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Zantvoorde British Cemetery

Updated: Jan 15, 2023

On 30 October 1914, the village of Zantvoorde (now Zandvoorde) was held by the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, numbering between 300 and 400 men. It was bombarded for over an hour with heavy guns and then taken by the 39th German Division and three attached Jager battalions. The whole front of the 3rd Cavalry Division was driven back to the Klein-Zillebeke ridge. The village could not be retaken and remained in German hands until 28 September 1918. The Household Cavalry Memorial, unveiled by Lord Haig in May 1924, stands on the South side of the village at the place where part of the Brigade was annihilated in 1914.

Zantvoorde British Cemetery was made after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields and nearby German cemeteries. Many were those of soldiers who died in the desperate fighting round Zantvoorde, Zillebeke and Gheluvelt in the latter part of October 1914.

Cemeteries concentrated here

Kruiseeke German Cemetery, Comines was located at the north end of the village and contained 138 British graves most of whom fell in the fighting of October and November 1914. Wervik German Cemetery, located on the north side of the road to Comines and contained two British graves and one Canadian.

The cemetery was designed by Charles Holden.

Cemetery Location

Zandvoorde British Cemetery is located 8 Kms south-east of Ieper town centre, on the Kruisekestraat a road leading from the Meenseweg (N8), connecting Ieper to Menen. From Ieper town centre the Meenseweg is located via Torhoutstraat and right onto Basculestraat. Basculestraat ends at a main cross roads, directly over which begins the Meenseweg. 7.5 Kms along the Meenseweg in the village of Geluveld lies the right hand turning onto Zandvoordestraat. At the end of the Zandvoordestraat is the left hand turning onto Kriusekestraat. The cemetery itself is located 100 metres along the Kruisekestraat on the left hand side of the road.

The 3rd Cavalry Division action at Zandvoorde 1914

On the 23 October 1914, the 3rd Cavalry Division began their nine days in the trenches at Zandvoorde. The 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own) Royal Hussars (6th Cavalry Brigade) relieved the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards (10th Brigade) from the trenches at Zandvoorde. The 6th and 7th Cavalry Brigades were to take turns in manning the trenches with the two Brigades relieving each other every forty-eight hours. The trenches were nothing more than a series of holes that resembled large graves (prophetic) and were overcrowded. They were described as pits dug in the sandy soil each holding around a dozen men. There were short sections spaced far apart and with no communication laterally or from behind. The dispositions followed the contours of the ridge in full view of the enemy and incoming German artillery fire averaged 120 shells per day with numerous casualties each day. To hold Zantvoorde ridge under these circumstances and in rudimentary trenches was an act of disciplined courage. The Cavalry soldier was ill-equipped for trench warfare unlike his infantry counterpart, he did not have the webbing pouches and haversack in which to carry his equipment. These early trenches were not those to be seen later in the War with bullet-proof parapets, loopholes for firing, dugouts and trench periscopes for observation. The later trenches followed a zig-zag pattern to prevent one shell killing everyone in a straight line trench and he later design had communication trenches connecting the frontline with the rear areas which allowed the infantry to walk in and out of the trench line. The iconic steel helmet offering limited protection against shrapnel was not to be introduced for another year. The action involving the Cavalry at Zandvoorde is best described in the story of Lord Worsley.

The action of Lieutenant Lord Charles Sackville Pelham, Lord Worsley Grave II.D.4 Ypres Town Cemetery and Extension. Machine Gun Section, Royal Horse Artillery. Age 27. Died 30 October 1914.

The village of Zandvoorde situated on a ridge south-east of Ypres was a critical sector of the line and was defended by elements of the 7th Cavalry Brigade, who were dismounted and being used as infantry, and the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers. To the left were 7th Division. The British were opposed by the German 39th Division who were attempting to take the ridge and the road to Zillibeke which would open the way to Ypres. On the 30 October 350 men of the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, Household Cavalry had very rudimentary trenches badly sited on a downward slope just south of the Zandvoorde-Tenbrielen Road. On the left flank in trenches close to the road was ‘C’ Squadron, 1st Life Guards and commanded by Captain, the Lord Hugh Grosvenor, and they had a commanding view of the area however, as their positions were on a down-ward slope they were easily visible to the Germans. This was to prove fatal as events unfolded. In the centre of the ‘C’ Squadron’s trench line was the machine -gun section commanded by Lieutenant Lord Charles Sackville Pelham Worsley. He had been ordered to stay behind with his machine-gun when this section of the line was relieved by the Life Guards, as the Life Guards had one of their machine-guns out of action.

