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Prowse Point Military Cemetery


This cemetery is unique on the Salient for being named after an individual. The cemetery, and the line along the eastern edge of the wood, mark the site of the stand by the 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment and the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry in holding St Yves, a small clustering of dwellings which became ruined cottages and buildings, in October 1914, and which featured the heroism of Major Charles Prowse - later as Brigadier-General C.B. Prowse, DSO (Somerset Light Infantry), he would be killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, whilst commanding the 11th Infantry Brigade (he is buried in Louvencourt Military Cemetery). The small pool by the Cross of Sacrifice was part of the front line


The cemetery was begun by the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 19th Brigade, 4th Division and the 1st Royal Warwickshires, 10th Brigade, 4th Division and was used from November 1914 to April 1918.


The cemetery was designed by W H Cowlishaw.


Cemetery Location

Prowse Point Military Cemetery is located 11.5 Kms south of Ieper town centre, on a road leading from the Rijselseweg N365, which connects Ieper to Wijtschate, Mesen, Ploegsteert and on to Armentieres. From Ieper town centre the Rijselsestraat runs from the market square, through the Lille Gate (Rijselpoort) and directly over the crossroads with the Ieper ring road. The road name then changes to the Rijselseweg. 2 Kms after Mesen lies the left hand turning onto Rue St.Yvon. The cemetery is located 600 metres along this road on the right hand side.


(Linesman map)


Major C.B. Prowse commanded 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry and the cemetery, as mentioned above, is named after him, for an action he initiated and commanded in October 1914. Prowse farm on the Frezenberg Ridge is also named after him for his activities here. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1916 when he took command of 11th Brigade, 4th Division. He was wounded on the 1st July at the Quadrilateral, Serre (Somme) and died the net day. He is buried in the British Military Cemetery at Louvencourt.


St Yves, Bruce Bairnsfather and ‘Old Bill’

The St Yves ridge was used for siting machine-gun posts and a lieutenant of the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, acting as machine-gun officer made a name for himself with his use of sketching and sardonic wit. Lieutenant Bruce Bairnsfather sketched humorous situations that depicted Tommy’s misery and discomfort. He used any scrap of paper and even the walls of his ruined cottage billet (known to the troops as Machine-Gun House) to develop the idea of his world famous character ‘Old Bill’. The ruins were to disappear in the post-war period to be replaced by a house sitting on the corner spot where he developed the idea. The Old Bill character had a walrus moustache and tousled hair under a battered cap, and was to stand up for the ordinary Tommy who felt the whole world had picked on him. Old Bill drawings began to appear on the walls of cottages, barns and dugouts in the St Yves area. The 15th Battalion, 48th Highlanders of Canada were using Ration Farm, located north of Hill 63 as their battalion HQ and described the farm: ‘…a group of uninhabited buildings, slightly blown, where cartoons by Bairnsfather were found on the walls. They were in charcoal and every battalion helped to preserve them.’ Bairnsfather sent his sketch entitled ‘Where did that one go?’ to the Bystander magazine in London and to his surprise he received a cheque for two pounds from the editor and a request for more.


(The site of Machine Gun House today)


Christmas Truce 1914

In his book Bullets & Billets Bairnsfather features a photograph of himself standing beside a pond. The pond is till there today where the road makes a left turn. Directly opposite is a field, this was a waterlogged turnip field in December 1914. The British front-line used to run through the field west to east, although the majority of the field was No-Man’s Land. During the Christmas Truce both sides met here to swap souvenirs, cigarettes, talk and to take the opportunity to bury their dead. Bruce Bairnsfather was wounded during the 10th Brigade attack at St Julian on 25 April 1915, when the 1st Battalion Warwickshires lost 500 officers and men in twenty minutes. He was sent home to England, his lasting contribution to the final victory being Old Bill.


The 'Khaki Chums' a collection of army enthusiasts who dedicated their time to discovering the day-to-day realities of being voluntary, citizen soldiers between 1899-1960. In 1998 they recreated the trenches in the former turnip field leaving a cross to commemorate the troops who served here. The Khaki Chums demobbed in 2018.


Image of the Khaki Chums in the 'turnip field'

The cross commemorating the Christmas Truce in 1914


Lieutenant Poulton Palmer, 4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment. Directly north and

opposite Prowse Point is Anton’s Farm a British fortified farmhouse that sat right on the front-line. In the very early hours of 5 May 1915, Lieutenant Poulton Palmer was killed by a sniper while he supervised a working party working on the trenches straddling Anton’s Farm. Poulton Palmer of the Huntley & Palmer biscuit company family, was a famous rugby player being a member of the Harlequins Club and captaining both his county and England. His last game for England was in July 1914 against France at the Parc des Princes. His final game of rugby was for a 48th Division team he captained against a 4th Division team at Port de Nieppe on 14 April 1915. At his death his men were seen to be crying in the trenches. His body was carried to a field ambulance located in a nunnery on the La Bizet road at Plugstreet and he was later buried in the regimental plot at Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery at 6.30pm on 6 May, the Bishop of Pretoria presided at his burial. At the time of his burial there was only one other regimental grave that of private Frederick W Giles who had also been killed by a sniper on 28 April and had actually fallen, wounded, on Poulton Palmer.


FALKIRK AND DISTRICT MEN BURIED HERE


Falkirk

12038 Private Alexander Christie

2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Age 25

22.2.15

I.F.18

Son of John & Helen Christie, 48 Howgate, Falkirk


2773 Private Peter Nimmo

"A" Coy. 7th Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Age 20

25.1.15

I.E.10

Son of John and Helen Nimmo, of Union Canal Cottage, Falkirk


Burials

It contains 231 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.


UK – 159

Australian – 13

New Zealand – 42

Canadian – 1

German - 12

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