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Esquelbecq Military Cemetery

Gazetteer No. G0703


Address Esquelbecq, Nord France


The construction of the cemetery began in April 1918, during the first phase of the German offensive in Flanders, when Canadian and Australian casualty clearing stations were moved to Esquelbecq. The cemetery was closed in September 1918 and brought into use again during World War ii.

The field with graves consists of three plots. The head- stones face east, where the War Stone has been placed in front of the middle plot. However, the graves from World War ii have been turned west. The German, French and Indian graves are apart from the other graves. The Cross of Sacrifice is opposite the War Stone on the west side of the cemetery. The axis of symmetry does not coincide with a path, however. There are two paths between the plots, which run into the plateau with the War Stone and enable a walk across the field.

The principal axis of the cemetery is the entrance axis on the east side. It offers a view of the War Stone from the entrance. The vista ends in a small shelter combined with a gardener’s shed. The little building looks as if it has walked right out of a garden by Lutyens and the garden architect Jekyll, such as the garden of the house Le Bois des Moutiers in Varengeville-sur-Mer in Normandy. A typical feature of the architecture is the use of bricked-in tiles in the form of rays around the opening, one of Lutyens’ favourite motifs. The building is a standardized building that was later added to several cemeteries by various architects, such as Adelaide Cemetery by Lutyens, Abeele Aerodrome Military Cemetery by Goldsmith, Guards’ Cemetery, Windy Corner, by Holden, and Connaught Cemetery by Blomfield.

The road at the entrance cuts off the cemetery diagonally. However, this is adjusted at the entrance by adding a gatepillar, which creates a triangular forecourt. Gatepillars were frequently used by Lutyens, generally in conjunction with his assistant architect Goldsmith, to mark the entrance. This is no surprise, as the approval form shows that during Lutyens’ stay in New Delhi Goldsmith was filling in for him as superintended architect.

The cemetery opens up on the side of the road, where it is bordered by a hedge. The two other sides are enclosed by a low wall with a continuing plant bed. Whitebeams form an attractive décor on these sides, planted on the advice of Hill, the landscape consultant. There are large yew trees next to the Cross of Sacrifice. On his return from India, Lutyens approves of the design and makes the remark: ‘Why plant privet, cannot thorn or yew be used?’ (Geurst, 2010, p.282)


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

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Imperial War Graves Commission