Passing through Ypres I was keen to see Manor Road and the railway crossing at Manor Halt. Since I was last here it’s become more clear that this is in view of the spot where Morris and Parker were killed. The CWGC map coordinates for Herbert’s original and temporary burial position have been perplexing. It has been difficult to understand the handwritten record which possibly includes an error over one vital geographic position. Placing him north of Zillebeke Lake doesn’t fit with the Edward’s account or a letter Bob has from the War Office informing Herbert’s family that he was buried closer to Manor Halt.
It’s actually a fairly short and quiet stretch of road leading to the centre of Zillebeke with poppies growing all around. Back then it would have been a muddy wasteland with active artillery and men much in evidence. It brings to mind the words attributed to Haig’s Chief of Staff, Sir Launcelot Kiggell, who visited the area the same autumn. Breaking down in tears he said “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”
Having previously seen Perth Cemetery (China Wall) from the road I’d wrongly assumed it to be small enough to find Herbert in a moment or two. Moving further in, the realisation that a quick look around wasn’t going to find him, and with row upon row of graves spreading before me, the only way to find his grave would be to walk up and down examining each headstone. Looking out for a Royal Artillery crest would quicken the search and about half way in and at the end of a row I found him at last. The cemetery, designed by Lutyens, has nearly 3000 graves including seven men executed for desertion.
Just a few yards along from Manor Halt is the rebuilt Manor Farm, home to the Coene family who’ve created a very excellent website dedicated to its history and the memory of the 154th Siege Battery who resided there during the war. An incredible amount of research has gone into this, tracing the families of former members and even organising a remembrance day for the descendents in 2009.
I’ve added a film below showing Pilkem Ridge and the land crossed by Charles Morris’s 16th RWF Battalion (113th Brigade) and also the new memorial to the entire 38th Welsh Division.
The Welsh, with the Guards on their left and Scots on their right swept out of the trenches (now consumed by an industrial estate) and across these fields to avenge bitter memories of Mametz Wood. Last time I was here I didn’t have the full understanding of what I was seeing. This time I could scan the area where Charlie spent months dug in – see no man’s land and the position of Caesar’s Nose – a troublesome German machine gun position.