Belgium 1917: Battle of Messines
Zwarte-Leen, Hill 60
Anzac Day 1917 – Railway Dugouts Burial Ground
Railway Dugouts Burial Ground might be an appropriate place for an Anzac Day service. In this cemetery, lying side by side in Plot IV, Row C, Graves 12 to 17, are six Australians of the First Australian Tunnelling Company. Another tunneller lies in Grave 10 of this row and another in Plot VI, Row G, Grave 33. What united them in death was the day they died – Anzac Day 1917. They died close by at Hill 60. What happened to Sapper Kenneth Hamilton that day was the fate of so many Australians on the Ypres battlefields of 1917. Hamilton was the ‘batman’, officer’s servant, to Captain A E Anderson, 1st Australian Tunnelling Company, and Anderson told the Australian Red Cross: ‘He Hamilton was killed in a dugout at Hill 60 by shellfire’. Lieutenant John Royle, also a tunneller, added the information that a shell from a German mortar had ‘crumpled’ the dugout killing three officers and six ‘batmen’.
One of the officers killed was Second Lieutenant Glyndwr David Evans who lies in Plot VII, Row G, Grave 33. With a name like that it is no surprise to learn that Second Lieutenant Evans, a mining engineer, was Welsh. He was a native of Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley. Aged 32, Evans was a well–qualified tunneller having, as he put it in his application for a commission in the AIF, ‘Three years Ballarat School of Mines, Mine Manager’s Certificate of Competency, also Assayers Certificate and additional certificates in Land Surveying, Electrical Technology, Metallurgy and Geology’.
Railway Dugouts, as the name implies, lies close to the railway running to the south–east from Ypres to Courtrai. The place was also called ‘Transport Farm’ during the war and was the last stopping point for supplies moving up into the line around Hill 60. The ‘dugouts’ were in the railway embankment itself. The road to the cemetery begins at a left turn off the N336 just before a railway crossing. After Railway Dugouts the road again crosses the railway, passes two churches (left and right), and once through the little settlement of Verbrande Molen reaches a small side road to the left heading towards a railway bridge. From here there is a good view back towards Ypres for this was, and is still marked as such on Belgian maps, ‘Hill 60’. A British officer, who served on this hill in World War I, wrote:
The place was practically a cemetery and several hundred must have been buried on the ground, it proving impossible, when digging trenches, not to disturb some poor fellow in his last long sleep.
Unnamed British officer, quoted in Tonie and Valmai Holt, Ypres Salient: Battlefield Guide, 1997, p.111
© 2013 Department of Veterans' Affairs and Board of Studies NSW :: Last update - December 2010