Whitby High School

Battlefields Tour 18-21st March 2006


Flanders Field, Belgium - Sunday 19th March

Langemarck German Cemetery


Langemarck German Cemetery

Langemarck was the scene of heavy fighting throughout October and November 1914. Following the first gas attack in April 1915 the village fell into German hands, and was only recaptured by the British on 16 August 1917, by 20th (Light) Division during Third Ypres.

The Germans took the village again during their great push of Spring 1918. It was finally retaken by the Belgians on 28 September 1918.

Langemarck Cemetery is the only German one in the Salient and contains 44,292 burials, concentrated from many smaller cemeteries in the Salient. An oak panel just inside the entrance to the cemetery lists the names of the German missing.

The first large headstone encountered once the visitor enters the cemetery is a mass grave containing 25,000 soldiers, and is planted with flowering shrubs. Bronze panels are carved with the names of the soldiers and their regimental insignia.

At the rear of the cemetery is a sculpture of four mourning figures in shadow signifying the three armed forces, plus the contribution made by back up forces keeping them in the front line. Flat stones mark burial plots: often up to eight soldiers share a (sometimes unknown) grave. The Belgian authorities were less willing to give up land to the German enemy, making it a necessity for shared graves to be erected.

Along the north wall of the cemetery are the remains of a number of large German blockhouses.

German Military Cemeteries

i) The German War Graves Welfare Organisation

The German cemeteries are maintained by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge. Unlike its British and French equivalents this was originally a private organisation relying heavily on public donation and help. Nowadays these cemeteries receive German Government funding and the organisation employs many full time staff. However, given the organisation's origins in the political and financial chaos of eariy 1920's Germany, there has always been a strong tradition of self help and great emphasis is placed on voluntary work, particularly by young people in order to help maintain them. Summer work camps are popular and well attended.

ii) The Style of Cemetery

Unlike British and French cemeteries, the style of German cemetery is not constant and if you visit a cemetery in Flanders such as Langemark, and then visit one on the Somme or near Arras or Verdun you will see many differences. However they do have basic ideas in common;
1) The architects were trying to convey the waste and sorrow of warfare. German cemeteries are always sad, rather depressing places and this is quite intentional.
2) The architects had to deal with the problem of fitting sometimes quite large numbers of bodies into the relatively small area of land that their former enemies would allow them. This is why each grave marker, whether headstone or cross has several or many names on it.


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Updated 10th April 2006 by Mike Royden
The Whitby High School, Cheshire County Council.