Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Ieper - Belgium

Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

Three military cemeteries were established during the war close to the Ypres waterworks and prison. Only one of the three cemeteries is now in existance. The three original cemeteries were:

Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Ypres.
Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

Ypres Reservoir North Cemetery was started in October 1915. The burials it contained were men who had died in military units fighting in the Ypres Salient and men who had died of their wounds in the Casualty Clearing Stations. By November 1918 there were 1,099 graves.

Section of trench map 28 N.W.4 (Edition 3) dated May 1917. The map shows the location north of the prison of the Ypres Reservoir North Cemetery, enlarged after the war and renamed as Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.
Trench map showing Ypres reservoir north cemetery

After the war the 18 burials in Ypres Reservoir South and the 107 burials in the Ypres Reservoir Middle Cemetery were moved into Ypres Reservoir North Cemetery. In addition, 14 graves were brought in from a small cemetery at the Infantry Barracks (also called “The Esplanade”). When the battlefields were cleared after the war many soldiers buried graves in individual plots and small cemeteries in and around the town were brought into this larger burial ground from the battlefields of the Ypres Salient. The enlarged cemetery was renamed “Ypres Reservoir Cemetery”. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

2,613 Commonwealth servicemen are now buried in this cemetery. 1,579 of the graves are identified with 1,034 graves containing the remains of unidentified burials.

The Plaine d’Amour - Minneplein

View looking south-west in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.
Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

The Ypres Reservoir Cemetery is located in the northern section of a piece of ground in the north part of Ypres that up to 1914 was a large, grassed area known by its French name of the “Plaine d’Amour” or its Flemish name of “Minneplein”. This grassy area lay between one of the inner and outer old fortified walls of the town. When the Dutch had been in charge of the administration of Ypres between 1814 and 1830 the fortifications in the north-west part of the town had been removed. Officially called the “Plaine d'Armes” it is said that the French name of “Plaine d'Amour” was derived from this by the French-speaking locals. It had become a peaceful place of recreation. As a large open space it was well used by the local people as a place to walk, play and picnic on. Animals grazed on it too.

In 1919 the Belgian government, in association with the King Albert Fund, put up lots of wooden prefabricated huts on the Plaine d'Amour, or Minneplein, and other open spaces so that the local people returning to their ruined town had shelter and somewhere to live.

Today a part of the Minneplein is still used for recreation; it is the location of the town football ground. A school is located in the former north-east corner of it, next to the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

Casualties Buried in this Cemetery

Brigadier General Francis A Maxwell, V.C., C.S.I., D.S.O.

Headstone for Brigadier General Maxwell, VC.
Brigadier General Maxwell, VC grave

Brigadier General Maxwell was killed on 21st September 1917 while commanding the 27th Infantry Brigade in the 9th (Scottish) Division. He was 46 years old. Francis Maxwell had served in the Second Boer War as a Lieutenant with the cavalry regiment Roberts' Light Horse. For his gallantry in action at Sanna's Post on 31st March 1900 during the 2nd Boer War he had been awarded the Victoria Cross. Brigadier General Maxwell was a brave officer who had had a glittering military career.

Brigadier Maxwell is buried in Plot I, Row A, Grave 37 (the grave location is in the row of graves immediately beyond the War Stone as you approach it from the Great Cross.)

Casualties in the Cathedral Vaults, 1915

There are a number of graves in this cemetery of a group of soldiers who were killed or died of wounds as a result of German shelling onto the city of Ypres in 1915. In August of that year men of the 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (D.C.L.I.) were billeted in the town after having been involved in the battle to hold the line at Hooge. This was a battle when the Germans used flame throwers for the first time. While the battalion was out of the line and in reserve, about 40 men were resting in the vaults of St. Martin’s Cathedral.

Headstones of some of the casualties killed in the cathedral vaults, including Lt Blagrove.
Graves at Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

On 12th August the city of Ypres was shelled continuously for several hours by the German artillery. Many of the D.C.L.I. men were buried under rubble in the vaults as the ceilings collapsed. Two of the battalion's officers, Major Barnett and Lieutenant Blagrove, assisted men of the 11th Battalion the King's Liverpool Regiment in an attempt to dig them out. Some were rescued alive but 22 men are listed as having died on that day in the battalion. Three more are listed as having died of wounds in the following five days, although it is not certain if injuries were sustained in this incident in Ypres. The bodies which could not be retrieved at that time were discovered in the rubble of the vaults when the war was over and the ruins of the city were cleared.

The remains of 16 men of the 6th Battalion the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (D.C.L.I.) are laid to rest at grave reference Plot V, Row AA, Grave 1. Five other casualties who died on 12th August as a result of this incident, including Major Barnett and the battalion adjutant Lieutenant Blagrove, are buried in the cemetery at Plot X, Row D, Grave references 18-21. Another D.C.L.I. casualty of 12th August, Private William J Smith, is buried in Plot IX, Row F, Grave reference 26.

Location

The Ypres Reservoir Cemetery is located on the Maarschalk Plumerlaan, about 10-15 minutes' walk from the Grote Markt (market square) in the centre of Ieper.

Related Reading

Cover of The Boer War book by Brigadier General Maxwell, VC, CSI, DSO

The Boer War

by Thomas Pakenham

This is a comprehensive and acclaimed history of the Boer War using first-hand accounts. It includes the part played by Brigadier General Francis A Maxwell, V.C., C.S.I., D.S.O.

Related Topics

Ramparts Cemetery in Ypres, one of more than 120 British military cemeteries in the Ypres Salient of 1914-1918.
Ramparts Cemetery, Ypres

There are over 120 British and Commonwealth military cemeteries in the Ypres Salient, several major memorials to the missing, one German military cemetery and two French military cemeteries. For listings and locations see our pages at:

Cemeteries in the Ypres Salient

Monuments and Memorials in the Ypres Salient

Acknowledgements

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org