Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, March 20, 2023

Clapham Junction: A Little Forgotten Hotspot in the Ypres Salient

Clapham Junction, England, Just After the War

Clapham Junction was in 1914, and is currently, Britain's busiest interchange station. Clapham Junction opened in 1863,  and today  sees about 2000 trains pass through every day, making it the busiest station in Britain in  the number of people who pass through the station every day.

A Cavalry Station Early in the War

Considered one of the "hottest" spots of the Western Front, and certainly in the Ypres Salient, the Menin Road was the scene of  intense fighting every year of the war. Strung along the Menin Road are such famous Great War battle sites as Sanctuary Wood and Hooge. Another site of recurrent action on the road is a slightly less-remembered crossroads with the evocative name "Clapham Junction". Like its namesake, it saw an awful lot of action and traffic. A some point it reminded some Tommies of the big train station back home and they gave it a nickname that stuck.

Note the Converging Roads and the Proximity of
Hooge Chateau and Stirling Castle

Today, not one but two memorials are located at Clapham Junction. One is to the Gloucestershire 1st and 2nd Battalions which saw heavy service during the First and Second Battles of Ypres in 1914 and 1915 respectively.  The 18th "Eastern" Division was a New Army formation that fought in the northern sector of the Salient during the opening of the Battle of Passchendaele and moved to this area for its final stages. The woods of the infamous "Stirling Castle" are to the south of both memorials.

Today — Gloucestershire Monument, Left, and
the 18th Division Monument, Right

The "Clapham Junction" moniker was applied to another crossroads manned by the British Army far away from the Western Front. In 1915, the British forces advancing in the Cape Helles sector found an nice site for a rear-area casualty clearance station and supply dump with road access in all four directions and a stream to provide water. Apparently, it reminded someone in the map section of that famous interchange back in Blighty.

Australian Troops and Support Tanks at
Clapham Junction, 1917

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