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.

CIMG8771 Sep 9 2017 Sign to Sanctuary Wood

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



4 thoughts on “A Visit To Sanctuary Wood

  1. Hi Pieter That is really great that you had the picture off Charles Buxton Keep up the good work. It is awesome what you and your wife are doing

    Your friend Jack

    Sent from my iPad



    • Hi Jack,

      Without you, we wouldn’t have had a photo of Charles Buxton! Thank you for that! We just finished another blog entry about The Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate Memorial, which includes a short video clip where Buxton’s name on the wall is visible. We will also do one more blog entry on Charles Buxton.
      Pieter and Daria


  2. Pingback: A Visit To Sanctuary Wood Cemetery | Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project

  3. Pingback: Two Campbell Brothers in WW1 | Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project

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