(Ypres League map)

The German onslaught when it came at 6am on the morning of 30 October was ferocious. The Germans opened a devastating artillery barrage of 260 guns focused on the Cavalry positions. At 7.30am the German 39th Division plus three Jager battalions attacked the British lines. The hopelessly thin British lines gave way, with the Cavalry positions being blown in and very quickly overrun. This allowed the Germans to now enfilade the right flank of the 7th Division and to obliterate the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers. At 10am orders were issued to withdraw however, they did not reach the two squadrons of cavalry on the left flank and they suffered almost complete annihilation with inly ten men getting back safely. Worsley was last seen directing the fire of his machine-gun as shells exploded around his position. He was listed amongst the missing along with Lord Grosvenor. The Germans now occupied the ridge and the village of Zandvoorde and moved forward to Klein Zillibeke.

News of Lord Worsley being missing was passed onto the HQ of General Haig, then commanding 1st Corps. He was related to Worsley by marriage and it was said that he was distressed to hear the news. Lord Worsley was officially declared missing on 7 November 1914 and it was announced in January 1915 that he had been killed. A German officer, Oberleutnant Freiherr von Prankh, had found the body of a British officer lying in a trench and upon examining the body had identified him as a cavalryman and a Lord. He gave instructions that the dead man’s personal effects were to be collected, he intended to pass these onto the authorities to return to the next of kin, and he arranged a burial party. However, Prankh was killed two days later and the personal effects of Lord Worsley were lost forever. In July 1924, Lord Worsley’s identity disc, which had been handed in by a Hauptman Fischer, of Infantry Regiment 5/171 and later killed in the War, was found attached to a death list of a German Sanitary Company along with a statement that no other effects had been found. The identity disc was handed over to the family. During the War, the Worsley family had made use of their contacts via the War Office and diplomatic channels in Holland and the American Embassy in Berlin, and had obtained a map of the location of Lord Worsley’s grave site at Zandvoorde.

In December 1918, Colonel A W James M.C., a family friend had been given the map by Lady Yarborough, Lord Worsley’s mother, and on the second attempt he found the grave. The Germans had marked the grave with a rough cross, the cross piece of which had fallen off in the intervening years. Colonel James marked the spot with stones and returned to Zandvoorde where he commissioned a simple cross with the words ‘Lord Worsley, RHG, Oct.30th, 1914’. In January 1919, Colonel James and Sackville Pelham, Lord Worsley’s brother returned to the grave and placed the new marker. They found the cross piece of the German marker and this, along with the upright piece, now hangs above Lord Worsley’s sword in Brocklesby Church in Lincolnshire. In 1921, Lady Worsley, after correspondence with various government agencies, purchased the land on which her husband’s body lay. As part of the concentration of single graves the body was exhumed in 1921, after permission had been given by the Worsley family, and reburied in Ypres Town Cemetery Extension. The site of the original grave is now marked by the Household Cavalry Memorial which was unveiled in 1924 by the Earl and Countess Haig.

1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers

The 7th Division and the 7th Cavalry Brigade were in positions along the ridge running from Zandvoorde to the Menin Road and the Gheluvelt Ridge. They were under intense pressure from the Germans who had taken Zonnebeke to the north. At Zandvoorde it was the dismounted Cavalry Brigade and the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 22nd Brigade, 7th Division that barred the way. The Welsh, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Cadogan, were on the left of the cavalry and straddled the road leading due west out of Zandvoorde. They had already taken 345 casualties in the earlier fighting around Zonnebeke and the Broodseinde Ridge when, on the 21 October, they went into the reserve behind Polygon Wood leaving the battalion with an effective fighting strength of just 212 men, this was raised to 400 men with new drafts joining. On the 29 October the battalion took up positions at Zandvoorde on the extreme right of the 7th Division line flanked by the 1st and 2nd Life Guards.

(1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers trenches were on the right of the road.)

On the 30th October the Germans launched their attack and the sheer weight of numbers and the heavy artillery bombardment resulted in orders being issued to withdraw to the reserve line some 1200 yards to the rear. The orders never reached the Royal Welsh and the Life guards began an orderly withdrawal leaving the right flank of the Royal Welsh exposed to the Germans. The Germans now exploited this situation and moved their field-guns into the village and began to rain enfilade fire down on the Royal Welsh positions. They had also occupied a farmhouse thirty yards from the Welsh trenches and were now firing point blank into them. They had also worked their way round behind the Welsh lines and snipers were now firing on them. Now surrounded and unable to withdraw the 1st Battalion fought on with section and section falling to the German fire with the action going on throughout the day. In the evening, those who could, withdrew to the reserve line 1200 yards to the rear. They mustered at Hooge on the morning of 31 October and only 86 men answered the roll call with Lieutenant-Colonel Cadogan, seven officers and 320 other ranks killed, wounded or missing. The 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers temporarily ceased to exist as an effective fighting force. The Battalion War Diary recorded: ‘No officer remained after the 30th October and the party which survived on that date (approximately 86 other ranks) were attached to the 2/Queens.

Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Cadogan, his batman Private 10936 Allen Davies and Captain-Adjutant A.E. Claude Toke Dooner are buried in Hooge Crater Cemetery in Plot IX, Row L, Graves 10, 11 and 12. In Zandvoorde Cemetery of the 1583 buried here, 1,135 are unidentified and only one member of the 1st Battalion is listed in the register. It is believed that the bulk of the unidentified burials are those men of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers who died on 30 October 1914. Of the 7th Division, it had been in continuous action from 18 to 31 October with an initial strength of 18,000 with no reserves or supports. It had held an eight mile front against 340,000 Germans. When the division was withdrawn from the line on 31 October it numbered 2,000 men practically all transport and supply.

Victoria Cross holders buried here

Grave VI.E.2 Captain James Anson Otho Brooke V.C., Mentioned in Despatches. 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders, 20th Brigade, 7th Division. Age 30. Died 29 October 1914. Son of Sir Harry Vesey Brooke, K.B.E., and Lady Brooke, of Fairley, Countesswells, Aberdeenshire. Awarded the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst. An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 16th Feb. 1915, records the following:-"For conspicuous bravery and great ability near Gheluvelt on the 29th October, in leading two attacks on the German trenches under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, regaining a lost trench at a very critical moment. He was killed on that day. By his marked coolness and promptitude on this occasion Lieutenant Brooke prevented the enemy from breaking through our line, at a time when a general counter-attack could not have been organised."

Grave I.D.12 240693 Sergeant Louis McGuffie, V.C. 1/5th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 103rd Brigade, 34th Division. Age 24. Died 4 October 1918. Son of Mrs. Catherine McGuffie, of 1, North Main Street, Wigtown, Wigtownshire. An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 13th Dec. 1918, records the following:-"For most conspicuous bravery and resourceful leadership under heavy fire near Wytschaete on 28th September 1918. During the advance to Piccadilly Farm, he, single-handed, entered several enemy dugouts and took many prisoners, and during subsequent operations dealt similarly with dugout after dugout, forcing one officer and twenty-five other ranks to surrender. During the consolidation of the first objective he pursued and brought back several of the enemy who were slipping away, and he was also instrumental in rescuing some British soldiers who were being led off as prisoners. Later in the day, when in command of a platoon, he led it with the utmost dash and resource, capturing many prisoners. This very gallant soldier was subsequently killed by a shell.

7734 Drummer Charles Henry Steer, 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, 20th Brigade, 7th Division Age 18. Died 20 October 1914. Son of R. S. M. Sidney George Steer, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, previously a Scots Guards Sergeant, and Gertrude Eleanor Steer, of 71, Coulsdon Road, Caterham, Surrey. Originally buried in Kruiseeke German Cemetery Memorial 19.

On the 19 October, the Battalion was leading the Brigade, starting from Zandvoorde, on a reconnaissance in force to work around the German flank near Kruiseeke. Having advanced through the forward positions around Gheluwe and gone a mile and a half they came under heavy German shell fire from the direction of Wervicq which made further progress impossible. They received orders to withdraw. The only Battalion casualty of this action was Drummer Steer who was hit by a dud shell and killed instantly.

(Sgt Christopher Pilkington collection IWM 1st casualty of 2nd Bttn Scots Guards Drummer Steer killed by direct hit from shell 20 Oct 1914 Gheluvelt)

Grave V.B.11 Major Henry William Viscount Crichton, D.S.C., M.V.O.

Royal Horse Guards. Age 42. Died 31 October 1914. Son of the 4th Earl of Erne, of Crom Castle, Ireland; husband of Viscountess Crichton (now Lady Mary Stanley, of Sopworth, Chippenham, Wilts). He was killed at Messines Ridge while commanding the Composite Household Cavalry Regiment.


Denny & Dunipace

38249 Private George Anderson

17th Battalion Royal Scots




21876 Private William Melville

17th Battalion Royal Scots

Age 26



Husband of Margaret Scullion Melville & had a son. They lived at 35 Foundry Square (the Dairy Close), Grangepans


54425 Private James Ferguson

12th (Service) Battalion Highland Light Infantry

Age 20



Son of Alexander & Williamina Ferguson, 20 Kennard St, Falkirk


UK – 1525

Australian – 2

Canadian – 22

India – 1

Unnamed – 1135 (70% of the total buried here)

There are now 1,583 servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 1,135 of the burials are unidentified. Special memorials commemorate 32 soldiers buried in two of the German cemeteries whose graves could not be found on concentration. The cemetery also contains one Second World War burial.

Zantvoorde Church Graveyard

There are four casualties from the 10th Hussars in the graveyard of St Bartholomew church in Zandvoorde. Captain Sir Frank S.D. Rose, Lieutenant C.R. Turner, Lance Corporal J Waugh and Private R.S. MacKenzie. The church was destroyed during the War.

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