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Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery

Updated: Aug 27, 2022



Kemmel Chateau was north-east of Kemmel village and the cemetery was established on the north side of the chateau grounds in December 1914. It continued to be used by divisions fighting on the southern sectors of the Belgian front until March 1918, when after fierce fighting involving both Commonwealth and French forces, the village and cemetery fell into German hands in late April. The cemetery was retaken later in the year, but in the interval it was badly shelled and the old chateau destroyed.


The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

The entrance to the cemetery is a representation of the old chateau that was destroyed and the trees make a wide avenue to the Cross of Sacrifice. The original chateau was located to the rear of the cemetery and was owned by the son-in-law of the Hennessy brandy family. The road that runs past the cemetery was known to the British as Sackville Street. The village of Kemmel was behind the lines for much of the War. Despite being behind the lines it was often shelled by long range German guns.


Diary Accounts of Kemmel

In his diary ‘The Burgoyne Diaries. The First Winter at Ypres with the Royal Irish Fusiliers’ Gerald Burgoyne records in his entry for 16th December 1914: ‘..Kemmel, the town through which we marched on our way here shows, in its skeletons, shattered windows and pitted roadway, how heavily it has suffered. Just behind the town rises Mont Kemmel, a small eminence on which stands the ruins of a restaurant (the Belvedere).This is our artillery observation post.’


Writing in his diary on 16th December 1914, Billy Congreve records: ‘They are shelling Mont Kemmel very heavily today. This hill has even a more commanding view that our Scherpenberg and one can see even more of the German and our lines. We have artillery observers up there, so naturally the Germans shell it. There is a sort of watch tower on the highest part (the Belvedere) – this the Germans make a dead set on and shell it unmercifully. They have so far put only one shell through the tower, but the ground all round it is a most extraordinary sight; just as if hundreds of earthquakes and cyclones had visited it, so smashed up is it.’ On the 19th December 1914, he wrote: ‘The German gunners seem to be a good deal more active. Cornwall and I went up to the top of Mont Kemmel where one really gets a grand view. The tower is now only ‘standing on one leg’. Very little more and down it will come.’


Of the town, Burgoyne noted in his diary: ‘Took a walk around Kemmel town this morning. I don’t think that out of a town of some 4,800 inhabitants there is one house quite intact and undamaged by shrapnel, and half the place is in ruins, blown down completely…There are some dozen shops of sorts where bread, butter, candles, chocolate, and sweets can be bought, and milk and eggs can be easily obtained…The interior of the church is smothered in masonry dust. A shell has pierced the chancel behind the High Altar and shattered it and littered the chancel with debris.. A lot of the stain glass windows are shattered with shrapnel…’ In January 1915, Burgoyne noted in his diary that two local men had been caught and shot by the Northumberland Fusiliers. They had been signalling to the Germans using the hands of the church clock.


Cemetery has a Regimental feel

The cemetery has a distinctly regimental feel to it. Row E has sixty-six graves of men belonging in the main to the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment) 1/8th Battalion and from April/May 1915.


There is also a large representation of Royal Scots with eight men having died on 21 April 1915 and one of the 2866 Private A Darrock, 2nd Battalion, age 17 in E.21. Row N has fifty-eight graves of men from Irish Regiments. Row K has a large representation from Canadian Regiments.


Buried in grave L.4 is Lieutenant Colonel G.L.B. Du Maurier, he was an uncle of Daphne Du Maurier. He commanded the 3rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and was killed on 9 March 1915. Gerald Burgoyne wrote in his diary: ‘Just heard over the telephone from Brigade Head Quarters that Colonel Du Maurier was killed this morning by a shell which blew up Alston House, the old farm which is always used as Battalion Head Quarters when the Battalion is in the trenches… He was the author of ‘An Englishman’s Home,, the brother of Gerald Du Maurier and the son of the artist…he was waiting in the house for his Sergeant-Major to report that everyone was in safety before he took cover himself.’ He was age 49 and had previously served in Burma and South Africa.


Cemetery Location

Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery is located 8 Kms south of Ieper on a road leading from the Kemmelseweg (N331), connecting Ieper to Kemmel. From Ieper town centre the Kemmelseweg is reached via the Rijselsestraat, through the Lille Gate (Rijselpoort) and straight on towards Armentieres (N336). 900 metres after the crossroads is the right hand turning onto the Kemmelseweg (made prominent by a railway level crossing). On reaching the village of Kemmel the first right hand turning leads onto the Reningelststraat. 600 metres along the Reningelststraat lies the right hand turning onto Nieuwstraat. 500 metres along the Nieuwstraat on the right-hand side of the road lies the cemetery.


FALKIRK AND DISTRICT MEN BURIED HERE

Denny & Dunipace

10226 L/Cpl Alexander Clarke Forbes

1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders

Age 23

29.4.16

M.22

Son of William Forbes, of Fern Cottage, Mosstodloch, Fochabers, Morayshire. Native of Forres


Shot at Dawn

There are two men buried here who were executed at Kemmel. https://www.theypressalient.com/post/kemmel-chateau-military-cemetery-1

Private Stanley Stewart, 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 90th Brigade, 30th Division. He had been conscripted back into service having previously being invalided out in 1914. He had deserted on 25 July 1917, he escaped from custody and recaptured. He was executed on 29 August 1917. Private James C Smith, 17th Battalion (1st Liverpool Pals) King’s, 89th Brigade, 30th Division. He was executed on 5 September 1917 for disobedience and desertion.


Burials

There are now 1,135 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery and 21 from the Second World War (which all date from the Allied withdrawal ahead of the German advance of May 1940).


UK – 1030

Australian – 24

New Zealand – 1

Canadian – 80

WWII

UK – 21

French - 1

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