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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. This cemetery contains the graves of men serving 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.

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

Shot at Dawn

There are three men buried here who were executed in Ypres Prison for desertion during the War.

443288 Private Thomas Lionel Moles, Age 28, Grave I.H.76 The son of Louisa Mudford (formerly Moles), of West Chinnock, Crewkerne, Somerset, England, and the late John Moles. Native of Brompton Ralph he emigrated to Canada. He had previously served in the Somerset Light Infantry. He enlisted in the 54th (2nd Central Ontario) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, in August 1915. He was tried for desertion on 4 October 1917 and was executed in Ypres Prison on 22 October 1917.

Epitaph – Grant us thy peace Lord.

20279 Private Ernest Lawrence, Age 21, Grave I.I.145 Son of John Lawrence, of 101, Clifton Road, South Norwood, London. 2nd Devonshire Regiment, 23rd Brigade, 8th Division. He deserted on 5 May 1917 when he was sent back from the support line to collect rations and reached Rouen where he reported himself and gave a fabricated story. He deserted again on 8 May while a prisoner on a working and again made his way to Rouen where, using a false name, he was arrested trying to borrow money. He absconded by escaping from his escort and took up employment in the Royal Flying Corps workshops in Rouen before he was arrested on 9 August. He was executed at Ypres Prison on 22 November 1917.

Epitaph – In loving memory of my dear son gone but not forgotten

11/18 Private Charles F McColl, Age 26, Grave IV.A.6 The son of Mrs. Annie McColl, of 6, Bramham Avenue, Woodhouse Street, Hull. 1/4th East Yorkshire Regiment, 150th Brigade, 50th (Northumberland) Division. He had served from 1914 and was wounded by a shell at Rue du Bois near Neuve Chapelle in 1916 and was invalided home with shell shock. Deemed fit he was posted to the 1/4th East Yorkshire Regiment. No longer able to stand the strain he deserted on 28 October 1917 near Houthulst Forest. He was arrested at Calais when he was enquiring about rest camps and that he was on his way to England. He was undefended at this court martial and told the court of his inability to stand the strain. No medical examination was called for and he was sentenced to death. He was executed at Ypres Prison on 28 December 1917.

In their book ‘Shot at Dawn’, P.225, Putkowski and Sykes, give the account of two soldiers who were present at McColl’s execution, his company commander, Captain Cecil M Slack, and Len Cavinder, a sergeant in his battalion. They recounted that they escorted McColl from the military prison at Brandhoek to Ypres prison and that he was unaware of his fate and they tried to get him drunk. At Ypres prison a group of officers entered his cell and read out the finding of the court martial and his sentence of death. At dawn two military policemen entered his cell they manacled and blindfolded him, with a reversed hooded gas mask, and he was then taken outside where the firing squad from his battalion was waiting. He was strapped to a chair and the firing squad, five standing and five kneeling, were given the command ‘Fire’ and the volley rang out. Cavinder and another guard buried the body.

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