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Wieltje Farm Cemetery


The village of Wieltje was in the front line throughout the War. Wieltje Farm Cemetery was made and used by fighting units, in particular by the 2nd/4th Gloucesters in July-October 1917. The cemetery was designed by A J S Hutton.


Prowse Farm was located 300 meters to the south of the cemetery. This was named after Major Charles Bertie Prowse, D.S.O. who commanded the 1st Somerset Light Infantry who were in action near here in 1915. Prowse Point Cemetery at Ploegsteert Wood is named after him. He was promoted to Brigadier-General and commanded 11th Brigade.


Wieltje dug-out

The British built many underground shelters as protection from the German shelling. Certain man made features such as old pave roads built from cobbles and sandstone offered excellent protection or ‘burster’ against the impact of the shells and many dug-outs were built in linear fashion beneath them. One such case being the dug-outs at Wieltje with the dug-outs beneath the ground mirroring the village layout above. The Liverpool Scottish were in the area in July 1917 preparing for Third Ypres with the

(Wieltje village today. Entrance to the dug-out was located under the house on the left)


Battalion Headquarters established at Wieltje dug-out described by Sergeant W G Bromley as: ‘a vast underground excavation containing dozens of passages, nooks and corners, in which a considerable number of troops were quartered. It was exceptionally deep, and although relatively secure from shellfire, I for one would have preferred a less vulnerable shelter and more fresh air.’ Private Herd of the same battalion described the dug-out as a ‘marvel of engineering’ and: ‘From the bottom of an ordinary village well saps were run in various directions and at intervals along these spas (about 31/2 feet wide) there were good-sized ‘rooms’ used by the various H.Q.’s etc In one of these rooms there was installed an oil engine which generated an electric dynamo providing electricity and working water pumps. Access to the Dug-out was made through 4 or 5 gradually sloping tunnels.’ At the height of the Battle of Third Ypres the dug-out accommodated several hundred wounded waiting for transportation down the line.


Leinsters at Wieltje

In August 1915 the 2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment were in the Wieltje sector with the Battalion HQ in Garden Villa next to Wieltje Farm. In his diary, ‘Stand To, A Diary of the Trenches 1915 to 1918, Captain F C Hitchcock M.C, wrote on 1st August: ‘ ..Went down to Battalion Headquarters which were situated in ‘Garden Villa,’ near St Jean, for orders for a wiring party. I met the C.O., who chatted to me. B Company got hell all morning in Wieltje from trench mortars, aerial torpedoes, and shrapnel. Their front line was badly smashed about.’ On the 2nd August: ‘.. B Company again were heavily shelled. … B Company were having a bad tour, but we, C, were absolutely in clover regards a peaceful time. .. Behind us were all the old ruins which we knew so well when at La Brique - Wieltje and English Farms. Our line round Wieltje village happened to be on a commanding position, so no wonder the Huns strafed it. From our observation posts there we could get splendid views of the enemy back areas, Shell Trap Farm was behind the Hun lines. Fierce fighting had gone on around this farm during the Second Battle (Second Battle of Ypres) The 2nd Royal Irish Regiment and 2nd Dublin Fusiliers had particularly distinguished themselves in the defence of it.’


(IWM Q 56728 A house in the Wieltje Road near which were buried officers and men of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Division, when they fell in an attack, April 1915. Coat hangars were used to mark the graves, their names being written on them.)


Cemetery Location

The cemetery is located to the North-East of the town of Ieper. From Ieper station turn left and drive along M.Fochlaan to the roundabout, turn right and go to the next roundabout. Here turn left into M.Haiglaan and drive to the next roundabout. Here turn right into Oude Veurnestraat, this then changes into Diksmuidseweg and Brugseweg drive along this road to the traffic lights. Straight over the lights to the end of the road. At the T junction turn left (still Brugseweg) and continue along this road through the village of Sint Jan. The cemetery is on the left hand side of the road approximately 200 metres after the village.

(Linesman map)

(IWM BOX 118 290 21B 28C 1918 Plotting reference 28C 28b Key feature Wieltje)


Talbot House connection

129895 2nd Corporal Archie Forrest, ‘P’ Special (Gas) Company, Royal Engineers. Age 20. Died 26 August 1917. Grave B.12. He was the son of Isaac and Harriet Forrest of 56 Cabin End, Knuzden, near Blackburn. He was confirmed at Talbot House on 9 July 1917.


He was employed as a weaver before enlisting in March 1915 in the 13th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He transferred to the Royal Engineers in January 1916, and saw action at the Somme, Arras, Vimy ridge, and Messines. Whilst at Vimy Archie briefly met his father, Isaac, who was a driver with the 42nd East Lancashire Royal Horse Artillery. This was a unique moment that was destined to become a treasured memory.

Writing in ‘Plain Tales from Flanders’ Tubby Clayton recalled Archie Forrest: ‘His time at Talbot House was possibly six weeks of more or less daily visiting, while ‘P’ Gas company who were working in Poperinghe went up by night to carry their terrible cylinders into position beyond our front line. By 1918 a far simpler system for moving the gas cylinders was in use; trench railways were run out into No Man’s Land, and trucks full of ‘Rogers’- as the gas cylinders were called – could then be activated using an electrical fuse cable attached to the cylinders. In 1917 it was gas company’s such as ‘P’ that carried the cylinders to the front line. ‘P’ Company were working in the Forward Cottage area and their casualties for the period July to early August 1917 were 150, the company strength being 100 men, and were constantly being reinforced.


Archie Forrest was killed on his way back down the line reportedly by a sniper, who may have seen the glow of his cigarette. In his memory his company gave an oak chair to stand in the Upper room at Talbot House. The chair has an interesting design feature in that the back can be used as a table. In March 1923, St Barnabas Hostel and Toc-H organised a collective pilgrimage to the battlefields of Flanders for the families who could not afford to visit on their own. Over 850 participants came including Archie’s mother and sister Lizzie. They visited Archie’s grave at Wieltje Farm Cemetery. His sister was instrumental in the establishment of a branch of Toc-H League of Women Helpers in Blackburn.


FALKIRK AND DISTRICT MEN BURIED HERE


Dennyloanhead

504166 Sapper William Hamilton

3rd Field Company, Canadian Engineers

Age 39

24.10.17

A.33

Son of James & Christina Hamilton


Burials

There are now 115 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. There are ten of the burials unidentified and Special Memorials to twenty British men whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.


UK – 113

New Zealand – 1

Canadian – 1

German – 1

Unnamed - 10

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