Welcome to this blog which is intended to accompany a website on how Suffolk was defended during the Second War. The blog will describe my trips out and about looking for the remains of the Second War defences while the Website will concentrate on putting these into context.

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Sunday, 30 March 2014

Pilckem Ridge, some cemeteries and blockhouses

As in the last few trips we have made to the Somme, we took the Dover - Dunkirk ferry, allowing us to stop of in the Ypres area on the way down. This year, we concentrated on some of the cemeteries and German blockhouses in the Pilckem Ridge area. As anyone who knows Ypres, the so called "ridge" was merely a slightly higher bit of ground, but as such, in this flat country of huge tactical importance. 

On 31st July 1917, the opening day of the Allied Offensive in this area, the British made good progress to the right of the Ypres-Roulers road which formed the axis of their advance. The German lines were penetrated to a depth of nearly  two miles, with bridges over the Steenbeek secured. Several villages were captured, including St. Julien and Pilckem. To the left of the Ypres-Roulers road the British encountered more resistance, perhaps due to the more broken and wooded nature of the country which allowed the Germans to maintain points of resistance. 

This post is just some of the cemeteries and blockhouses we visited.

Above: Map showing the British advance on July 31st 1917 to the right of the Ypres - Roulers road

Each one starts of with an image taken by Sidney Hurst for his book "Silent Cities" and my attempt to reproduce it today! The text from "Silent Cities" for each cemetery is also reproduced.

ABOVE:  LA BELLE ALLIANCE CEMETERY, BOESINGHE (W. FLANDERS). 2 ½ miles N of Ypres Sta. La Belle Alliance Farm us E. and S. of Boesinghe, near the W. end of Buffs Road. Cem. is near SW. corner of farm and was made in Feb. and March 1916 by the 10th and 11th K.R.R.C. Records 60 U.K burials.

ABOVE:  DIVISONAL COLLECTING POST CEMETERY AND EXTENSION, BOESINGHE (W. FLANDERS). 1 ½ miles N. of Ypres, E. of Yser Canal. Begun Aug. 1917 by 48th (S. Midland) and 58th (London) Divs. Cem. records 86 U.K. and 1 German Burial. The Ext. made after the Armistice from battle-field of Salient records 493 U.K., 102 Aust., 73 Can.,5 N.Z., 2 Newfld., 1 S.A. burials and 2 special memorials.

ABOVE:  COLNE VALLEY CEMETERY, BOESINGHE (W. FLANDERS). 4 miles N. of Ypres Sta., SW. of Caesar’s Nose, near Boesinghe- La Brique road. Begun by Territorials of W. Riding Regt (49th Div). Records 47 U.K burials.

ABOVE:  MINTY FARM CEMETERY, ST. JEAN – LES – YPRES (W. FLANDERS).  3 ¾ miles NE. of Ypres Sta. on road to St. Julien, 1 ½ miles N. of St. Jean village. Farm was used as a German blockhouse, and in 1917 as a British Co. Hdqtrs. Records 188 U.K., 4 Unknown and 1 German burials.

ABOVE:  WELSH CEMETERY (CAESAR’S NOSE), BOESINGHE (W. FLANDERS). 4 miles N. of Ypres Sta., near crossing of Ypres-Pilckem and Boesinghe-Wieltje roads. Began July 1917 by 38th (Welsh) Div. at a spot then known as Caesar’s Nose. Records 62 U.K. and 6 unknown burials.


ABOVE: Presumably some sort of command post / headquarters

ABOVE: Supposedly the largest German blockhouse in the Ypres area - it was used as a signal post.

ABOVE: A small blockhouse but it had incredibly thick walls!

ABOVE: A small shelter or perhaps field gun emplacement? Possibly work carried out on it by the British after its capture as some entrances etc seem to have been blocked up. 

The intention was to also visit Ploegsteert Wood, passing along the Messines ridge, but we just ran out of time, only managing three cemeteries and the Chateau de la Hutte. Maybe we will have time to visit again on another trip!!

ABOVE: Not exactly a then and now - the top B&W image shows the Messines Road at the Chateau de la Hutte with the Messines ridge in the background. The bottom image shows the Messines ridge from the site of the ruined Chateau today, the Messines road can be seen in the far right of the image. 

ABOVE:  PROWSE POINT MILITARY CEMETERY, WARNETON (W. FLANDERS). 300 yards N. of Mud Corner, 1 ¾ miles from La Basse-Ville Halte, and 9 ½ miles to Ypres Sta. Was named after the late Brig.-Gen. C.B. Prowse, D.S.O. Records 159 U.K., 42 N.Z., 13 Aust., 1 Can., and 12 German Burials. 

ABOVE:  TORONTO AVENUE CEMETERY, WARNETON (W. FLANDERS). 10 ½ miles from Ypres, 2 miles from Ploegsteert, near N.E . edge of Ploegsteert Wood. Begun by 3rd Aust. Div. during battle of Messines, June 7th – 10th 1917. Records 78 Aust. burials. A concrete shelter can be found nearby.

ABOVE:  MUD CORNER CEMETERY, WARNETON (W. FLANDERS). Near R.Lys. On N. edge of Ploegsteert Wood, 2 miles from La Basse-Ville Halte. Used from June 7th (when N.Z. Div. captured Messines) to Dec. 1917. Records 53 N.Z., 31 Aust., and 1 U.K. burials.  Third and forth image are a then and now of a view taken just after the cemetery was started. 

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