Memorials & Cemeteries

Military Memorials & Cemeteries

We Remember Them

Introduction

During our 2014, 2015 & 2017 trips to Europe we visited a number of military memorials and cemeteries in Belgium, Holland and France. This page will eventually provide information and photos about those visits, arranged in two sections – Memorials and Cemeteries. Each section is in the order visited.

Our visits began following genealogy research that revealed relatives who were casualties in the Great War. Using the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website (see link in box below) we found where they are buried. Two are in cemeteries near Ypres (Ieper), Belgium.

After finding our relatives graves we began visiting other military cemeteries and memorials out of respect. So many on all sides gave their lives for their country.

Click here to open a new browser tab providing very useful and interesting information on “How to interpret signs and clues from a British military cemetery”.

Click here to open a new browser tab about “Evacuation of the wounded in World War I”.

Click here to open a new browser tab on a forum post that describes an evacuation example. The whole thread in which that post resides makes a very interesting read.

Click here to open a new browser tab about the “Chinese Labourers” sent to help the allies in WW1 by the Chinese government. Some are buried in CWGC cemeteries.

Also included here is information about how to access Rheindahlen Military Cemetery.

Finding CWGC Graves

The CWGC web site provides a Search facility for finding war graves. It’s an invaluable source of information about war graves, including directions, cemetery photos, opening times and other information.

Click here to open a new browser tab showing the CWGC site.

Click the following CWGC links to learn more:

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Memorials

Menin Gate Memorial

Ypres, Belgium

Menin Gate on approach to town centre.

On a European trip in 2014 Jean and I called here on our way to the graves of two relatives killed in WW1. They were killed on the Western Front. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website (see link in box above) revealed where they are buried.

One is at Poperinghe New Military cemetery and the other at Haringhe Military cemetery. As both are near Ypres (click here to see map) we first paid a visit to the Menin Gate memorial. (We were returning to the UK.) We found visiting the memorial to be a moving experience. Seeing all the names etched into every wall of it really strikes home the sacrifice and waste of so many. And these are just those without graves – they had just disappeared.

On returning home I felt a strong need to express our visits in a video. The video follows.

The video has four parts. The first part has photos in and around the memorial. The second part is a video of a drive through the memorial and the main street of Ypres. Photos taken over the war period that show the Cloth Hall and the city are included. The third part are photos of the two cemeteries. The final part has more photos and information about the casualties on the Western Front.

Last Post Ceremony

Every evening since 11 November 1929, except 1940-44, the Last Post Ceremony has been held in the memorial. It is an expression of gratitude by the Belgian nation for those who died for their freedom. Click here to open a new browser tab showing the Last Post website.

Here is the crowd assembled for the ceremony on the evening of 28 July, 2015.

The Last Post website (link above) provides a lot of information about the ceremony. It also has two mp3 files of the bugle calls to download.

One of the road routes through Ypres (Ieper) goes through the memorial. It’s a busy road which is closed every evening whilst the Last Post Ceremony is conducted.

Steps inside the memorial give access to the ramparts. Click here to open a new browser tab showing a YouTube video of a “Tour of the Ramparts and the Menin Gate”.

We’ve visited the Menin Gate three times now, 2014, 2015 and 2017. On each occasion we were moved by it and what it commemorates.

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Mardasson Memorial

Bastogne, Belgium

Mardasson Memorial

The Mardasson Memorial is a monument honouring the memory of 76,890 American soldiers wounded or killed during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. It’s a gift of thanks from the Belgian people. Unlike the Menin Gate it does not have the names of the fallen soldiers on it. Instead it’s inscribed with the names of all the US States and the story of the battle.

On our European trip in 2015 Jean and I called here on our way to Ypres (Ieper) from Cochem in Germany where we’d been staying. I chose a route via Bastogne because I remembered the American tv series ‘Band of Brothers’ in which ‘Bastogne’ is Episode 6. It’s Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks version of the WW2 “Battle of the Bulge”. Doing some online research I learned of the Mardasson Memorial. Our journey gave us an opportunity to visit it.

Click here to open a new browser tab showing a Wikipedia about the tv series.

Click here to open a new browser tab giving a brief summary with photos about the actual battle.

Click here to open a new browser tab giving very informative and useful tips about visiting the museum and memorial.

The Mardasson Memorial is located in rolling countryside near Bastogne and is adjacent to the Bastogne War Museum.

There is a free car & coach parking area for the museum and memorial but it doesn’t seem sufficient. There wasn’t an empty space to be found when we visited. It was mid-day and cars were parked in the roadways and many more arrived after us. We added to those parked in the roadway. We don’t know if there had been some event at the museum or if it was always this busy in the summer.

The work to design and construct the memorial first began on July 4, 1946. Dedication of the completed memorial was on July 16, 1950.

A staircase leads to the top of the memorial.

