITHFUL SOLDIER AND SERVANT UNTO HIS LIFE'S END'

and on its front:

'IN MEMORY ALSO OF HIS BROTHER OFFICERS AND MEN WHO FELL ON THE SAME MORNING AND AFTERNOON'.


Talbot House Connection

Rae was one of a group of officers from the 7th and 8th Rifle Brigade Battalions whose example led to the setting up of Toc H and Talbot House - Gilbert Talbot, a great friend of Rae's, who now lies in Sanctuary Wood Military Cemetery. And it was the founder of Toc H, the Rev 'Tubby' Clayton MC, who dedicated Rae's memorial on Whit Sunday, 15 May 1921. It was just north of the Menin Road to the right of the lane to Bellewaarde Farm and is still marked on IGN maps. Originally, there was a carefully tended garden some 16 yards long by 7 yards wide and Rae's parents visited it regularly.


After the Second World War the garden fell into disrepair and by the 1960s Tubby Clayton and Baron de Vinck were concerned for the Memorials future. CWGC suggested three possible new sites. By the Menin Road, by Hooge Crater Cemetery, or by Sanctuary Wood Military Cemetery. Planned road widening ruled out the first two but the wide grass verge at Sanctuary Wood offered room 'for Toc H to gather for a hymn and a prayer' Family members were traced; they approved and made financial provision and the memorial passed into the care of CWGC. It was moved to its new site in June 1966.

On the rear face of the base were added the words:

'THIS MONUMENT ORIGINALLY ERECTED BESIDE HOOGE CRATER AND DEDICATED ON 15th MAY 1921 WAS TRANSFERRED TO THIS SITE IN 1966'


This is not quite the end of the story, for in 1995 there was a proposal to move it back again , but the Rae family decided against it. Thus the memorial to Keith Rae remains on the immaculate grass at Sanctuary Wood with its future assured.


Disaster at Hooge, 2.45pm, 30 July 1915. 41st Brigade, 14th (Light) Division

The Germans first used ‘liquid fire’ as a weapon against the British, in the early morning of 30 July 1915. It was used as a surprise weapon in a well planned and efficiently executed attack on the British trenches as Hooge. It was launched against the troops of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade and the 7th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, both of 41st Brigade, the attack was a complete success and a total disaster for the defenders. The British lost men they could ill-afford and the high ground on Bellewaarde Ridge. For the Germans, they regained the ground lost to the British on 19 July and gained unobstructed views of the British lines and of Ypres.


British counterattack 2.45pm

View from Sanctuary Wood towards Hooge. Authors image

The British regrouped and counter-attacked, using the same troops who had been pushed off the ridge earlier in the day together with two weary battalions they had relieved the night before – all the troops were untrained in both bombing and counter-attack tactics – it was doomed to fail from the start. Artillery support was minimal, a 45-minute bombardment, just 45 minutes of shelling an enemy that had been allowed 12 hours to consolidate and prepare for the expected British attack. One also doubts if any thought had been given to holding the trenches from the inevitable German counter-attack, had they, by any the stretch of the imagination, been taken.

Site of the former Zouave Wood. Authors image

A full-frontal assault by 41st Brigade, led by 8th Rifle Brigade from their positions in Zouave Wood with the 7th Rifle Brigade in support. To their right was the 7th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, supported by the 8th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, would attack from the trenches on the edge of Sanctuary Wood. Both the 7th RB and 8th KRRC had marched back to rest camps only to be recalled within one hour of arriving. Exhausted and depleted in numbers they took further casualties as they moved back into the support lines at Sanctuary and Zouave Woods.


To the left, The Culvert sector, the 9th KRRC would attack with the 9th RB in reserve, both of 42nd Brigade. The 6th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, 43rd Brigade was in reserve in Zouave Wood. The frontal battalions, in name only, were to cut through the German wire to clear a path up the slope in full view of the enemy a few hundred yards away. Captain A. C. Sheepshanks, commanding ‘D’ company, 8th RB, which was the only full company in the battalion, was to lead two platoons from in front of the British wire, a position that he was to take up during the 45-minute bombardment. The remnants of ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies were on his left, ‘C’ Company was virtually non-existent having taken the brunt of the morning attack by the Germans. The troops attacked and had no chance being shot down as soon as they left cover, and at 3.15pm the attack was called off.


Major F.M. Crum, 8th KRRC wrote: ‘..and now we were in for a real attack, and one in which I for one honestly felt there was no fraction of a chance of success; 800 to 900 yards across the open, up a glacis held by trenches, with no covering guns, and under an unholy bombardment from every kind of German gun, fired from every side into our salient…It certainly seemed a case of goodbye to this world.. I knew our Brigadier had personally protested, and yet had received peremptory orders to counter-attack…L/Cpl D Hankey, 7th RB was wounded in the thigh during the approach at Zouave Wood, writing under his pseudonym 'A Student In Arms', his account of the action appeared in the Spectator in December 1915, under the heading ‘The Honour of the Brigade’ He wrote: …A man went into hysterics, a pitiable object. His neighbour… perfectly, fatuously cool.. A whistle blew… The first platoon scrambled to their feet and advanced at the double.. they disappeared. The second line followed, and the third and fourth… No one hesitated. The storm of lead and iron which met them mowed them away… the edge of the wood choked with corpses.’


