Webmatters Title
Webmatters : Le Carrefour des roses, Breton Memorial
Rough Map of Area

Le Carrefour des roses

Location

Coming out of Ieper along the N 369 you will pass Essex Farm Cemetery on your right. Continue towards Boezinge where you will turn right towards Pilkem.

A short distance along the road and just before you turn left at the crossroads for Artillery Wood Cemetery (Green CWGC Sign) you will see this calvary and dolmen on your left at the crossroads.

Carrefour is the French word for crossroads.

Turn left for the cemetery and park next to the house.

GPS N E Wikimapia
Decimal 50.916306 2.836559 Map

The Carrefour de la rose

The Breton Memorial

 

Background

On 22nd April 1915 the Germans bombarded the French lines to the north of Ieper in the first phase of the 2nd Battle of Ypres.

This bombardment was followed by a massive discharge of chlorine gas between Langemark and Bikschote. A green mist that gently floated on a light breeze into the French Lines.

Suddenly all along the French line soldiers started coughing and gasping for breath.

The cloud was the result of 180,000 kilos of chlorine gas being released into the wind in just five minutes along seven kilometres of the front. The bombardment had been temporarily halted so as not to disperse the gas.

Some of the French commanders thought that something had caught fire in the German lines, and by the time that they finally realised what was happening the German infantry appeared out of the gas wearing face protectors.

Chlorine is a severe irritant to the eyes, nose and throat. If exposed to enough of it death can occur.

The French officers found that they could hardly get orders out to try to control their men. If they stayed and tried to fight they were out fought by an enemy who was better equipped to deal with the debilitating atmosphere. In retreating however, the French soldiers were simply moving back with the gas cloud and increasing their exposure to its effects.

The French field artillery had been firing for all its worth but the crews were soon affected by the gas themselves.

Thankfully the canal formed a natural barrier to the Germans and the remainder of the Territorials rallied to man the front lines.

 

The Memorials

The group of memorials commemorates the soldiers of the French 45th (Algerian) Division and 87th Territorial Division who fell here during the first gas attack on 22nd April 1915.

Explanatory plaque in French, Breizh and Flemish

The text is in French, Breton and Flemish

The 87th Territorial Division hailed from Brittany and was composed of reservists rather than younger conscripts. They were known fondly as Les pépères, or grandads.

Following the war pilgrimages started took place annually from St Brieuc in Brittany and because in the years following 1923 many of those who had fallen were repatriated to their village cemeteries it was thought fitting that a place of memory should be created.

The 16th century Breton calvaire was brought from Louargat, west of Guingamp.

Detail on the cross

Detail on the calvaire

The dolmen was brought from Hénanbihen, west of St Malo. The capstone weighs 6 tonnes. The word dolmen derives, I believe, from the Breton meaning a stone table. In prehistoric times it would have been part of a communal burial site.

The blocks of stone which surround the garden are also from Brittany and are, for me anyway, somewhat representative of a stone circle and thus complementing the dolmen. Some are engraved with the names of the regiments who fought here.

The Breton Memorial at the Carrefour des roses

There is also an orientation table showing where each of the regiments were situated.

 

The other memorials in the area

Other French and Belgian memorials to the gas attack can be found a few minutes away at Steenstraat.

The Canadian Memorials can be found at Sint Juliaan.

A few metres away behind the calvary is a small monument to the Irish poet, Francis Ledwidge (sometimes a tricolour flies above it) and a hundred metres further along the road is Artillery Wood Cemetery where Ledwidge and the Welsh poet Ellis Evans (Hedd Wyn) are buried.