Francis Ledwidge Memorial
Francis Edward Ledwidge was killed aged 29 on the battlefield at Boesinghe on 31st July 1917, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres. He was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Irish Regiment the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Francis Ledwidge was a poet. He enlisted in October 1914 and served in Gallipoli in the April 1915 campaign. After the evacuation of British troops from the Gallipoli penninsular he went to Serbia where he was taken ill with rheumatism and an inflamed back from the cold, wet weather. He returned to duty in time to serve in the Battle of Arras in April 1917, following which he moved to Belgium to take part in the preparations for the planned Third Battle of Ypres (Battle of Passchendaele) in late July 1917.
On the day that the battle started Lance Corporal Ledwidge was in a party of men from the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers carrying out repairs to the Boesinghe-Pilkem road at Rose Cross Roads. The attacking British troops had moved across this area in an easterly direction during the day. Damage caused to the Boesinghe-Pilkem road from enemy artillery shells firing on the attacking British force would have to be mended quickly. It was essential to make repairs to keep the road open for supplying the rear of the advancing fighting line. The ground in the area was low-lying, liable to flood and it was vital to keep good quality roads for crossing this ground during and following an attack. The road would be busy with soldiers moving eastwards and horse-drawn wagons loaded with equipment and munitions.
The section of map is from British Army trench map 28 N.W. (Edition 6A) with German trenches in red corrected to 20.6.17 (1:20,000). This is correct for the period a month before the start of the Third Battle of Ypres. Boesinghe village is on the left of the Ypres-Yser canal in British occupied ground. The German area was on the eastern side of the canal, with the German Front Line close to the canal. The Boesinghe-Pilkem road runs south of the railway line, which is the line seen from lower left centre to top right corner. Artillery Wood and Rose X Roads (Cross Roads) are marked.
Rose Cross Roads - Carrefour de Rose
The crossroads was originally French in name before the war, called “Carrefour de Rose”. Carrefour translates as crossroads in English. The British Army translated it as Rose Crossroads and it is shown as Rose X Roads on British army maps. The photograph is taken standing at the junction of Poezelstraat on the main Boesinghe-Pilkem road, looking east in the direction of Pilkem. This is the direction that the British attack was moving on 31 July 1917, the day that Francis was in this location.
The photograph is taken at the junction of Poezelstraat and the Boesinghe-Pilkem road looking south towards Ypres, which is approximately 5 kilometres away. The precise location of Rose X Roads is just to the left of the photo. From 2009 this view of open ground has been obscured by the development of the industrial zone north of Ypres.
Francis Ledwidge is Killed
As Francis and his comrades were working on the road repairs a German artillery shell exploded near them. Ledwidge was killed as were several other men. The records listing Soldiers Died in the Great War list 5 soldiers of 1st Battalion Royal Irish Inniskilling Fusiliers being killed on that day: Lance Corporal Ledwidge aged 29 (no. 1638), Lance Serjeant John Harte (no. 4049), Private Henry P Evans (no. 41376), Private Frank Mattingley aged 29 (no. 41108) and Private Robert Sharman (no. 41312).
Another soldier in the battalion, Private Henry Newman aged 23 (no. 41083), is recorded as having died of wounds on that day. It's possible that he was working with the same group of men when he was wounded. He evidently died before he made it to a medical facility because he is not recorded as having a known grave. We can presume that whereever he did die from his wounds, his body was never recovered after the war. He is commemorated on Panel 22 for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.
The section of British Army trench map 28 N.W.2 (Edition 6A) with German trenches corrected in red at 30.6.17 (1:10,000) shows Rose X Roads in more detail. The Ledwidge memorial marks the location where Francis died. He is buried in Artillery Wood British Military Cemetery at grave reference Plot II. Row B. Grave 5.
Visitors to Artillery Wood Cemetery looking for the grave of Francis Ledwidge will also be interested to know that the comrades who died with him on that day are also buried near him in Plot II. Lance Serjeant Harte (grave reference II.D.20); Private Evans (grave reference II.D.10); Private Mattingley (grave reference II.E.14); Private Robert Sharman (grave reference II.D.4.).
Inscription on the Ledwidge Memorial
The Ledwidge memorial is inscribed with lines from a verse of his poem “Lament for Thomas MacDonagh”:
“He shall not hear
The bittern cry
In the wild sky
Where he is lain.”
Location of Francis Ledwidge Memorial
Leave Ypres / Ieper from its northern side making for the N369 to Boezinge (formerly called Boesinghe). After about 6 kms you enter the outskirts of Boezinge and shortly after there is a right turn to cross the bridge over the Ypres-Yser (Ieper-Ijzer) canal. Cross the bridge and follow the road around to the right into Langemarkseweg. After about 600 metres further on you will see a memorial to the French on your left. Immediately after the French memorial there is a left turn into Poezelstraat and a sign for Artillery Wood Cemetery. Take that left turn into Poezelstraat. The Ledwidge Memorial is approximately 75 metres on the left after turning into Poezelstraat. The memorial is sited on the old railway line, now a public footpath between Boezinge and Langemarck.
Artillery Wood Cemetery, where Ledgwidge is buried, is another 125 metres further on along Poezelstraat on the left hand side of the road.
The crossroads where Poezelstraat crosses with Langemarkseweg is the location of the original Carrefour Rose - Rose X Roads on the British Army trench map.
Access to the Francis Ledwidge Memorial
The memorial is accessible to the public at all times.
Burial place of Francis Ledwidge, photograph of his grave and the cemetery:Artillery Wood Cemetery: Ypres Salient Cemeteries listing
Francis Ledwidge Museum
For information about Francis Ledwidge, photos of the poet, poems, the FL Museum, online bookshop and more visit the official Francis Ledwidge website at:www.francisledwidge.com
Francis Ledwidge - A Life of the Poet by Alice Curtayne