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Mendinghem, like Dozinghem and Bandaghem, were the popular names given by the troops to groups of casualty clearing stations posted to this area during the First World War. The complex of Casualty Clearing Stations was going to be called Endinghem, but this was thought to be a little to close to the mark so it was decided to name the site Mendinghem. In July 1916, the 46th (1st/1st Wessex) Casualty Clearing Station was opened at Proven and this site was chosen for its cemetery. The first burials took place in August 1916. In July 1917, four further clearing stations arrived at Proven in readiness for the forthcoming Allied offensive on this front and three of them, the 46th, 12th and 64th, stayed until 1918. From May to July 1918, while the German offensive was at its height, field ambulances were posted at Proven. The cemetery was closed (except for one later burial) in September 1918.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

No.12, 46 and 61 CCS were staffed mostly by personnel from Philadelphia. No.64 CCS dealt with head wounds and those caused by chlorine gas. No.46 Casualty Clearing Station had two hundred beds and this was increased to 1,300 in preparation for third Ypres. On the 12 July 1917, the CCS took in over 100 casualties following a German gas attack. The Germans first used mustard gas in large quantities on the night of the 13/14 July 1917 causing some 3,000 casualties. A second attack a week later caused a further 4,000 casualties. Dr Harvey Cushing, attached to the Mendinghem Field Hospital wrote: ‘Poor devils, I’ve seen too many of them since – new ones – their eyes bandaged, led along by a man with a string, while they try to keep to the duckboards…’ On the 2 August he noted: ‘Operating from 8.30am one day till 2am the next, standing in a pair rubber boots and periodically full of tea as a stimulant… Something over 2,000 wounded have passed so far, through this one CCS. There are fifteen similar stations behind the battle front. 10.30pm. We’re about through now with this particular episode. Around 30,000 casualties, I believe.’

The patient-counter for recording the number of those treated at No.46 CCS was reset to zero on 21 September after 20,000 men had been admitted and treated, the workload didn’t stop there. The Mendinghem Stations were in constant use until September 1918.

Cemetery Location

Mendinghem Military Cemetery is located 17 Kms north-west of Ieper town centre on the N308 connecting Ieper to Poperinge and on to Oost-Cappel. From Ieper town centre the Poperingseweg (N308), is reached via Elverdingsestraat then directly over two small roundabouts in the J. Capronstraat. The Poperingseweg is a continuation of the J. Capronstraat and begins after a prominent railway level crossing. On reaching the ring road of Poperinge R33 Europalaan, the left hand clockwise route circles the town of Poperinge and rejoins the N308 towards Oost-Cappel. 6.5 Kms after joining the N308 lies the village of Proven. The cemetery is located 500 metres beyond the village of Proven on the left hand side of the road (which at this point is called Roesbruggestraat).

Shot at Dawn

There are three men buried here who were executed.

R/27615 Private John J Hyde, Grave V.A.29 Son of Mr. W. Hyde, of 35, Ridgdale Street, Bow, London. 10th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 59th Brigade, 20th Light Division. He was executed for desertion on 5 September 1917.

200757 Private Charles Britton, Grave VII.F.36 Son of John and Ellen Britton, of 31 Allison Street, Birmingham. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshires, 143rd Brigade, 48th (South Midlands) Division. He had deserted at the beginning of the British offensive at the end of July 1917. He was arrested on 16 August, the start of the Battle of Langemark in which his division was to play a prominent role. He was executed for desertion on 12 September 1917.

38332 Private David Gibson, Age 25. Grave X.E.19 Son of John and Jane Gibson, of Bridgeton, Glasgow; husband of Agnes Gibson, of 3381 Gallowgate, Glasgow.

‘C’ Company, 12th Battalion, Royal Scots, 27th Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division.

He failed to return from leave and was arrested by the police at his home in Glasgow. His battalion was to be involved in the Allied advance in Flanders at the end of September. It was put to Gibson that if he was to take part in the attack his charge of desertion would be looked at more favourably by the court martial. He again deserted, this time for two days. At his trial he gave his reason as his wife’s infidelity. He was executed on 24 September 1918.

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