I had not heard of Essex Farm before our trip to Belgium to see some of the battlefield sites of the first World war, and to pay our respects to those who had died, those countless men and women who had died. Essex Farm is between Ypres and the little village of Boezinge. I had heard the very famous poem ‘in Flanders Fields’ which was written in 1915. The poem was written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian Army Medical Corps when he was serving here at the Advanced Dressing Station at Essex Farm, and the cemetery is where he actually composed the poem, mentioning ‘ the crosses, row on row’.
There are now concrete bunkers here, but at first there were only wooden structures built up against the bank. Theses bunkers are very small and it must have been a dreadful experience for the medical staff working in such conditions, trying to help the wounded and dying.
The cemeetary contains 1,200 graves but 103 of the burials are unidentified and there are also 19 memorials of men known to be, or believed to be, buried here. Among the graves is one to the youngest known soldier who died, Valentine Joe Strudwick, aged only fifteen… he had joined up when he was fourteen… can you believe it?
John McCrae died in 1918, aged forty-five.