A Visit To Sanctuary Wood Cemetery

November 24, 2017. After the stirring Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial the evening before, we continued our war memorial tour of the Flanders area.  Our first stop was Sanctuary Wood Cemetery in Zillebeke, near the Sanctuary Wood Memorial we had previously visited.  This is where Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON died and is likely buried in this cemetery in an unknown grave.

CIMG8837 Sep 10 2017 Sanctuary Wood Cemetery

Maple trees line the road to Sanctuary Wood Cemetery in Zillebeke. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Previous blog entries gave details about Buxton’s life and career. (See Who Can Put A Face To Charles Benjamin Murray Buxton? and  A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres and The Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Memorial and A Visit To Sanctuary Wood)

cropped picture of Charles Buxton

Charles Benjamin Murray Buxton. (Photo courtesy of John Marchbank family collection)

While serving in the No. 2 company of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) during the Battle of Mount Sorrel on June 2, 1916, he was wounded and reported missing.  When no sign of him was found by June 4, 1916, he was declared as being killed in action.

The war diary of the unit for June 2, 1916 explains what happened on that day:

General Action: Mount Sorrel.  Enemy attacked soon after 1 pm after four hours of intensive bombardment on PPCLI and 8th Brigade front.  On the Regiment’s right the garrison (No. 1) was annihilated and ‘the Loop’ overrun, but the support line held in Warrington Avenue and Gourock Road (No. 3), Lovers Walk and Maple Copse (No. 4).    On the left No. 2 held the Appendix and beat off a bombing attack, ultimately withdrawing at night.  The crisis had passed by 5 pm, but the bombardment continued through the night.

In the book ‘With The Patricia’s In Flanders 1914-1918 Then & Now’ by Stephen K. Newman, it was noted that Initially No. 2 Company in the left front position was on the periphery of the destruction.  Much of this was due to the closeness of the trenches in the Appendix and the German shells over ranging by twenty yards.  Only the right hand platoon bore the brunt of the fire.

A personal account quoted in the book goes on to say that as of 2:30 am on June 3, No. 2 Company withdrew from their front line trench…. We could get no word from Headquarters and with no sign of reinforcements, the young Lieutenant who had crawled all the way on his hands and knees to relieve our wounded Captain decided we better retire.  By this time we had piled up about 20 more casualties, some severely wounded and these had to be carried out if they were to have a chance to live.  There were about 45 of us left untouched in the company and as almost all the wounded had at least to be supported, if we took them out, there would not be enough left to hold the trench, so it was decided to leave.”

map around Ypres area

Map of area, showing where Buxton and Campbell lost their lives. (Map courtesy of John Stephens, author of ‘Travel Tips for Canadians: Visiting The Great War Sites of Flanders and Vimy Ridge’)

It’s not known at what point during that terrible day that Buxton was hit, but from the accounts it seems clear that in the chaos his body was never initially recovered, and anything that might have identified went missing.   With no known grave to pay tribute to, we found four unknown graves from the Canadian Regiment to put Canadian flags on, and on one we also placed a PEI flag in memory of Charles Buxton.


Pieter placed flags by an unknown grave of the Canadian Regiment in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

After fortifying ourselves with a warm drink at the Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood Restaurant, where Pieter inspected a British cannon, we decided to continue on to Maple Copse Cemetery, where George Albert CAMPBELL lost his life.

CIMG8847 Sep 10 2017 Pieter at Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood Restaurant by British cannon

Pieter by a WW1 era British cannon outside the Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood restaurant and museum. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The Last Post Ceremony At The Menin Gate Memorial In Ypres

November 23, 2017.  In the morning we’d visited the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres and found the listings for two men whose names are on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion: Charles Benjamin BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL (See A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres).

We returned in the evening for The Last Post Ceremony, which occurs at 8 pm every day at Menin Gate Memorial, rain or shine.  It began on July 2, 1928, after the Memorial opened in 1927, as a way for the citizens of Ypres to express their gratitude towards those who had died in defence of Belgium’s freedom.

The only time the ceremony was not held in Ypres was during the German occupation during World War II.  Instead, a daily ceremony was held at Brookwood Military Cemetery, in Surrey, England.  On September 6, 1944, the evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres in the Second World War, the ceremony at Menin Gate resumed, even though heavy fighting was still taking place in other parts of Ypres.