The inner walls are covered with ten passages carved in stone commemorating the battle, and the parapet bears the names of the then 48 U.S. States plus Alaska and Hawaii. Insignia of most participating battalions are shown on the walls.

On the west side of the memorial are steps leading down to a crypt.

The crypt contains three altars: one each for Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish services.

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I don’t know if it’s because we’re not American but we found the memorial did not have the emotional effect on us that the Menin Gate had. It might be the omission of names. However, the Memorial is impressive and worth the visit.

The walk from the car park to the memorial passes by the Eagle monument commemorating the men of the 101st Airborn Division who defended Bastogne during the battle.

When we left there were even more cars parked everywhere. We drove through Bastogne town center and continued our journey to Ypres (Ieper).

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Cemeteries

Poperinghe New Military Cemetery

Poperinge, Belgium

Cemetery main entrance.

Poperinghe New Military Cemetery was established in June 1915. It contains WW1 graves of:

  • 677 British & Commonwealth forces
  • 271 French forces
  •      1 German forces
  •      2 Belgian civilians
  •      1 member of the Chinese Labour Corps.

The cemetery is situated in the built up area of Poperinge. It’s very easy to find from the directions and map on the CWGC site. Like all the other military cemeteries it is well signposted. It is situated on the right side of the road into Poperinge just off the southern ring road. There is no dedicated car park.

GM view of Poperinghe New Military Cemetery
GM view of Poperinghe New MC

Jean and I first visited here after visiting the Menin Gate in 2014. We came here to find the grave of my great-uncle, Isaac Lewis. The cemetery and grave were found from a search on the CWGC website. The grave is at II. H. 10. (Plot 2, Row H, Grave 10).

CWGC Grave Certificate.
CWGC Grave Certificate
Poperinghe New Cemetery plan

The grave certificate above shows that Isaac was a Sapper in 254th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. He volunteered to serve having been a Leicestershire coal miner. Tunnellers dug attacking tunnels under enemy lines and planted explosives. The explosives were detonated at a time chosen to have most impact. The work was specialised and very dangerous.

Click here to open a new browser tab about the  “Tunneling companies of the Royal Engineers”.

Below are extracts and photo from the Coalville Times newspaper of 20th July, 1917. They were kindly provided to me by my cousin Gail.

Newspaper obituary

He died a day before his third wedding anniversary.

Newspaper item
Isaac Lewis photo
Caption under newspaper photo

On finding his grave we paid our respects, thanked him, then departed for Haringhe cemetery. We visited Isaac’s grave again in 2015.

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Haringhe Military Cemetery

Haringe, Belgium

Haringhe entrance gate.

Haringhe (Bandaghem) Military Cemetery was established in July 1917. It contains graves of:

  • 772 British & Commonwealth forces
  •   39 German forces
  •     4 members of the Chinese Labour Corps.
  •     5 WW2 (3 of them unidentified)

The cemetery is also referred to by the nickname Bandaghem.

Bandaghem, like Dozinghem and Mendinghem, were nicknames given by the Tommies to groups of casualty clearing stations posted to this area during WW1.

The cemetery is surrounded by fields in the countryside, on a quiet narrow road near the village of Haringe. It’s easy to find from the directions and map on the CWGC site and is signposted in the village. There is parking space at the cemetery.

GM view of Haringhe MC
GM view of Haringhe MC

Jean and I first visited here after the Menin Gate and Poperinghe in 2014. We came here to find the grave of Jean’s great-uncle, Tom Severn. The cemetery and grave were found from a search on the CWGC website. The grave is at III. E. 30. (Plot 3, Row E, Grave 30).

CWGC Grave Certificate
Haringhe Cemetery Plan

The grave certificate above shows that Tom was a Private in 1st/5th Battalion. York & Lancaster Regiment. He died on 23 April, 2018. Nothing else is known about him.

On finding his grave we paid our respects, thanked him, then departed for Eurotunnel. We visited Tom’s grave again in 2015.

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Groesbeek Canadian Military Cemetery

And Memorial

Groesbeek, Netherlands

Groesbeek entrance gate.

Founded in the summer of 1945 Groesbeek Canadian Military Cemetery contains 2,619 graves of World War II casualties. It also contains the Groesbeek Memorial on which 1019 casualties are listed as missing.

Click here to open a new browser tab about the cemetery. It contains various information and details of the nationalities buried here.

Click here to open a new browser tab on the CWGC site with links to the Memorial and Cemetery.

The cemetery is surrounded by fields in the countryside north of Groesbeek. It’s easy to find from the directions and map on the CWGC site – see link above. Free car parking is available with a warning not to leave valuables on display as theft is common. We parked here without a problem.

GE view of Groesbeek MC.
GE view of Groesbeek MC

The Memorial

After the entrance visitors come to the Memorial – brick structures to left and right with the Stone of Remembrance between. (See Google Earth view above.)

