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Photographer: Chris Knowles

Béthune Town Cemetery

Gazetteer No. G0669


Address Béthune, Pas de Calais France


For a long time Béthune managed to escape bombardment and remained an important centre for railway connections and hospitals, as well as serving as headquarters for various army units. Until the end of 1917 there was a Casualty Clearing Station in the city. From the beginning of 1918 onward, Béthune increasingly came under re and the bombardments of May 1918 caused great damage in the city.

The British cemetery is a part of the rear section of the municipal cemetery and does not have its own entrance. The large shelter that stands in the middle of the British section along with the War Stone and the Cross of Sacrifice are exceptional features. The back-to-back layout of the graves, among which some French graves are also situated, is also a striking element. A small part of the Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery & Extension is also laid out this way. The cemetery is one of the first cemeteries to be inspected by Fabian Ware in 1915.

The first graves lie in small sections with British, French and German graves to the right of the path that runs from the entrance to the British part. The other part of the British cemetery is surrounded by a yew hedge. The visitor walks past the first part before reaching the shelter that stands in a line with the War Stone and the Cross of Sacrifice, which forms the centre of the cemetery.

The shelter displays architectonic similarities with the buildings at the H.A.C. Cemetery and Daours Communal Cemetery Extension. However, the corners of the building in Béthune have been opened up, just like the central loggia, so that the building stands entirely on pillars. Moreover, the pillars at the corners have been doubled on two sides and urns have been placed upon these. Lutyens applied urns on pillars at access gateways on other occasions, too, as at Étaples Military Cemetery and Coxyde Military Cemetery, for example.

At the end of the central axis of the cemetery, which runs parallel to the access path, there is a smaller building with a gardener’s storage facility and a sitting alcove. The façade of this shallow building has been elaborated as a temple front with a tympanum interrupted by an arch, and a sunken alcove with a bench. Besides yew hedges, the greenery consists of various groups of trees including birches and backborders that have been laid out between the headstones in some double rows. (Geurst, 2010, p.218)


Geurst, J. (2010) Cemeteries of the Great War by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

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Imperial War Graves Commission