The Twentieth Century Society

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Click to see full size Photo © John East
Photo © John East
Photo © John East
Bedford House Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium by Gavin Stamp
Photo © CWGC

War memorials

Belgium: Bedford House Cemetery, Ieper

Architect: Wilfrid Clement Von Berg
Owners: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Location: Ieper, West-Vlaanderen

Bedford House Cemetery, south of Ypres, is large, containing 4532 graves. Its irregular and rambling layout reflects the fact that is on the site of the former Rosendal Château, whose ruins and moats survive. The architect brilliantly exploited these features and, by designing circular Classical temples, evoked an English landscaped garden in the Picturesque tradition. This was Wilfrid Clement Von Berg (1894-1986), who was one of the I.W.G.C.’s Assistant Architects but here he worked on his own.

Von Berg was born in Croydon and studied at the Architectural Association under Robert Atkinson. After war service, he joined the Commission in 1919. In 1977 he recalled how “I was awaiting demobilisation and wondering rather grimly what were likely to be my prospects of re-entering my profession in England when a notice arrived in my Orderly Room stating that architects were invited to apply for positions in the Imperial War Graves Commission. Without a moment’s hesitation I saddled my horse, galloped off to a neighbouring town, was interviewed and accepted”.

Von Berg acted as Assistant Architect on many cemeteries designed by Blomfield and Holden in particular: “Blomfield, I recall, took a meagre and superficial interest in my work and rarely had much to contribute. Lutyens, on the other hand, showed a lively concern coupled with a delicious sense of humour. I remember how once he introduced an asymmetrical feature into one of my designs saying with a chuckle ‘That’s cockeye but let’s do it’. Away from the drawing-board he was the greatest fun and at a party in the chateau at Longueness, I.W.G.C. headquarters, to everyone’s delight he climbed onto a table and danced a little jig. Holden, serious and painstaking, was a senior architect for whom I had the greatest respect. Of Baker I have no recollections since his work was almost exclusively with Gordon Leith. Generally speaking, therefore, I would say that, to the best of my memory, the Principal Architects, with the exception of Blomfield, performed their duties conscientiously and thoroughly. I never remember visiting a cemetery in the company of a Principal Architect and whether they themselves paid such visits or not I cannot say”

Gavin Stamp

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