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Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery

Updated: Jan 2


The cemetery was begun in April 1915 at the North-end of a small plantation of larches. It was used by troops holding this sector, particularly the 46th (North Midland) Division and the 1st Dorsets who served in the 5th Division until 1916 and then in the 32nd Division, until April 1918. It was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields of Ypres and from the following smaller cemeteries. There is a grave of a Canadian Merchant Seaman. Also, there is one Falkirk and District man buried here killed in the mine explosion on 4 August 1916.


The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.


To this new concert, white we stood,

Cold certainty held our breath;

While men in the tunnels below Larch Wood

Were kicking men to death.

From the Concert Party, Busseboom, by Edmund Blunden


(IWM E(AUS) 672 - Surgeons attending wounded in Larch Wood)


Writing in his classic book ‘Undertones of War’ Edmund Blunden described the Larch Wood area in 1917: ‘Larch Wood Tunnels were magnificent work. The passages excelled in height and width and air supply. At this time they were principally in use as a medical headquarters, and once inside them it certainly seemed that safety and calm were assured. But outside people were being killed from time to time. A strange scene was to be viewed from the southward outlets of this tunnel – the deep old railway cutting past Hill 60, it was a dark canal now, the banks of which were shattered and the timbers tossed aside by cataclysm. Hill 60 was not noticeable, having been transformed into a mine crater, but a bridge beside it still spanned the railway cutting with a rough, red-patched arch. Water dripped and slipped down the chaotic banks into the greasy flood beneath. The market train from Comines looked like being delayed for all eternity. Philip de Comines would not have known the place.’


Canon Frederick George Scott, Senior Chaplain to the Canadian 1st Division, wrote of his experiences of Hill 60 and Larch Wood in his memoirs ‘The Great War As I Saw It’ published after the War: ‘At the front, we held Hill 60 and the trenches to the south of it. In a railway embankment, a series of dugouts furnished the Brigade that was in the line with comfortable billets. The Brigadier’s abode had a fire-place in it. One of the dugouts was used as a morgue, in which bodies were kept till they could be buried. A man told me that one night when he had come down from the line very late, he found a dugout full of men wrapped in their blankets, every one apparently asleep. Without more ado, he crawled in amongst them and slept soundly till morning. When he awoke, he found to his horror that he had slept all night among the dead men in the morgue.


He recalled the walk from Railway Dugouts to the front line: ‘From Railway Dugouts, by paths and then by communication trenches, one made one’s way up to Hill 60 and the other parts of the front line, where remains of a railway crossed the hill. Our dugouts were on the east side of it, and the line itself was called ‘Lover’s lane.’ The brick arch of a bridge which crossed the line was part of our front.


Hill 60 today. Authors image

The cemetery is off the beaten track and is not one of the more visited of the military cemeteries and it is difficult to imagine that this was one of the last comparatively safe spots on the way from Ypres to Hill 60. Hill 60 rises only 60m above sea level, hence the name given to it by the British army cartographers, yet it is synonymous with the slaughter on the most vicious scale within the confines of the Ypres Salient and perhaps the whole of the British Western Front. Hill 60 is a small insignificant rise of spoil made from the digging from the Ypres – Menin railway cutting which runs alongside. From 1915-17 it was of great tactical importance as the land contours are generally flat and so, this spoil hillock became of paramount importance due to the view it commanded over the village of Zillibeke and to the town of Ypres. There are many military books that detail the mining operations and the many battles that took place here culminating on the blowing of the Hill 60 mine and its twin at the Caterpillar in June 1917. Today, the site is visited by many thousands who walk over and around Hill 60. It allegedly holds the remains of several thousands of men from both sides who died in the savage fighting. In June 1917, when the mine exploded beneath it two companies of German soldiers were killed, some 600 men.


(Hill 60 is to the left. The British Trench 40 ran along the road). Authors image

The sheltered position of Larch Wood was exploited by the troops who created dugouts and trenches in and around the cutting and communication trenches were dug that led up to Hill 60. The main communication trench, numbered 38, linked the trenches 37 and 39 and ran from the foot of the hill along todays road to the rail bridge. Every night saw work parties bring wire, ammunition, food, and other trench materials up from the RE dumps at Zillibeke Lake and Transport Farm and drop their loads at Larch Wood Tunnels. The rerun journey saw them escorting the wounded from the Advance Dressing Station at the tunnels back to the Main Dressing Station at Railway Dugouts (Transport Farm). Those men who died of their wounds or had been killed on Hill 60 were buried in, what is today, Larch Wood Cemetery.


(The Caterpillar Crater. In Battle Wood. Peaceful today) Authors image

A mine shaft, the Berlin Sap so called as the length of the tunnel went all the way to Berlin, had been sunk by the Royal Engineers just east of Larch Wood Tunnels and served as the entrance to the tunnel used to lay the charges of ammonal under Hill 60 and the Caterpillar German redoubt located in Battle Wood which was on the western edge of across the railway from Hill 60. The entrance to the Berlin Sap can still be seen to the east of the cemetery wall. The Caterpillar Crater can be seen today and is now a peaceful location.


(The rise in the ground beyond the cemetery wall is the Berlin Sap today)

Hill 60 Tunnel Accident, 25 April 1917

Three officers and seven men of the 1st Company, Australian Tunnelling Corps, were killed at the Hill 60 tunnel accident. They were preparing an explosive charge in ‘D’ left gallery when it prematurely exploded. The bodies were recovered three days later.


