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Sanctuary Wood Cemetery Revisited

ejwalshe

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Sanctuary Wood is one of the larger woods in the commune of Zillebeke. It was named in November 1914, when it was used to screen troops behind the front line. It was the scene of fighting in September 1915 and was the centre of the Battle of Mount Sorrel (2-13 June 1916) involving the 1st and 3rd Canadian Divisions. There were three Commonwealth cemeteries at Sanctuary Wood before June 1916, all made in May-August 1915. The first two were on the western end of the wood, the third in a clearing further east. All were practically obliterated in the Battle of Mount Sorrel, but traces of the second were found and it became the nucleus of the present Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. At the Armistice, the cemetery contained 137 graves. From 1927 to 1932, Plots II-V were added and the cemetery extended as far as 'Maple Avenue', when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields. They came mainly from the communes immediately surrounding Ypres, but a few were taken from Nieuport (on the coast) and smaller cemeteries. Most of these burials were from the 1914 Battles of Ypres and the Allied offensive of the autumn of 1917. There are now 1,989 Commonwealth servicemen of the Great War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 1,353 of the burials are unidentified. Many graves, in all five plots, are identified in groups but not individually. In Plot I is buried Lieutenant G.W.L. Talbot, in whose memory Talbot House at Poperinghe was established in December 1915. The first list of the graves was made by his brother the Reverend N.S. Talbot, MC, later Bishop of Pretoria. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.



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