Not far from Ieper and just north of Langemark village on Klerkenstraat is the sombre Langemark German Cemetery. There are relatively few German cemeteries on the Western Front battlefields. As they had invaded, the land that France and Belgium was prepared to grant them was limited, in comparison to their British allies.
Although this cemetery is much smaller in area than Tyne Cot, in fact it contains many more burials because they are effectively in the form of several mass graves, although there are headstones (which are laid flat to the ground) as well. There are also occasional clusters of small crosses, but these are not grave markers.
Langemark German Cemetery
On entering the cemetery itself there is an inscription on a flat stone with a sculpted wreath. This records that 44,061 men are buried here. Ahead is the mass grave of nearly 25,000 men. The names of those known to be buried here are recorded on eighty-six upright bronze panels beyond this entrance.
Just to the left of this central inscription, on the edge of the first of the upright bronze panels is a plaque commemorating two British soldiers: Privates Albert Carlill (Loyal North Lancs) and Leonard Lockley (Seaforth Highlanders). Both died late in 1918. Carlill died as a prisoner of war aged 19, just a week before the end of the war.
Plaque to the two British soldiers buried at Langemark
The “Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof” (German Soldier’s Cemetery) in Langemark is particularly poignant because of its strength and simplicity. Over 44,000 Germans are buried behind the monumental gate made of pink Weserberg sandstone and almost 25,000 of these are buried in a mass grave. More than 3,000 student volunteers of the 22nd up to and including the 27th Reserve Corps found their last resting place here. They were killed in battle in October and November 1914 during repeated attacks in the First Battle of Ypres. The name of “Studentenfriedhof” (Student Cemetery) was given to the cemetery because of the large number of students among these volunteers.
At the entrance there is a heavy building reminding one of a bunker. It was erected in red Weser/Vesder sandstone and was meant to make the transition from everyday life to the cemetery itself and in that way create some distance.
There are three rooms in the entrance building: the central passage and two side rooms.
On the oak panels of the “room of honour” to the right, are inscribed the known names of 6,313 soldiers killed in battle who were buried in the original (lower part of the) cemetery. Fencing the cemetery, there is a low wide wall made of the same stone as the entrance building. Pollard willows grow on street side (as a guard of honour) and the right part of the former poppy field is surrounded by a wide ditch symbolising the flooding of the Yser front.
Poppy memorial outside Langemark German Cemetery