Bedford House Cemetery Postcard

Today marks a hundred years since the end of the First World War. As such it seems appropriate that our weekly postcard depicts one of the British War Cemeteries in Belgium, that at Bedford House near Zillebeke:SKM_C284e18101915090Zillebeke was directly behind the Western Front, making it a useful site for divisional headquarters and field ambulance stations. Château Rosendal, a large house with a moat and extensive gardens was put to this use. The British forces in the area named the château “Bedford House” or “Woodcote House”, with the former becoming the official name used for the post-war cemetery.

Whilst the area remained in Allied hands through the war, it was devastated by shell fire and the château was razed over the course of the war, being hit by German 8-inch shells, as well as 500 gas shells in just one day of the Third Battle of Ypres

In time, the property became largely covered by small cemeteries; five enclosures existed at the date of the Armistice, but the graves from No.1 were then removed to White House Cemetery, St. Jean, and those from No.5 to Aeroplane Cemetery, Ypres.
ENCLOSURE No.2 was begun in December 1915, and used until October 1918. After the Armistice, 437 graves were added, all but four of which came from the Ecole de Bienfaisance and Asylum British Cemeteries, both at Ypres.
ENCLOSURE No.3, the smallest, was used from February 1915 to December 1916; the burials made in August-October 1915 were largely carried out by the 17th Division.
ENCLOSURE No.4, the largest, was used from June 1916 to February 1918, largely by the 47th (London) Division, and after the Armistice it was enlarged when 3,324 graves were brought in from other burial grounds and from the battlefields of the Ypres Salient. Almost two-thirds of the graves are unidentified.
ENCLOSURE No.6 was made in the 1930s from the graves that were continuing to be found on the battlefield of the Ypres Salient. This enclosure also contains Second World War burials, all of them soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force, who died in the defence of the Ypres-Comines canal and railway at the end of May 1940. The canal lies on high ground on the west side of the cemetery.

The cemetery is one of the largest in Belgium and contains over 5000 graves. Like most cemeteries, a cross of sacrifice features prominently as a focal point:SKM_C284e18101915090 - Copy (2)The Cross of Sacrifice is a Commonwealth war memorial designed in 1918 by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission). It is present in Commonwealth war cemeteries containing 40 or more graves. Its shape is an elongated Latin cross with proportions more typical of the Celtic cross, with the shaft and cross arm octagonal in section. It ranges in height from 18 to 24 feet (5.5 to 7.3 m). A bronze longsword, blade down, is affixed to the front of the cross (and sometimes to the back as well). It is usually mounted on an octagonal base. The graves themselves are standard Commonwealth War Graves markers, carved from white Portland stone:SKM_C284e18101915090 - Copy (3)The portion of the cemetery in the postcard features the graves of many Indian soldiers and this may explain the domed structure in this view:SKM_C284e18101915090 - CopyThe view today is little changed and the cemetery remains a place of pilgrimage for those whose loved ones lay in its walls.

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