The officers:

  • Capt. Wilfred P Avery – Poperinge New Military Cem – I.E1.2

  • 2nd Lt. Glyndwr D Evans, Age 33, Railway Dugouts (Transport Farm) Cem – VII.G.33

  • Lt. Arthur E Tandy, Age 25, Poperinge New Military Cem – I.E1.1


Lieutenant John Eden - Grave IV.D.6

Buried in Larch Wood Cemetery is Lieutenant John Eden, 12th Lancers, killed in action on 17 October 1914 between the Menin Road and the Zillibeke village while he was on patrol with his squadron. He was originally buried in America Cross Roads German cemetery but was brought here with three others after the Armistice. He was the elder brother of Sir Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon, the British Foreign Secretary during WWII, and Prime Minister at the time of Suez Crisis in 1956. He also served in the Salient with the 21st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 41st Division, and saw action at Raven Wood, St Eloi. In his memoirs he never mentions visiting his brothers grave although he does mention him with affection.


Also buried here are a line of men from the 16th Canadian Expeditionary Force, a number of those were killed in the mine blast and subsequent fighting on 4 August 1916. One of whom is a Falkirk and District man.


Authors image

British Airmen Buried Here

There are many airmen buried in this cemetery with many brought here after the Armistice having been exhumed from German cemeteries. I have listed a selection click on the link


Cemeteries concentrated here

AMERICA CROSSROADS GERMAN CEMETERY, WERVICQ, (named from a cabaret between Wervicq and Kruiseecke) contained the graves of five soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in October 1914.


BRUGES GENERAL CEMETERY, ST. MICHEL, contained the graves of 32 soldiers and airmen from the United Kingdom and one Canadian merchant seaman.


CORTEMARCK GERMAN CEMETERY, No.1, a little North-West of the village, contained the grave of two R.F.C. officers.


EERNEGHEM GERMAN CEMETERY, a little East of Eerneghem, that of one R.A.F. officer.


GHISTELLES CHURCHYARD contained the graves of two British soldiers who fell in July 1917. There was a German aerodrome at Ghistelles, and the Germans used a plot in the Churchyard for war burials.


GROENENBERG GERMAN CEMETERY, ZANTVOORDE (on the South side of "Shrewsbury Forest"), contained the graves of four soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in February 1915,


HANDZAEME GERMAN CEMETERY (on the North side of the village) those of two Canadian soldiers who fell in May 1915, and

ICHTEGHEM GERMAN CEMETERY (a little West of Ichteghem) those of two unknown R.A.F. officers.


LEFFINGHE GERMAN CEMETERY (on the North side of the village) contained the graves of one R.F.C. officer who fell in July 1917, and three unknown soldiers from the United Kingdom: and


MARCKHOVE GERMAN CEMETERY, CORTEMARCK, those of ten soldiers and airmen from the United Kingdom who fell in 1918.


OUDENBURG CHURCHYARD contained the graves of two soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in 1917, and TENBRIELEN COMMUNAL CEMETERY GERMAN EXTENSION those of six who fell in 1914.

THOUROUT GERMAN CEMETERY No.2 (on the road to Jabbeke, beyond the railway line), contained the graves of seven soldiers and airmen from the United Kingdom and one from Canada; VLADSLOO GERMAN CEMETERY (near the Church) those of two R.F.C. officers who fell in 1917; and WARNETON SUD-ET-BAS GERMAN CEMETERY those of two unknown British soldiers who fell in 1918.


WERVICQ COMMUNAL CEMETERY and its EXTENSIONS (on the Belgian side of the Lys) contained the graves of 62 soldiers from the United Kingdom and six from Canada.


WIJNENDAELE GERMAN CEMETERY, THOUROUT, contained the graves of two flying officers from the United Kingdom and one from Canada; and ZANTVOORDE GERMAN CEMETERY (called also De Voorstraat No.49) those of eleven soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in 1914.


(Linesman Map. showing Larch Wood and Hill 60 and the British and German positions at 28 January 1917)


Cemetery Location

Larch Wood Cemetery is located 4 Kms south-east of Ieper town centre, on the Komenseweg, connecting Ieper to Komen (N366). From Ieper town centre the Komenseweg is located via the Rijselsestraat, through the Rijselpoort (Lille Gate) and crossing the Ieper ring road, towards Armentieres and Lille. The road name then changes to Rijselseweg. 1 Km along the Rijselseweg lies the left hand turning onto Komenseweg. 2.7 Kms along the Komenseweg lies the left hand turning onto Larch Wood Cemetery. The cemetery itself is located 400 metres along a rough single tracked road which leads to an ungated railway crossing, immediately adjacent to the site.


FALKIRK AND DISTRICT MEN BURIED HERE

Bo'ness

350729 Pte David Marr Boslem

14th Battalion Highland Light Infantry

Age 22

21.4.18

IV.F.13

His grave was concentrated here on 22.1.25 from Bruges General Cemetery. He was a POW who died of his wounds on 21 April 1918 in the German Naval Hospital in Bruges.


Links to the area

427173 Pte Alexander Hugh McLachlan

16th Canadian Infantry

Age 26

4.8.16

IV.G.10

Husband of Ellen McLachlan, of 154, Barnsbury Rd., Islington, London. Born in Scotland


Burials

The cemetery contains 856 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 321 of the burials are unidentified and there are special memorials to 82 casualties known or believed to be buried in the cemetery. Other special memorials record the names of five casualties buried in German cemeteries whose graves could not be found on concentration.


UK – 614

Australian – 35

Canadian – 86

British West Indies – 1

Known unto God – 33

Unnamed - 321

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