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Puchevillers British Cemetery

Gazetteer No. G0758


Address Puchevillers, Somme France


The cemetery lies on a country lane on the west side of Puchevillers village, on the corner of a side road amongst the fields. During the war, it was used by several Casualty Clearing Stations. The victims who fell during the German advance of 1918 are buried in the rear part of the cemetery.

What is unusual about this large cemetery is that it was almost entirely laid out during the war. Although it looks regular and well-ordered at first sight, it is evident from the moment one enters the cemetery that there is a curve in the main path and that no space was reserved for the War Stone and the Cross of Sacrifice: Lutyens and Cowlishaw have placed them on the corner directly beside the entrance, on the east side of the cemetery. Another remarkable aspect is that the gatehouse is situated at the very bottom of the cemetery, where it gives entrance to a lower field with graves.

According to the approval form Lutyens did not visit the location but did make a draught sketch at the headquarters of the IWGC in France. On the advice of Arthur Hill, the landscape consultant, and with the approval of Sir Frederic Kenyon, a shelter was added. On Lutyens’ instructions, it was placed on the north side. Lutyens further advised that paved paths should be avoided as much as possible.

The entrance side, along the country lane, is marked by the Cross of Sacrifice. The entrance itself is designed in a relatively austere way. A subtly fashioned bronze gate between two walls of natural stone, with a wide threshold, opens onto the cemetery.

From the entrance, the ground extends downward. The central path has functional proportions as a result of the duties of the Casualty Clearing Station burial service. The graves were not dug according to a clear and deliberate plan, which is why the various plots do not lie in a straight line. The length of the central path is interrupted crosswise by a number of side paths with a bench at each end, incorporated in the high wall around the field. Two alcoves have been built into the gatehouse at the bottom of the field. The gate opens onto a lower part of the ground with graves that were added later.

The design of the gatehouse is extremely austere and its details are less refined than in other buildings by Lutyens. The staggered cornerstones can be recognized as the work of assistant architect Cowlishaw. The composition was derived from the triumphal arch, one of Lutyens’ favourite themes in his work for the IWGC. The wall surrounding the cemetery varies in height from one to two metres and follows the slope of the ground in gradual steps. Wherever one plateau passes into the next, seats have been incorporated in the wall. The difference in elevation in the rear part has been overcome by constructing a semicircular stairway near the gatehouse.

The cemetery has a regular layout with long rows of graves, in the linear direction of the cemetery. Each plot shows a small change in direction, giving an informal aspect to the whole layout. The graves in the front part of the ground face eastward. The War Stone and the Cross of Sacrifice are not part of the regular arrangement of the graves and stand separately near the entrance, in a diagonal position.

The most eye-catching greenery is formed by the five trees near the entrance, which mark the triangular entrance area. Further there is a great deal of greenery along the walls with flowering shrubs, especially on the west side. The wall on the east side is covered with rambling roses. The monotony of the headstones is interrupted by three longitudinal sections of roses in the colours yellow, red and pink, along with a number of borders with higher greenery beyond the headstones. (Geurst, 2010, p.385-6)


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

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Imperial War Graves Commission