Bands and choirs from around the world apply to participate in the ceremonies. On the evening we attended the ceremony, the St. Cecilia Helden band from The Netherlands was there.  It was very apt since Pieter is from The Netherlands, and that was going to be the next country on our war memorial trail.

CIMG8802 Sep 9 2017 Daria with two members of St Cecilia Helden band before Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate

Daria with two members of the St. Cecilia Helden band from The Netherlands. (Photo credit: Mieke de Bie)

We quickly saw that if we wanted to get a spot with easy visibility of the ceremony that we would have to line up at least 1 ½ hours early!  We did and so were lucky to have a front line view, and watched the band march through Menin Gate Memorial to stand on the outside of the Memorial.

CIMG8804 Sep 9 2017 Last Post Ceremony Menin Gate st Ceclia Helden Band

St. Cecilia Helden band marched through Menin Gate before the ceremony began. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Police cars soon barricaded the road on either side of the Menin Gate Memorial so no traffic could get by.

Just before 8 pm three buglers from the local fire brigade arrived and played ‘The Last Post’.  (For a video clip made by Pieter Valkenburg, which shows where he manages to capture Buxton’s name on the Memorial, email us at dariadv@yahoo.ca)

CIMG8815 Sep 9 2017 Last Post Ceremony Menin Gate buglers from local fire brigade play The Last Post

Buglers from the local fire brigade in Ypres play ‘The Last Post’ at 8 pm. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

‘The Last Post’ was followed by the Exhortation, where a dignitary said the words we are all familiar with from Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada.  Taken from the 4th verse of Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For The Fallen’, first published on September 21, 1914, he recited, in English:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

This was followed by a minute of silence, and then wreaths were laid by various groups while the St. Cecelia Helden band played.  We were sorry we hadn’t thought of asking to lay a wreath as a way to further commemorate Campbell and Buxton.  Following the wreath laying the final bugle call, ‘Réveille’, was played and the ceremony was over.

We were lucky to be right at the spot where the fire brigade walked past, and they graciously posed for a photo.  Of course, we gave them Canadian flag pins, and to our surprise we received a Menin Gate Memorial pin in exchange.

CIMG8833 Sep 9 2017 Last Post Ceremony Menin Gate

Buglers from the local Fire Brigade in Ypres. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

This was a beautiful ceremony, with respectful visitors from many countries.  Behind us was a family from Poland, a poignant reminder of the Polish allies who liberated Ypres during WWII.

We returned to our hotel in a thoughtful mood, after the day of visiting memorials and cemeteries.  We still had a few places in Flanders to visit before going on to The Netherlands, but that would have to wait for another day.

Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

A Visit To Sanctuary Wood

November 19, 2017.  After visiting the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Memorial in Zonnebeke, Belgium, we went to Sanctuary Wood in Zillebeke to the Hill 62 Monument overlooking Mount Sorrel.  This memorial commemorates Canadian forces who served in Ypres Salient, especially during the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June 1916.

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Sign at the entrance to Hill 62 (Sanctuary Wood) Memorial. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The road leading to the memorial, Canadalaan (literally Canada Avenue, but also known colloquially as Maple Avenue), once formed part of the Canadian front line.  After the war, the avenue was planted with maple trees as a mark of respect for the Canadian sacrifice.

Two of the men listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion lost their lives here, during the Battle of Mount Sorrel: Charles Benjamin BUXTON of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, and George Albert CAMPBELL of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles.  Both men have no known grave and are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. (See A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres )

Before going to Sanctuary Wood Cemetery and Maple Copse Cemetery, places where perhaps our two soldiers are lying in an unmarked grave, we wanted to know more about what exactly happened here during the defence of Ypres in 1916.  The first thing that struck is was how close Ypres was.  We could see it clearly from the memorial!

CIMG8775 Sep 9 2017 Sanctuary Wood Ypres can be seen from Hill 62

The spires of buildings in Ypres can be clearly seen from Sanctuary Wood. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Sanctuary Wood, also known as Hill 62, was the place where Canadian troops fought as a national unit for the first time.  During the battle, which was fought between June 2 and June 4, 1916, 8,430 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing.

We were curious why it was called Hill 62, and a bit bemused to realize it was called that because the hill was 62 metres above sea level!

Hill 62 and nearby Mount Sorrel were the only places of a higher elevation that were not controlled by the Germans….and they wanted it.  Canadian troops were almost alone in defending this territory, having only the support of British artillery.  The rest of the British troops were preparing for the Battle on the Somme in July 1916.

