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Underhill Farm Cemetery

Updated: Feb 16, 2023


'Underhill Farm' and 'Red Lodge' were the names given to two buildings on the north-western edge of Ploegsteert Wood. They were occupied by dressing stations and the cemetery which they used, is close to the farm.


The 63-metre knoll of Hill 63, also known as Rossignol Heights, is a prominent feature upon which sits the remains of the Chateau de la Hutte, known as Hennessy’s Chateau by the troops although it was never owned by the family. During the War the hill was full of redoubts, trenches, machine-gun posts, observation posts and gun pits. It commands views of Mont Kemmel and Mont de Cats to the west and enjoys extensive views eastwards, down the valley of the River Douve and along the German-occupied southern slopes of the Messines Ridge to Warneton and its distinctive water-tower, referred to by the troops as Warneton Tower.

(IWM Image - First Ypres 1914. Chateau Rossignol Hill 63 1914 Brg Gen George Francis Milne)

(Hill 63 remains of Chateau de la Hutte & defences today)


Hill 63 was defended in 1914 by the 19th (Queen Alexandra’s Own Royal) Hussars and 1st Dorsets, and in 1918 by the 25th Division. Writing in ‘The Great War As I Saw It’ Canon Frederick Scott, Chaplain to the Canadian 1st Division who were in the area in 1916, wrote of Hill 63: ‘I have often sat on my horse on rainy nights near Hill 63, and watched the battalions going up to the line. With wet rubber sheets hanging over their huge packs and with rifles on their shoulders, the men marched up through the mud and cold and darkness, to face wounds and death. At such times, the sordid life has been transfigured before me. The hill was no longer Hill 63, but it was the hill of Calvary. The burden laid upon the men was no longer the heavy soldier’s pack, but it was the cross of Christ, and, as the weary tramp of the men splashed in the mud, I said to myself ‘Each one has fulfilled the law of life, and has taken up his cross and is following Christ.


(Linesman Map showing Fort defences & location of Underhill Farm)


Catacombs

The road to the Underhill Farm Cemetery from Hyde Park Corner, where the imposing Ploegsteert Memorial stands, passes the southerly entrances to The Catacombs, used from the Spring of 1917, these were deep shelters, constructed and extended by the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company, who gave the tunnels the name of Wallangara, and had bunk sleeping accommodation for 1,200 men with a further 250 officers and men accommodated in the steel-huts outside which were covered by the spoil from the workings. There were nineteen ‘streets’ within and some of the ‘streets’ were sectioned off for officers and their batmen. There were thirty-eight bunks set up for runners and clerks and they were located close to a large General Office and Signals Office with a room for electrical and signals equipment. There was also a small hospital and canteen. There were three exits to the south and three to the north with the main entrance at Hyde Park Corner was large enough to allow a large wagon to enter. This entrance was configured in two one-way passages that allowed the flow of large numbers of men to access and exit the tunnels with ease. In the western part of the wood, between Red Lodge and Hyde Park Corner, is the concrete shelter that housed a 16hp 480-volt electricity generator, supplied by the Australian Electrical and Mechanical Mining and Boring Company known as ‘The Alphabeticals’ because of their initials, AE&MMBC. This provided power for the dugouts on Hill 63 and The Catacombs, officially named Hill 63 Dugouts, the Australians gave them the name Wallangara, although it was generally called The Catacombs.


Generator shelter. Authors image

On the right is Red Lodge and the driveway to Rosenberg Chateau. The cemetery that was located at Rosenberg Chateau was relocated in March 1930 to Berks Cemetery Extension at Hyde Park corner. The owner was rebuilding the Chateau and felt that the cemetery would stand too close to it. Despite pleas from the Belgian authorities he was adamant and eventually the 475 men interred were exhumed and moved to their final resting place. The Times reported that ‘each body, as it was reverently taken from the earth, was placed in a coffin draped with the Union Jack and removed by motor ambulance to the Royal Berkshire Cemetery Extension.


The driveway, no longer used as an entrance to the Chateau, is located where the road turns sharply left and on the right is Underhill Farm and to the left is Underhill Farm Cemetery. The cemetery was begun in June 1917 and used until January 1918. It fell into German hands in the spring of 1918, when it was used under the name of "The Military Cemetery at the foot of the Nightingale Hill. ‘Nightingale’ being the German and English translation of the French ‘Rossignol’. The cemetery was recovered in September 1918 and used again for Commonwealth burials until October.


The cemetery was designed by G H Goldsmith.


Cemetery Location

Underhill Farm Cemetery is located 12 Kms south of Ieper town centre, on a road leading from the Rijselseweg N365, which connects Ieper to Wijtschate, Mesen (Messines) 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. 3 Kms after the town of Mesen lies the right hand turning onto the Rue du Petit Pont. (Kleine Brugstraat). 1 Km along this road on the right hand side of the road lies the cemetery.


FALKIRK AND DISTRICT MEN BURIED HERE


Links to the area


3137 Private George Mouatt (Moffatt) Dow

‘D' Company, 46th Battalion, Australian Infantry

Age 23

16.7.17

B.19

Son of George & Margaret Lind Dow, Carronvale, Armadale, Perth, Western Australia. Nephew of Peter & Isabella Richardson, nee Dow, Crownest Loan Stenhousemuir


Burials

There are 190 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. Nine of the burials are unidentified and special memorials commemorate five casualties whose exact places of burial in the cemetery could not be determined.


UK – 102

Australian – 47

New Zealand – 39

Canadian – 1

Known unto God – 1


There are Special Memorials to two British men and three Australians whose grave here were destroyed in later fighting and lost.

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