BIRR CROSS ROADS CEMETERY

 

Zillebeke

 

West-Vlaanderen

 

Belgium

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Birr Cross Roads Cemetery is located 3km east of Ieper town centre, on the Meenseweg (N8), connecting Ieper to Menen. From Ieper town centre the Meenseweg is located via Torhoutstraat and right onto Basculestraat. Basculestraat ends at a main crossroads, directly over which begins the Meenseweg. The cemetery itself is located 2.5 km along the Meenseweg on the right hand side of the road.

The village and the greater part of the commune of Zillebeke were within the Allied lines until taken by the Germans at the end of April 1918. The village was recovered by the II Corps on 8 September 1918.

Birr Cross Roads was named by the 1st Leinsters from their depot. The cemetery was begun in August 1917 and used as a Dressing Station cemetery until, and after, the German advance in 1918. At the Armistice, it contained nine irregular rows of graves, now part of Plot I, but was greatly enlarged when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields and from certain smaller cemeteries, including:-

BELLEWAARDE RIDGE MILITARY CEMETERY, ZONNEBEKE, was a little way North-East of Bellewaarde Lake, almost on the top of the low hill which rises northwards from the Menin Road between Hooge and Clapham Junction. It contained the graves of 17 soldiers from Australia, and eleven from the United Kingdom, who fell in September and October, 1917. The Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge was fought on the 24th-25th May, 1915; the Attacks on Bellewaarde were delivered, unsuccessfully, in June and September, 1915; and the Ridge, taken in July, 1917, and given up in April, 1918, was finally retaken by the 9th (Scottish) Division on the 28th September, 1918.

BIRR CROSS ROADS CEMETERY No.2, seventy-five metres South of No.1 (the present cemetery), contained the graves of 18 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in July and August, 1917.

UNION STREET GRAVEYARDS No.1 and No.2, ZILLEBEKE, were due North of Zillebeke village, between Gordon House and Hell Fire Corner. They contained the graves of 19 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in August and September, 1915.

There are now 833 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 336 of the burials are unidentified, but there are special memorials to nine casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate 18 casualties buried in Birr Cross Roads Cemetery No.2 and the Union Street Graveyards, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire, and one Belgian interpreter whose grave cannot now be found.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens & Noel Ackroyd Rew

 

Casualty Details: UK 66; Canada 16; Australia 143; New Zealand 12; South African 1; Total Burials: 833

 

     

Victoria Cross:: Captain Harold Ackroyd, VC., MC. Royal Army Medical Corps. Attd 6th Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment, 11/08/17, aged 40. Son of Edward Ackroyd, of Southport; husband of Mabel R. Ackroyd, of Link Lodge, Malvern Link. Sp. Mem. 7.

 

 

Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 4th Sept., 1917, reads as follows:- "For most conspicuous bravery. During recent operations Capt. Ackroyd displayed the greatest gallantry and devotion to duty. Utterly regardless of danger, he worked continuously for many hours up and down and in front of the line tending the wounded and saving the lives of officers and men. In so doing he had to move across the open under heavy machine-gun, rifle and shell fire. He carried a wounded officer to a place of safety under very heavy fire. On another occasion he went some way in front of our advanced line and brought in a wounded man under continuous sniping and machine-gun fire. His heroism was the means of saving many lives, and provided a magnificent example of courage, cheerfulness, and determination to the fighting men in whose midst he was carrying out his splendid work. This gallant officer has since been killed in action."

 

 

 

 

This sign was collected by 1689 Sergeant Walter Ernest Brown VC., DCM. 5917 Private William Horatio Thomas Henry Wise and 54453 Private Bailey Horace Kent, all of the 20th Battalion for a proposed 20 Battalion museum. Instead the sign was donated by them in March 1919 to the Australian War Records Section for the National Museum being developed.

Hooge and the Birr X roads (also known as Birr Cross Roads) are located to the east of Ypres and north east of Zillebeke in Belgium. In 1917, the 20th Battalion fought near Ypres in the Battle of Menin Road in September 1917. From Westhoek Ridge they attacked Hannabeek (Hanabeek) Wood, north east of Westhoek, capturing and holding their objective against two counter attacks. They were relieved by the 19th Battalion on the night of 21 September.

 

302 Private

Arthur Gordon Scragg

30th Bn. Australian Infantry, A. I. F.

26/09/1917, aged 20.

Son of Amy May Scragg, of "Fairview," Cumberland Rd., Auburn, New South Wales, and the late Arthur Scragg. Native of Waverley, New South Wales.

Plot III. B. 7.

 

33718 Gunner

David Tait Robinson

7th Bde. Australian Field Artillery

25/09/1917, aged 19.

Son of John and Isabella Robinson, of "Glendall," Prospect Terrace, South Brisbane. Queensland.

Plot I. F. 17.

 

Special memorial to Camille De Wattine, a Belgian interpreter whose grave was lost

 

Special Memorial to 18 men originally buried at Birr Cross Roads Cemetery No. 2 and Union Street Graveyard

 

3234 Private

Herbert Henry Parish

54th Bn. Australian Infantry, A. I. F.

26/09/1917, aged 20.

Son of Elizabeth Maurer (formerly Parish), of Berrico Creek, New South Wales, and the late William Charles Parish.

Plot I. D. 32.

 

 

 

4068A Driver

Joseph Britten

5th Div. Ammunition Col.

Australian Field Artillery

06/10/1917, aged 25.

Son of John and Emma Britten. Born at Bega, New South Wales.

Plot I. C. 10.

 

 

A 'Collecting Post' for the wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Roads at Ypres, during the battle of 20 September 1917. A camouflaged battery of 6 inch howitzers including one South African gun can be seen in the background.

 

 

A dump of 18 pounder shell cases at Birr Cross Roads, in the Ypres Sector, where positions were occupied by the 2nd Divisional Artillery, during the battle of Zonnebeke, 20 September 1917, when these shells were used. When this photograph was taken, the batteries had moved forward to positions between Bellewaarde and Westhoek Ridges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant

Edwin Campbell Johnson

32nd Bn. Australian Infantry, A. I. F.

30/09/1917, aged 25.

Son of Mr. A. Campbell Johnson; 1 husband of Elsie May Johnson, of 203, George St., East Melbourne, Victoria. Born at Glenelg, South Australia.

Plot I. F. 10.

 

 

 

 

 

4888 Gunner

William Joseph Willis

5th Bde. Australian Field Artillery

06/10/1917, aged 25.

Son of Joseph and Jessie Willis, of High St., Cessnock, New South Wales. Native of Wollongon, New South Wales.

Plot III. A. 14.