So what happened?  On June 2, 1916, the Germans attacked the Canadian positions with artillery and the detonation of 4 large mines under Mount Sorrel.  You can imagine the deadly effect this had in the trenches.

As per the map of the battle, Buxton’s unit (PPCLI) was at Sanctuary Wood, and suffered 400 losses.  Campbell’s unit was a support brigade at Maple Copse, and by the end of the day 59 were killed, 272 wounded, and 50 missing. Buxton and Campbell were among the casualties.

battle of mount sorrel map

Map of Battle of Mount Sorrel on June 2, 1916. (Credit: http://www.canadiansoldiers.com)

It only seemed right to place the photos and plaques we had of these men, which we’d taken to Menin Gate earlier in the day, here at Sanctuary Wood Memorial.

CIMG8897 Sep 11 2017 Photos & Plaques of Buxton & Campbell at Sanctuary Wood

Plaques and photos for George Albert Campbell and Charles Benjamin Buxton. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG8894 Sep 11 2017 Pieter at Sanctuary Wood with photos and plaques of Buxton & Campbell

Pieter holds the photos and plaques of Buxton and Campbell at the Sanctuary Wood Memorial. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

We decided we had to visit both Sanctuary Wood Cemetery and Maple Copse Cemetery and learn exactly what happened to each man, but that would have to wait for another day.  It was getting late, and we wanted to get to Ypres for the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate.

Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg



The Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Memorial

November 18, 2017.  On July 30 of this year we posted a blog entry on WW1 soldier Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON, known as Charlie, and asked for a photo and information on him. (See Who Can Put A Face To Charles Benjamin Murray Buxton?)  As well, the request was included in an article in the County Line Courier that was published on August 9.  (See CLC p30 Aug 9 2017 Face for Arsenault)

We included an excerpt from an August 13, 1915 letter written to Buxton’s aunt, Minnie Marchbank of Alma, letting her know that her son George was all right.  It was through the Marchbank connection that we were able to find a photo, actually two!

George Marchbank survived the war, and his son John of Nanton, Alberta, a veteran of the Korean War, had a photo of his father and Buxton, which he shared.

IMG_0185 photo of george marchbank and charles buxton

George Marchbank on the left, and Charles Buxton on the right. (Photo courtesy of John Marchbank family collection)

John Marchbank

Royal Canadian Legion member John Marchbank, son of George Marchbank, the cousin of Charles Buxton. (Photo courtesy of John Marchbank family collection)

The second photo of Buxton came from a period just before the war interrupted his career as a school inspector in West Prince.  Through the newspaper archives, Pieter found a 1954 reference to a display of hockey photos found at Myricks store in Alberton.  One of the photos was of the 1915 Alberton Regal Hockey Team… and one of the players in the photo was C. B. Buxton!

It appeared that while inspecting schools, Buxton stayed with his aunt Minnie, and found time to play on the Alberton Regal Hockey Team.  A call to the Alberton Museum verified that they had the team photo.  We immediately made a trip to Alberton and met with Arlene Morrison, Museum Manager, who explained that the 1915 photo was donated by Eileen Oulton.

CIMG7941 Aug 11 2017 Arlene Morrison and Pieter with 1915 hockey photo

Arlene Morrison and Pieter Valkenburg at Alberton Museum with the 1915 Alberton Regal Hockey Team Photo. (Photo courtesy of Eileen Oulton Collection)


Inset from the team photo of Charles Benjamin Buxton, who played centre for the 1915 Alberton Regal Hockey Team. (Photo courtesy of Eileen Oulton Collection)

As Buxton was with the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, our next stop on the war memorial trail in Belgium was the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Memorial in Zonnebeke. The Princess Pats were the first Canadian troops to arrive in Belgium, and fought in most of the battles in Belgium between 1915 and 1918.

The memorial is right beside a corn field, on land donated by Jules van Ackere in 1958, right at the edge of the road.

CIMG8789 Sep 9 2017 Pieter at PPLI memorial in Zonnebeke

Pieter at the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Memorial in Zonnebeke. You can see the maple tree behind the memorial. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The memorial was redone in 2015 and has a centennial plaque plus a bronze Marguerite daisy insignia, indicative of the cap badge worn by the troop during 1915.  As well, a Canadian Sugar maple tree was planted.

