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Photographer: Chris Knowles

Kemmel No 1 French Cemetery

Gazetteer No. G0729


Address Kemmel, West-Vlaanderen Belgium


Kemmel was the scene of heavy fighting involving British as well as French troops in April 1918. The village was in the hands of the Germans from 26 April until the end of August. The origin of the cemetery is unknown. Its location was discovered by the French war graves department just after the end of the war and contained British as well as German and French graves. Many more British graves were added after the war, along with German graves that had been discovered by the Belgian war graves office. The French graves were transferred to the ossuary on Kemmelberg and to the French cemetery of Potijze.

The cemetery lies in an elevated field outside the hamlet of Vierstraat, close to a side road leading to Kemmel, and is accessible by way of a monumental stairway. The other British cemetery is just round the corner on the side road. From the road this monumental stairway, with banks on both sides grown with shrubs, leads to the elevated part of the cemetery. The Cross of Sacrifice, at the top of the stairway, is visible from the road. In front of the Cross of Sacrifice there is an open field with two seats incorporated in a low wall. The field with the headstones is a few steps lower down. The plinth of the Cross has been incorporated in the stairway, creating a second seating level opposite the two benches.

There is a simple shelter in the cemetery of a standard type found in several cemeteries designed by Lutyens and his assistant Cowlishaw, such as Divisional Cemetery and Chester Farm Cemetery. However, in those cases they are not shown on the relevant IWGC drawings and were probably added at a later stage.

The cemetery is twenty-three steps lower than the road. This difference in elevation has been made a theme in this cemetery by the design of the monumental stairway. Here the distance between the walls has been reduced in four stages, which reinforces the upward perspective. In the original plan, the stairway was much wider and incorporated the Cross of Sacrifice. This design was never implemented, probably to reduce costs.

There is no War Stone in the cemetery. The graves face northeast, the side of the entrance. The cemetery has a symmetrical layout with the stairway, the Cross of Sacrifice and the central path on the symmetrical axis. The German graves are at the end of the central path. The irregular position of the graves in the rows has been caused by the transfer of the French graves.

The shrubs on the banks at the front comprise the most striking greenery. Further there are four small trees in the cemetery, two at the far end and one in each front corner. A low brick wall covered with slabs of white stone surrounds the cemetery. (Geurst, 2010, p.338)


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

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Imperial War Graves Commission