The Woodroffe's & 'Billy' Grenfell

Captain L Woodroffe, ‘D’ Company, 8th RB, tried to crawl back to take a position in the middle of his line and was hit in the thigh, then a ricochet hit his knee, a bullet hit his boot and another went through his pocket. His second-in-command 2nd Lieutenant G.W. ‘Billy’ Grenfell, went forward with this glasses hanging half off, sprinting towards the German lines. Platoon Sergeant Jackson saw him hit by a bullet in the head and another in the side. He died instantly. He like the others only got a few yards before they were cut down. His body was found by Sergeant Rogers of ‘C’ Company, 3rd RB in a row of others. It was not identifiable owing to German sniping during the period it lay in No Man’s Land. It was identified later when his identity disc was found on the body. He was buried where he lay. 2nd Lieutenant S.C. Woodroffe, ‘A’ Company was already wounded with a cheek wound covered by a bandage around his jaw. He left the trenches leading his men in the charge uphill and was hit three times and died trying to cut a path through the German wire. He was nineteen years of age. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. He is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial https://www.theypressalient.com/post/menin-gate-memorial


Gilbert Talbot

Lieutenant Gilbert Talbot, 7th RB, was with his platoon on the edge of Zouave Wood, there were just sixteen men unwounded available. He led them into the attack blowing his whistle and shouting ‘Come on, my lads – this is our day!’ He was killed on the wire just yards from Woodroffe, being shot through the neck. His servant, Rifleman Nash, attempted to save him but was himself wounded in the arm and a bullet pierced the third finger of his right hand, it was later amputated. Talbot’s elder brother Neville, Senior Chaplain, 6th Division, attached to 3rd RB, was instrumental in finding the bodies of his brother and Woodroffe. He recorded later: ‘…Anyhow the first time I tried, just about dusk, I got into No Man’s Land, first found the body of young Woodroffe VC, and then found Gilbert’s body. It was very hot weather, and of course the bodies were much affected by it. It was rather horrid. I took his cap badge, and some things out of his pocket. There was nothing more that could be done that night, so I got back into a trench.’ Gilbert Talbot is buried in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery https://www.theypressalient.com/post/sanctuary-wood-cemetery


The 42nd Brigade casualties were 7th RB – 16 officers, 300 other ranks, 8th RB – 19 officers, 469 other ranks, 7th KRRC – 13 officers, 289 other ranks, 8th KRRC – 10 officers and 190 other rank killed, wounded and missing. The 9th KRRC of 41st Brigade had 13 officers, 333 other ranks killed wounded and missing.


Victoria Cross holder buried here

Authors image

Private Patrick J Bugden

31st battalion, (Queensland and Victoria) Australian Imperial Force

8th Australian Brigade

5th Australian Division

Age 20

28.9.17

VIII.C.5

Son of Thomas and Annie Bugden, of "Hotel Wells," Tweed Heads, New South Wales. Born at Gundurimba, New South Wales.


An extract from "The London Gazette," No. 30400, dated 26th Nov. 1917, records the following:-"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when on two occasions our advance was temporarily held up by strongly defended "pill-boxes". Pte. Bugden, in the face of devastating fire from machine guns, gallantly led small parties to attack these strong points and, successfully silencing the machine guns with bombs, captured the garrison at the point of the bayonet. On another occasion, when a Corporal, who had become detached from his company, had been captured and was being taken to the rear by the enemy, Pte. Bugden, single-handed, rushed to the rescue of his comrade, shot one enemy, and bayoneted the remaining two, thus releasing the Corporal. On five occasions he rescued wounded men under intense shell and machine gun fire, showing an utter contempt and disregard for danger. Always foremost in volunteering for any dangerous mission, it was during the execution of one of these missions that this gallant soldier was killed."


FALKIRK AND DISTRICT MEN BURIED HERE

Falkirk

965 Sgt Robert Thornton Fernie

‘C’ Coy, 2nd Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Age 23

25.9.17

IXA.H.17

Son of James D & Maggie Fernie, Husband of Dorothy Stubbs (formerly Fernie)


Burials

There are now 5,916 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 3,570 of the burials are unidentified, but special memorials record the names of a number of casualties either known or believed to be buried among them, or whose graves in other cemeteries were destroyed by shell fire.


UK – 5182

Australian – 513

New Zealand – 121

Canadian – 105

British West Indies – 2

Unnamed – 3580


Special Memorials to six British men, four Australians, one New Zealander and eight Canadians known/believed to be buried here amongst the unnamed. There are also Special Memorials to fourteen graves destroyed by shell fire at other cemeteries.

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