The structures contain inscribed stone panels listing the names of the 1019 missing.

The Cemetery

Jean and I visited here in July 2015 when staying in Venlo. We have no relatives buried here so didn’t have a grave to find. We read some of the names of the missing on the memorial walls, then walked slowly on to read some of the headstones and looked at the floral tributes at the Cross of Sacrifice. There were other visitors doing the same.

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Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

Arnhem, Netherlands

Arnhem cemetery entrance.

Established in 1945, Arnhem War Cemetery, also known as the Airborne Cemetery, contains the graves of World War II ‘Operation Market Garden’ casualties and others, thus:

  • 1,684 British & Commonwealth forces
  • 79 Polish forces
  • 3 Dutch forces
  • 4 Non-war

Click here to open a new browser tab on the CWGC site for the cemetery.

The cemetery is located on the outskirts west of Arnhem centre. Directions and map are provided on the CWGC site – see link above. Free car parking is available with a warning not to leave valuables on display as theft is common. We parked here without a problem.

Click here to open a new browser tab on the Wikipedia site for the cemetery containing a lot of interesting and detailed information.

This was our second visit here. Our first was in April 1965 when stationed at 614 near Brüggen, Germany. Keith and Patsy Durrant were with us on that trip.

Here’s a photo I took of Keith while he was shooting an 8mm cine film. It was a cold and wet day – notice the bare trees.

We were on our way back to Germany after a weekend in Holland.

GM view of Arnhem Airborne Cemetery.
GM view of Arnhem Airborne Cemetery

This visit was 50 years later in July 2015 on the same day we’d visited Groesbeek cemetery – a lovely sunny day. We have no relatives buried here so didn’t have a grave to find. We walked around slowly and read some of the headstones. Always sad & reflective places to visit. We owe them our thanks and are thankful that we didn’t have to do what they did. RIP.

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Rheindahlen Military Cemetery

And A Route To It

Mönchengladbach, Germany

View of headstones

In July, 2015, during our third return visit to Germany, we visited JHQ Cemetery – more correctly called, Rheindahlen Military Cemetery. Our German friend Hartmut had told us of it and said we should visit it. He did however point out that since JHQ Rheindahlen closed it cannot be accessed from there.

The cemetery is located in Eichhofweg. It can only be accessed from one end as it is no longer a through road. Thus finding it is not easy. Until something changes this is a way to drive to the cemetery. Another way might be from route 57 – see map below. If this doesn’t help click here to open a new browser tab on the CWGC site with more directions.

After following various satnav routes – all leading to road barriers – and some old fashioned map reading, we eventually found it. But it was time consuming and frustrating. I decided to create the map below to help others find it.

We didn’t see a road sign for the cemetery until we got to Eichhofweg . This has a sign to show it’s a no through road.

If you drive to the far end of the cemetery fence you’ll find the Car Park.

Road signs

The Cemetery

I have not found a plan of the cemetery and it’s quite large as can be seen from this Google Maps view. Eichenhofweg is across the top, accessing the cemetery from the right. The round object on the right is the Garden of Remembrance, with a flagpole at its centre.
Google Maps view of cemetery.
GM view of Rheindahlen MC.

Jean and I were very pleased that we didn’t give up the search for it. It’s a lovely though understandably sad place. We read many of the headstones and wondered about the lives of the people affected by the deaths. It was a damp, overcast day but we’re glad we were able to visit it. We don’t know anyone buried there.

The cemetery is not a war cemetery. It was (I believe) for service people and family members who died in service in Germany since the 1950s. Sadly it contains many children’s graves. Some had died shortly after birth in RAF Hospital Wegberg, which was close by.

Up to the 20 June 2012, the cemetery was run by the MoD. Then the administrative responsibility and daily running of the cemetery transferred to the CWGC.

Click here to open a new browser tab with a YouTube video about the cemetery and transfer.

On the CWGC web site you will find photos, opening times and other information for this cemetery. Click here to open a new tab showing the applicable CWGC web page.

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Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery

Nr. Poperinge, Belgium

A view of Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery

Lijssenthoek is a hospital cemetery. Installed on 6 May 1915 to take the fatalities from the adjoining French Military Evacuation Hospital, Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery is established. It subsequently provides the burial plots for four Allied casualty clearing stations (CCS) in the area.

British & Commonwealth burials commenced in June 1915. Over the course of World War I and beyond it becomes the second largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in Belgium – the largest is Tyne Cot. Lijssenthoek contains 10,784 graves of WW I casualties and others, including one woman – nurse Nellie Spindler killed by shrapnel in a bombardment whilst on duty.

Thirty nationalities are buried here, Commonwealth-, French-, American-, German-forces and Chinese labourers.

