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Ypres and the Great War
Essex Farm Cemetery
Site John McCrae
One of the best known world war 1 sites in the Ypres salient is Essex Farm Cemetery and Advanced Dressing Station where John McCrae wrote his famous poem In Flanders Fields at the beginning of May 1915.In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place, and in the sky, The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scare heard amid the guns below.
It was here that the guns of the 1st Canadian Artillery Brigade stood in April 1915 and it was on this spot shortly afterwards that the Royal Engineers built an number of shelters and dugouts for the protection of the troops in the high canal bank.
This bank had originally been dug in the 17th century by the French military architect Vauban as a ‘retranchement', a large fortification alongside the canal, which for more than 50 years constituted the northern border of Louis XIV's French empire. Shortly after the 1918 Armistice, the numerous bunkers in the bank also served as temporary accommodation for many of the refugees returning home.
High on the canal bank stands the monument to the 49th West Riding Division, which was first deployed here in the summer of 1915 and suffered heavy losses. A series of information panels and photos guide the visitor on a historical voyage of discovery.
Essex Farm Cemetery counts 1199 war graves of the Commonwealth. 100 of these graves or for non-identified soldiers. Rifleman Valentine Joe Strudwick is buried in this cemetery. He died on January 14 1916 and is known to be the youngest casualty, 15 years of age.