CIMG8784 Sep 9 2017 insignia of PPLI with bronze marguerite flower

Bronze Marguerite daisy insignia on the memorial. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The memorial, which is much smaller than Pieter expected, commemorates the Battle of Frezenberg on May 8, 1915, marking the area they successfully defended, the Bellewaarde Ridge.  By the end of the battle, out of a complement of 546, only 4 officers and 150 men had survived.

Charlie Buxton was not in this battle. He enlisted on April 10, 1915 in the 1st University Company, which was formed to reinforce the Patricia Patricia’s Light Infantry, and sailed to England, then travelled on to France.  On July 17, 1915 he was taken on strength by the Patricia Patricia’s Light Infantry in France.

Buxton died in June 1916 in Sanctuary Wood, during the Battle of Mount Sorrel, our next stop on the war memorial trail.

Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

A Visit To Tyne Cot Cemetery

November 10, 2017.  While we were in Zonnebeke, we made a stop on the war memorial trail at Tyne Cot Cemetery.  In France, unless it was a big cemetery or memorial, like Vimy Ridge or Beau Hamel, there were few visitors.  In Belgium, to our surprise, members of car and motorcycle clubs visited the various cemeteries and memorials as part of their touring schedules.  During our visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery, a club for a car named Burton stopped on their own war memorial rally tour.

The Burton is a Dutch sports car based on French 2CV technology. The Burton is an open, nostalgic-looking sports car built on the chassis of the 2CV with a modern fibreglass body and built from a kit. Of course, car-mad Pieter couldn’t resist taking a few photos as he made his way from the parking lot to the cemetery.

IMG_20170909_151921275 Sep 9 2017 Burton car in Tyne Cot cemetery parking lot

Burton sports car in the parking lot of Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world, with 11,956 graves, of which 1,011 are Canadian.  Most were killed during the Battle of Passchendaele.  In addition, 34,957 soldiers with no known grave, who died after August 15, 1917, have their names engraved on the cemetery walls.  Those soldiers with no known grave who died before August 15, 1917 are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial (See A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres).

IMG_20170909_153120338 Sep 9 2017 Tyne Cot Cemetery graves with wall of those with no known grave

Names of soldiers with no known grave, who died after August 15, 1917 are engraved on the walls of Tyne Cot Cemetery. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Surprisingly, with the large number of war dead in Tyne Cot, no one from the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion is buried or commemorated there.  But if you are on a war memorial trail, it would be a shame to miss seeing the largest cemetery.

IMG_20170909_153208728 Sep 9 2017 Tyne Cot Cemetery graves

Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

As we made our way to the cemetery and the visitors centre, we passed by a grassy area of plastic poppies with messages from the public in Britain. This was an initiative of the Royal British Legion’s Passchendaele 100 Memorial, who collected the poppies and brought them to the cemetery.  Some of the messages commemorated a loved one, others were very general in nature.  It certainly made for a colourful display!

IMG_20170909_152308460 Sep 9 2017 plastic poppies in field in Tyne Cot cemetery in Zonnebeke

Plastic poppies with messages from the British public on display at Tyne Cot Cemetery. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

We learned that a Victoria Cross recipient from the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion is buried here, James Peter Robertson, a private who was killed on November 6, 1917 during the final phase of the Battle of Passchendaele.  When his platoon was blocked by barbed wire and a German machine gun, he dashed to an opening in the enemy position, and rushed the gun, killing four German soldiers and turning the machine gun on the rest of the Germans.  This allowed the platoon to continue towards its objective.  Afterwards, when two Canadian snipers were wounded in front of their trench, he went out and carried one in, while under fire.  Unfortunately, he was killed as he returned with the second man.  With Daria being from Winnipeg, Pieter of course visited the grave of this soldier and placed flags.

IMG_20170909_152917733 Sep 9 2017 grave opf JP Robertson in Tyne Cot cemetery

Grave of Victoria Cross recipient James Peter Robertson, buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

 We are continually humbled by the depth of sacrifice from the soldiers.  Like in northern France, you can’t go very far before you encounter another cemetery or memorial.  As we continued on the War Memorial Trail, we thought of the two other soldiers from the Cenotaph project who died in this area, George Campbell and Charles Buxton, and whose names are on the Menin Gate Memorial.

As Buxton was with the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, our next stop was the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Memorial in Zonnebeke.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

Visiting More Memorials In The Passchendaele Area

November 7, 2017.  After visiting Cement House Cemetery and the grave of Vincent Carr, and the St. Julien Monument to commemorate the position where Canadians were during the first poison gas attack, we stopped at the German Military Cemetery in Langemark.  Its official name is “Deutscher Studentenfriedhof”, one of four German cemeteries in the Flanders region of Belgium.   ‘Studentenfriedhof’ means ‘the students’ cemetery’ and is called that due to the large number of young volunteer soldiers who are buried here.