  • 9,901 British & Commonwealth forces
  • 883 Other nationalities including 1 non-war

Click here to open a new browser tab on the CWGC site for the cemetery.

Click here to open a new browser tab on the Wikipedia site for the cemetery containing a lot of interesting historical information.

Click here to open a new browser tab on the Lijssenthoek site.

The cemetery is in the countryside south of Poperinge. Directions and map are provided on the CWGC site – see link above. Free car parking is available. Toilets are available at the car park.

Google Maps view of the cemetery.
GM view of Lijssenthoek MC

We came to visit this cemetery at the request of our friend Keith Durrant (ex-Royal Signals). Aware of our trip he asked if we would be near Poperinge as his Great-Uncle W.G. Durrant is buried near-by at a place called Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. He asked if we had time would we find his grave. Had that request not been made we might never have visited here, as we knew nothing of Lijssenthoek or its history. We are so pleased Keith made that request. Our first visit was on 29 July, 2015.

Visitor Centre

This is the first cemetery we visited that has a Visitor Centre. We spent 45 minutes in the Centre but could easily have spent hours. There is so much to see, read and hear.

Entering the Centre, on the right is the remembrance wall and calendar, on the left is the ‘red box’ containing the listening walls on the outside and the exhibition inside. Opposite the entrance is the exit.

This plaque at the entrance shows the layout.
Click on image to enlarge it. To revert, click at side of image.

Plate inside entrance showing Centre layout.
Centre Layout

The remembrance wall has hundreds of photograph portraits of those buried here.

The calendar has the story of one of the victims who died that day in the war.

To the right of the calendar are buttons to select which language it’s shown in – Netherlands (Dutch), English, French, Deutsch (German). The photo has it in Dutch.

Hover over the image to pause the display. Click on image to enlarge it. To revert, click at side of image.

Two outer walls of the ‘red box’ have listening positions at child and adult heights. Just visible on the far right in this photo, again with language choice.

The visitor can listen to short fragments of readings from historic and recent material.

The white text is a poem in Dutch about the hospital site.

Walls of the 'red box' listening and exhibition area.
'Red box', poem & listening posts

Entering the ‘red box’ you first see a wall displaying a graph of the number of burials daily.

Above and below the timeline are panels with links to specific dates giving information about an event that day. The information is given in four languages.

Another wall is all about Remy Siding – the major hospital site  for which the cemetery was established. The graves are mostly of casualties who died while being treated at the hospital. Hence almost all are identified.

The panel explains the work done treating the wounded and burying the dead. Photographs, diagrams and maps are combined to explain the story of Lijssenthoek.

Information is provided in four languages.

In the middle of the room is the large touch table with display niches and computer touch screens built into it.

The niches contain archaeological items and personal objects of buried victims.

The computer screens provide access to information. We used one to find the grave location.

Photos showing the steps to find the grave:- enter search criteria, select from results, view data and any media.

Finally the grave location on a plan drawing and photo. The grave is at III-C-19A.

Hover over the image to pause the display. Click on image to enlarge it. To revert, click X.

There are also screens for viewing war diaries, photos of the cemetery history and of some particular headstones. Here are a few examples.

I would like to have looked at a few War Diaries but hadn’t the time. 

Hover over the image to pause the display. Click on image to enlarge it. To revert, click X.

There is a dispenser cabinet displaying various items for purchase. We bought the Visitor Guide (€5) which I later found to be very interesting and useful.

The front cover is a photo of No. 2 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) gardens at Remy Siding. Try searching the web for that CCS to uncover photos and background.

Hover over the image to pause the display. Click on image to enlarge it. To revert, click X.

We could easily have spent a whole day in the Visitor Centre reading, viewing, listening and studying the wealth of material available. But we came to find a grave.

The Cemetery

Google Earth view of cemetery.
GE view of Cemetery

Exiting the Visitor Centre a footpath leads to the main entrance of the cemetery.

Turning right at the Cross of Sacrifice the path runs parallel to the main road from which it’s separated by a hedge and row of poles.

Each pole represents one day on which at least one man died in the hospital. There are 1,392 poles.

At the end of the path is the main entrance to the cemetery.

Passing through the entrance archway we began to take in the the vista of headstones.

This was the biggest cemetery we had visited.

With the plan location in mind, we went to complete our search for William’s Grave

Being such a large cemetery it took us a little time to walk to the grave. It wasn’t far from the Cross of Sacrifice.

We can see from the CWGC Grave Certificate and headstone that William was a Gunner in the 53rd Battery, Royal Field Artillery. He died on 20 August 1915.

CWGC Burial Certificate.
CWGC Grave Certificate
WG Durrant headstone.
Gunner WG Durrant's Headstone

We told Keith that we’d found his Great-Uncle. RIP Gunner Durrant. We visited here again in 2017. 

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More to follow.......