Hill 60 is about three miles southeast from Ypres. Though it is known as Hill 60 and was called this on Allied trench maps from the time, Hill 60 was in fact man-made. It was created in the 1860’s from what was dug out from a nearby railway line. However, with a height of 150 feet any elevation within the Ypres Salient was advantageous to whoever held it and for this reason Hill 60 became a prime target for both Allies and Germans.
Hill 60 changed hands on a number of occasions during World War One and many men were killed fighting there. The Germans first captured it in December 10th 1914. The British responded almost immediately by digging four tunnels into the hill underneath known German positions. The tunnels were known as M1, M2, M3 and M3A and had smaller tunnels dug off them. The end of each tunnel was packed with high explosives.
By April 1915, the British were in a position to detonate six large mines. This occurred 19.05 on April 17th. In the immediate aftermath of these devastating explosions, Allied artillery fired on the German positions. Once this had finished, infantry attacked the German lines. The surviving German defenders were so disorientated that the attacking British infantry only suffered seven casualties in this assault.
On April 18th the Germans launched a major counter-attack. This forced the British off Hill 60. However, the next day, the British regained it.
It was at Hill 60 that the Germans first used poisonous gas against Allied troops on April 21st. A second attack using poisonous gas took place on April 22nd.
In the summer of 1917, men from the Australian Tunnelling Company dug underneath German positions on the hill. Mines were exploded with devastating effect. Allied infantrymen then stormed the hill and captured it and it was held until the 1918 German Spring Offensive.
The Allied units primarily associated with Hill 60 in 1917 were the Queen Victoria’s Riflemen, the Australian Tunnelling Company and the 14th Light Division.
Similar to Messines Ridge, the Allies lost control of Hill 60 during the Spring Offensive of 1918. However, the Germans were unable to sustain this assault and it petered out.
The British last captured Hill 60 on September 28th 1918, six weeks before Armistice Day.
By the very nature of the fighting that took place at Hill 60, many bodies are known to still lie there. The names of the Allied dead can be found on the Menin Gate in Ypres.
In 1920, Hill 60 was bought by Lieutenant-Colonel Cawston who later sold a half share in it to J. Calder. In 1930, J. Calder donated Hill 60 to the Imperial War Graves Commission, later called the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, that maintains it to this day.