This is the only German cemetery that seems to get visitors at all, especially non-Germans.  It’s an impressive but depressing cemetery.

CIMG8740 Sep 9 2017 Statue at German War Cemetery in Langemark

Bronze sculpture by Emil Krieger of four soldiers in mourning. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The cemetery has 44,061 burials.  25,000 of these were unknown and buried in a large communal grave.

CIMG8742 Sep 9 2017 German War Cemetery in Langemark

Memorial says “In this cemetery rest 44,061 German soldiers from the war of 1914-1918”. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Over the decades, researchers have identified 17,000, whose names are now on bronze plaques positioned around three sides of the cemetery.

CIMG8745 Sep 9 2017 German War Cemetery in Langemark

Bronze plaques with the names of identified German soldiers. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

After this rather chilling stop, we continued on to the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial, located on Canadalaan (Canada Lane) in Zonnebeke.

CIMG8746 Sep 9 2017 Canadalaan location of Passchendaele Memorial in Zonnebeke

Canadalaan was named in honour of Canada’s role in the Battle of Passchendaele. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

It was here that we were reminded of the madness of the Battle of Passchendaele. British and Australian soldiers had tried, from July until early October 1917, rather unsuccessfully, to capture the German-occupied Belgian coast.  They made only minimal advances and the commander of the British forces, Sir Douglas Haig, ordered the Canadian Corps to take their place and capture Passchendaele.

20,000 Canadian soldiers arrived in the midst of heavy rainfall and waist-deep mud, and no one seemed to have enough sense or authority to force a rethink to the plan to begin an assault at that time of year.  The only voice of sanity was Canadian-born Lt. Gen. Sir Arthur Currie, who took the time to inspect the battlefield and, after doing so, protested that the planned attack would cost 16,000 Canadian casualties.  No one listened to him.

So, on October 26, 1917, Canadian troops began a series of attacks in the area.  On October 30, 1917, with the help of two British divisions, they began the assault on the village of Passchendaele, inching their way from shell-crater to shell-crater, under heavy fire.  The landscape was already destroyed by shelling and heavy rain.  Roads, trees, and most buildings were gone.  It was in the midst of this that Vincent Carr from North Tryon died, instantly killed by a high explosive shell.

Troops reached the outskirts of Passchendaele during a terrible rainstorm, and held on for five days, waist-deep in mud and exposed to German shelling. Reinforcements arrived on November 6, and by November 10 Canadian troops occupied the village, thus ending the battle.  Almost 12,000 Canadians were wounded, and over 4,000 died.

CIMG8750 Sep 9 2017 Pieter at Passchendaele Memorial in Zonnebeke

Pieter at the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The Passchendaele Canadian Memorial has the following inscription on one side, on a granite block, saying:

“The Canadian Corps in Oct-Nov 1917 advanced across this valley – then a treacherous morass – captured and held the Passchendaele ridge.”

IMG_20170909_141204168_HDR Sep 9 2017 Passchendaele Memorial in Zonnebeke

The Passchendaele Canadian Memorial has maple leaves carved in the form of a wreath on the front and back. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

The Battle of Passchendaele, which lasted 100 days, had more than Canadian casualties.  275,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed and wounded, among them the Canadian casualties already mentioned.  220,000 German soldiers were also killed and wounded.

Beside the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial is the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in Zonnebeke, which concentrates on the Battle of Passchendaele itself.  They have begun a Passchendaele Archives Project of trying to put faces and stories to those who died between July 12 and November 15, 1917 during the battle.  If you have a relative, and a photo, please consider supporting this project. You can email them at archives@passchendaele.be or visit their website at www.passchendaele.be for more information.  They will send you a form to fill out: Passchendaele Archives Questionnaire.

After these two visits, Pieter was finally persuaded to go for a snack before continuing on with the war memorial tour.  Across from the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 was a lovely restaurant, Brasserie De Volksbond, where Pieter and I shared Belgian bread and Passendale cheese.

CIMG8762 Sep 9 2017 Passendale cheese at Brasserie de Volksbund in Zonnebeke

How could we resist having Passendale cheese for lunch? (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Yes, while we Canadians know Passchendaele for the battle, it’s better known for its Passchendaele beer and Passendale cheese.

