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Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

Updated: Mar 3

From October 1914 to the autumn of 1918, Ypres (now Ieper) was at the centre of a salient held by Commonwealth (and for some months by French) forces. From April 1915, it was bombarded and destroyed more completely than any other town of its size on the Western Front, but even so certain buildings remained distinguishable. The ruins of St Martin’s Cathedral and the Cloth Hall stood together in the middle of the city, part of the Infantry Barracks stood in an angle of the south walls at an area known as the ‘Esplanade’ and the prison, reservoir and water tower were together at the western gate.

Three cemeteries were made near the western gate: two between the prison and the reservoir, both now removed into the third, and the third on the north side of the prison. The third was called at first the "Cemetery North of the Prison," later "Ypres Reservoir North Cemetery, and now Ypres Reservoir Cemetery. This cemetery was begun in October 1915 and used by fighting units and Field Ambulances until after the Armistice, when it contained 1,099 graves. The cemetery contains the graves of men who served with the many support units that operated in the Ypres Salient. There are gunners, who had their gun sites in the town, Royal Engineers from Field Companies, Tunnelling Companies, electrical units, road construction and light railway companies. Men from the Military Police many killed on road traffic duty, a dangerous job when there was heavy shelling. The cemetery is sited on what was an open meadow on the edge of the town and known to the local towns people as ‘Plaine d’Amour’ before the War: a meadow for lovers and courting couples to stroll at their leisure.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

Funeral of Lieutenant Colonel George Augustus King DSO and BAR, Croix de Guerre

Commanding Officer 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. 12 October 1917. Age 32. Grave I.H.28

He was born in Christchurch the son of Elizabeth and the late George King. Educated at Christ’s College. He married Annie (nee Coster) in 1910 and they lived in Kelburn, Wellington. They had two children and the family farmed a large estate in the northern part of the South Island. He was appointed as adjutant to the 4th Battalion Waikato, Mounted Rifles Territorial battalion and was staff Captain when they left New Zealand for the Gallipoli campaign.

WW1 Ypres Salient Great War Battlefields

After service in the Gallipoli campaign the battalion moved to Egypt were they were formed into the Maori Pioneer Force in February 1916 and George was promoted to Major in command of the new battalion. On 5 April they moved to the Western Front and arrived in Cercus on 17 April for training. Here they formed work parties to undertake tree felling in the Forest of Nieppe. In May, they moved to Armentieres were they incurred their first casualty during a work party when 2nd Lieutenant Lestock Reid was killed when supervising a working party. The battalion also took part in a trench raid when in the sector this was abandoned when it was discovered by the enemy. In the spring of 1917 the battalion moved to billets in Pioneer Camp in the Ploegsteert area in preparation for the coming Battle of Messines. Here they undertook working parties in the trench line at Toronto Avenue, Prowse Point and assisted with the construction of the Catacombs at Hyde Park Corner.

The battalion had their HQ on the forward slopes of Hill 63 for the Battle Of Messines which began on 7 June at 3.10am with the blowing of nineteen mines. They were not involved directly in the main assault but were involved in keeping the roads and light railways working and in constructing communication trenches from Wellington Avenue trench to the German front line as well as from Calgary Avenue to the German front line at Oyster Avenue. The battalion incurred casualties of five officers from the 7 to 10 June when they were relieved of five killed and twenty three wounded. On the 12 June they began work on a communication trench at Anton’s Farm and carried out road and light railway repairs around Le Gheer.

On the 27 August he was appointed to command the 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment and they went into the line on 30 September establishing their HQ at Pommern Castle. After being relieved on 2 October they went into reserve returning to the front line assembling at Ravebeek for an assault on 12 October. At 5.25am they went forward under a creeping barrage but encountered heavy enemy fire and unbroken wire some 50 yards deep. The first attack failed however, George took them forward for a second attack under heavy machine gun fire. He was killed by friendly fire when a shell from the supporting barrage fell short. He was awarded his DSO on 3 June and BAR on 1 January 1918. He received the Croix de Guerre on 17 December 1917. He was also mentioned in Despatches on five separate occasions. His funeral was attended by General Andrew Russell.

Cemeteries Concentrated Here

The cemetery was later enlarged when graves were brought in from the battlefields of the salient and the following smaller burial grounds: YPRES RESERVOIR SOUTH CEMETERY, between the prison and the reservoir (also called "Broadley's Cemetery" and "Prison Cemetery No.1"). It was used from October 1914 to October 1915, and contained the graves of 18 soldiers from the United Kingdom. YPRES RESERVOIR MIDDLE CEMETERY, immediately North of the last named (also called "Prison Cemetery No.2" and "Middle Prison Cemetery"). It was used in August and September 1915, and rarely afterwards. It contained the graves of 107 soldiers from the United Kingdom (41 of whom belonged to the 6th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) and one Belgian soldier. The CEMETERY at the INFANTRY BARRACKS (also called "the Esplanade"). It was used from April 1915 to July 1916 and contained the graves of 14 soldiers from the United Kingdom, ten of whom belonged to the 6th Siege Battery, R.G.A.

Cemetery Location

The cemetery is located to the North-West of Ieper. From the station turn left and drive along Fochlaan to the roundabout, turn right and go to the next roundabout. Here turn left into Haiglaan and continue for 300 metres and then turn right into Plumerlaan. The cemetery is on the right hand side, approximately 200 metres along the road.

(Linesman Map from April 1917. Showing Ypres town and the Ypres Prison behind which is the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery)

Ypres Prison

The Prison was one of the strongest buildings in Ypres; Rudyard Kipling commented that it was ‘.. a fine example of the resistance to shell-fire of thick walls if they are thick enough.’

Lieutenant-Colonel James Lee, D.S.O., acted as the Town Major from April 1916 to April 1918. He resided in a series of galleried dugouts beneath Ypres Prison. There was a telephone exchange that linked the Prison to all the major sites between Ypres and Poperinghe. Lt-Col Lee was a great friend of Tubby Clayton who paid him regular visits. In a letter to his mother Tubby Clayton refers to: ‘A gorgeous packet of 600 cigars arrived… I gave a box to Lee, the great Town Major of Ypres.’ In addition to the Town Major, the Military Police also lived beneath the prison in a series of dugouts. Tubby Clayton held weekly services every Friday in the prison during 1916 and 1917.

Main Dressing Station at Ypres Prison – Third Ypres

An Advanced Dressing Station was established at the prison in late 1915 and was used by various field Ambulances throughout the War. During Third Ypres 46th Brigade had a Main Dressing Station in the cellars and Colonel Martin Leake double V.C., commanding the Field Ambulance recorded in his diary:

19 June, I went to Ypres to see the Dressing Station in the Prison and then the Advanced Dressing Stations on the Ypres-Menin Road. We supply 1 officer and 20 men for the prison (half the staff), and at present 1 sergeant and 5 men for the ADS, also 1 NCO and 4 men for a relay pool in the trenches. All these left camp at 5pm today under Captain PROUD who will be in charge at the Prison. The Left Collecting Post will be at POTIZJE, this at present being worked by the 2/1 Wessex.

20 June, Inspected the Prison, found more work required, sending working-party there daily. We are trying to get pit props, elephants (corrugated iron), nails etc. from the Royal Engineers….

On the 28 June the prison was heavily shelled by the Germans.

On the 13 July he wrote about the use of Phosgene gas by the Germans and its effect: ‘During the night large numbers of men were caught with the gas, they are still being evacuated. Over 600 have been sent down already. It seems to be a new form of gas shell and this accounts for so many men having been caught. It does not appear to have a marked smell and as there were many other shells coming over at the same time nothing unusual seems to have been recognised until the effects began to appear. The most important feature about this poison is it delayed action; the effects do not begin to show themselves for some hours and increase in severity for 24 hours or more. One of our Medical Officers (Captain Day) who has been evacuated said that ‘he had no trouble at all for 5 hours after he passed through Ypres.’ Our men at the Prison did not begin to feel the effects until after 6am and they had been working loading cars at the Prison Gate most of the night. In places where the poison is more concentrated the menace affected more quickly. Blankets are a complete protection. In the Prison cellars where the openings are well blanketed there are no cases.

On the 14 July the Field Ambulance dealt with 645 cases, the symptoms being a mix of blistering on the face, hands, back and buttocks. There were further cases with swelling of the neck in the area of the thyroid gland and inflammation of the skin of the scrotum and penis.

(IWM Q 29795 Aerial oblique view of Ypres showing the ruins of the city. In the foreground is Ypres Prison)

Tragedy Strikes the 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry

At 6.30am on the 12 August 1915, German artillery opened fire with a long range gun known as the 'Ypres Express' firing from Houthulst Forest some ten miles away. They were targeting the Town Square and St Martin’s Cathedral. It was thought they were searching for one of two targets, an observation post in the tower of the Cathedral or the 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, 14th Light Division, whose move to the cellars in the Cathedral had been spotted by an enemy aircraft the day before. The shelling brought down the ceiling of the Cathedral Cloisters burying men from ‘C ’ and ‘D’ Companies had taken shelter thinking they were safe. In attempting to rescue them others became casualties being buried themselves.

Two officers, Major Carew Barnett and Adjutant-Lieutenant R C Blagrove, who rushed from the battalion HQ to the area of the Cloisters were killed by a shell that landed close by. They are buried in the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery (see below). Despite orders to keep clear of the area the Company chaplain went forward with four volunteers from the battalion, he was severely wounded as was ‘C’ Company’s Captain Andrews. The rescue work was taken up by the 11th Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment (Pioneers), they were the divisional pioneer battalion, who worked on through out the day despite continuous shelling. The 6th Duke of Cornwall’s had five men rescued, two officers killed, two wounded, nineteen other ranks killed and eighteen wounded.

Plot V, Row AA, are the graves of sixteen officers and men of the 6th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 14th (Light) Division, who were billeted in the vaults of St Martin’s Cathedral and killed on 12 August 1915 by the shelling. Authors image

Their headstones have inscribed ‘Believed to Be Buried’ which is an indication that they had been buried during the War, their graves being lost in a later shelling of the cemetery, and their bodies being discovered in the cellars of the Cathedral after the Armistice as has been claimed. There is also a further tragedy that has become mingled in this story, it involves the discovery, so it is said, of some forty men of ‘B’ Company of the 6th Cornwall’s discovered in the cellars of the Cloth Hall after the War. The graves in the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery do not support this number story.

Grave X.D.21 Major Carew Barnett. Age 48. The son of the late Edward Barnett, of Kenton Court, Sunbury-on-Thames; husband of Elsie Kathleen Barnett, late of Covington, Kimbolton, Huntingdon. Educated at Summerfield and Charterhouse. Late of the Indian Army; awarded Burma Medal (1889-92), and China Medal (1900). Grave X.D.20 Adjutant-Lieutenant R C Blagrove.

Authors image

Grave I.D.82 Second Lieutenant Hugh Valentine Cholmeley, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards. Age 28, died 7 April 1916 at the Canal Bank. He was the son of Lewin Charles and Elizabeth Maud Cholmeley, of 19, Hamilton Terrace, St. John's Wood, London. A second inscription commemorates his brother Lieutenant Harry L Cholmeley, who was killed on 1 July 1916 at Beaumont-Hamel on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He has no known grave and his name is listed on the Thiepval Memorial.

The Knott Brothers

Grave V.B.16 Captain Henry Basil Knott, 9th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers. Age 24. Died of wounds on 7 September 1915. The son of son Sir James Knott, 1st Bart., and Lady Knott, of Close House, Wylam-on-Tyne. His brother, (Grave V.B.15)Major James Leadbitter Knott D.S.O. is buried next to him. He was second in command of the 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own) when he was killed at Fricourt on the Somme on 1 July 1916. Age 33. He was originally buried on the Somme but, on the express wishes of his parents, his body was brought here after the War. This was an exceptional occurrence. The inscription on both headstones reads: Devoted in Life in Death Not Divided.

Knott brothers. Authors image

Gunners Together

In Plot I there are three officers and one NCO from the HQ of ‘A’ Battery, 296th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, buried together. They were killed on 25 September 1917, when a shell hit their battery dugout at Wieltje. They were brought back to Ypres Reservoir Cemetery for burial as Wieltje was under constant shell fire. Grave I.F.29 Major F Davenport D.S.O., M.C., Mentioned in Despatches. Age 44. The son of Henry Davenport, of Woodcroft, Leek, Staffs; husband of Alice Lee Davenport, of Stansted House, Stansted, Essex. I.F.38 Captain A A Parker, Mentioned in Despatches. Age 34. Husband of Emily M. Parker, of 78, Stephens Rd., Tunbridge Wells. I.F.40 Lieutenant Herbert Percival Jackson. Age 25. The son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Jackson, of Louth, Lincoln. Educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth, and Bradfield College. I.F.41 805721 Battery Sergeant Major F R Heath. Age 36. The son of George and Frances Heath; husband of Jane Heath, of 271, Leek Rd., Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. All four men had seen long war service.

Authors image

Victoria Cross Holder Buried Here

Grave I.A.37 Brigadier-General Francis Aylmer Maxwell V.C., C.S.I., D.S.O., and Bar. Three times mentioned in Despatches. Commanding 27th Infantry Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division. Age 46. Died of wounds 21 September 1917. He was mortally wounded during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. He was an Indian Army officer of the 18th Lancers, and won his V.C. on 31 March 1900 for saving the guns of a Royal Horse Artillery battery at Korn Spruit during the South African Wars. He was the son of Thomas Maxwell, M.D., and Violet Sophia Maxwell; husband of Charlotte Alice Hamilton Maxwell. An extract taken from the "London Gazette," dated 8th March 1901, records the following:- "Lieutenant Maxwell was one of three Officers not belonging to "Q" Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, specially mentioned by Lord Roberts as having shown the greatest gallantry, and disregard of danger, in carrying out the self-imposed duty of saving the guns of that Battery during the affair at Korn Spruit on 31st March 1900. This Officer went out on five different occasions and assisted to bring in two guns and three limbers, one of which he, Captain Humphreys, and some Gunners, dragged in by hand. He also went out with Captain Humphreys and Lieutenant Stirling to try to get the last gun in, and remained there till the attempt was abandoned. During a previous Campaign (the Chitral Expedition of 1895) Lieutenant Maxwell displayed gallantry in the removal of the body of Lieutenant-Colonel F D Battye, Corps of Guides, under fire, for which, though recommended, he received no reward."

Authors image

Shot at Dawn

Read more about all the Shot at Dawn in the Salient here

There are three men buried here who were executed in Ypres Prison for desertion during the War. Grave I.H.76 443288 Private Thomas Lionel Moles. 54th (2nd Central Ontario) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Originally from Somerset and had previously served in the British Army. Age 28.The son of Louisa Mudford (formerly Moles), of West Chinnock, Crewkerne, Somerset, England, and the late John Moles. Native of Brompton Ralph. He deserted on 4 October 1917 and was executed on 22 October 1917. Grave I.I.145 20279 Private Ernest Lawrence, 2nd Devonshire Regiment, 23rd Brigade, 8th Division. Age 21. Son of John Lawrence, of 101, Clifton Rd., South Norwood, London. He deserted on 5 May 1917 and reached Rouen were he was captured however, he deserted again on 8 May, recaptured, escaped and , in August, captured again. He was executed on 22 November 1917. Grave IV.A.6 11/18 Private Charles F McColl, 1/4th East Yorkshire Regiment, 150th Brigade, 50th (Northumberland) Division. Age 26. The son of Mrs. Annie McColl, of 6, Bramham Avenue, Woodhouse Street, Hull. He had served from 1914 and was wounded in 1916. He deserted on 28 October 1917 near Houthulst Forest. He was executed on 28 December 1917.



8855 Private Andrew Sim

1st Battalion, Royal Scots

Age 32


II. B. 22

Son of Francis and of Agnes George, of 21, Cobden St., Alva


436522 Private John Kerr

49th Battalion Canadian Infantry

Age 24



Son of Alexander & Christina Kerr, Belmont Cottage, Dennyloanhead


There are now 2,613 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 1,034 of the burials are unidentified.

UK – 2248

Australian – 142

New Zealand – 28

Canadian – 151

New Foundland – 4

South African – 12

British West Indies – 6

Guernsey – 2

India – 1

German – 1

Known unto God – 7

Unnamed – 1035

Special Memorials to two British men known/believed to be buried among the unnamed. Special Memorials to ten British men buried in cemeteries concentrated here whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.

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