CIMG8753 Sep 9 2017 Passchendaele beer sign at Brasserie de Volksbund in Zonnebeke

Pieter didn’t get a chance to sample the Passchendaele beer! (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

If you are wondering about the spelling difference, the Belgians have a much simpler spelling of their village and region!

CIMG8747 Sep 9 2017 sign for Passchendaele

Passchendaele = Passendale. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Our next stop on the War Memorial Trail, after a much needed lunch break, was Tyne Cot British Cemetery, which was also in Zonnebeke.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail of Passchendaele and Surrounding Area

November 2, 2017.  After hearing so much about Passchendaele and the terrible 100 days of fighting over a mere 8 km of territory in 1917, we had to go and see the area for ourselves.  245,000 allied soldiers alone were casualties, not to mention Belgian citizens and German soldiers. We kept thinking, “How could it be worth such a heavy sacrifice?”

We followed two routes in this area, the Ypres Salient Route, and No Man’s Land Route (Niemandsland Route in Flemish).

CIMG8738 Sep 9 2017 sign saying Ypres Salient Route

Signs along the road marked the routes you could follow on the war memorial trail in Belgium. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

One soldier on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, Vincent CARR, died on October 30, 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.  His story was told earlier in this blog.  (See links to The Cenotaph Research Project Begins and The WWI Names On The Cenotaph).  He’s buried at Cement House Cemetery in Langemark, and our first stop on the war memorial trail in the Passchendaele area was there.

CIMG8723 Sep 9 2017 Pieter at Cement House Cemetery with flags

Pieter at the entrance to Cement House Cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Cement House was the military name given to a fortified farm building on the Langemark-Boesinghe (now called Boezinghe) road.  There are 3,952 WWI Commonwealth graves, 2,225 of them unidentified.  There are an additional 22 WWII graves, 5 of which are unidentified.

After placing the flags on Carr’s grave, we saw that the graves on either side of him were Canadians from the same Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade unit as Carr, and that they died on the same day.  It seemed only right to take a photo of all three graves and pay tribute to R. Bellas, our Vincent Carr, and J. B. Willson.

IMG_20170909_131617502 Graves of Bellas Carr Willson in Cement House Cemetery

The graves of R. Bellas, V. Carr, and J. B. Willson in Cement House Cemetery. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

After leaving Cement House Cemetery, we stopped at the St. Julien Memorial (Sint Juliaan in Flemish), a Canadian War Memorial commemorating the Canadian First Division’s participation in the Second Battle of Ypres in World War I.  This was a nasty battle where the troops faced the first poison gas attacks along the Western Front on April 22, 1915.  The memorial is commonly known as the Brooding Soldier, the name given to the statue sculpted by Frederick Chapman Clemesha, an architect from Regina who was also a WWI veteran.

Unfortunately, the heavens opened as we arrived in the parking lot.  We waited a few minutes in the hope that the rain would stop, but no luck.  There was a big tour bus beside us and no one got out of it either.  After ten minutes the bus left (guess they had to stay on schedule).  At that point Pieter said, rain or not, he was going to the memorial.  Only his cousin François was willing to join him!  Mieke and I stayed in the car.


St. Julien Memorial in Langemark. (Photo credit: François Breugelmans)

The sculpture is a stone tower, topped by the head and shoulders of a soldier, whose head is bowed.  The soldier is in the pose of a serviceman standing with ‘reversed arms’ – resting his hands on the rifle butt and the rifle pointing with its barrel to the ground. This pose is a gesture of mourning and respect for the fallen.


The location of the statue is where the Canadian position was when they were attacked by gas.  None of the troops had gas masks.  They tried to protect themselves as best they good, and some pressed handkerchiefs soaked with urine around their mouths.  As we now know, this did little good.

A few minutes after the Pieter and François came back into the car and we pulled away from the parking lot, it stopped raining and the sun came out.  It was like a message had been received!

Although it was after 2 pm, and three of us were hungry and tired, we had a few more stops before Pieter would allow us to have a rest and lunch!  We grumbled that he had forgotten we were volunteers on this journey, not military recruits!  Our war memorial route continues in the next blog entry.

As yet, we have not been able to find any information on Vincent Carr’s wife, Bessie Carr, who came from Summerside, and died in 1918, a year after her husband.  Can you help?  If you are related to R. Bellas or J. B. Willson, we’d like to hear from you as well.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg