Ypres (now Ieper) was, from October 1914 to the autumn of 1918, the centre of a Salient held by the British (and for some months by the French) forces in Belgium. From April 1915, it was bombarded and destroyed more completely than any other town of its size on the Western front; but even to the end certain buildings remained distinguishable. The ruins of the Cathedral and the Cloth Hall stood together in the middle of the city.
The Infantry Barracks stood, in part, at the re-entrant angle of the South walls. The prison, the reservoir and the water tower were together at the Western gate; and the prison was "a fine example of the resistance to shell-fire of thick walls if they are thick enough." (War Diary of the 1st Irish Guards, quoted by Mr. Rudyard Kipling.) Three cemeteries were made near the Western gate: two between the prison and the reservoir, both now removed into the third, and the third on the North side of the prison. The third was called at first the "Cemetery North of the Prison," and later "Ypres Reservoir North Cemetery"; and it is now Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.
This cemetery was begun in October 1915, and used by fighting units and Field Ambulances until after the Armistice. It then contained 1,099 graves; and to these were added from smaller cemeteries or from the battlefields of the Salient. There are now over 2,500, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, over two-fifths are unidentified and special memorials in the cemetery include those to two soldiers from the United Kingdom, buried at the Infantry Barracks, and eight buried in Ypres Reservoir Middle Cemetery, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. In Plot V, Row AA, are the graves of a group of officers and men of the 6th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, who were billeted in the vaults of the Cathedral, and killed on the 12th August, 1915, by the "Ypres Express" firing from Houthulst Forest. The survivors were rescued by the 11th King's Liverpools, but these bodies were not recovered until after the Armistice. There is one Unidentified German soldier buried within the cemetery.
The more important burial grounds concentrated here were the following:
- YPRES RESERVOIR SOUTH CEMETERY, between the prison and the reservoir, called also "Broadley's Cemetery" and "Prison Cemetery No. 1." It was used from October 1914 to October 1915, and it contained the graves of 18 soldiers from the United Kingdom.
- YPRES RESERVOIR MIDDLE CEMETERY, immediately North of the last named, called also "Prison Cemetery No. 2" and "Middle Prison Cemetery." It was used in August and September 1915, and rarely afterwards. It contained the graves of 107 soldiers from the United Kingdom (41 of whom belonged to the 6th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) and one Belgian soldier.
- The CEMETERY at the INFANTRY BARRACKS (called also "the Esplanade"). It was used from April 1915 to July 1916; and it contained the graves of 14 soldiers from the United Kingdom, ten of whom belonged to the 6th Siege Battery, R.G.A.
Burials (Commonwealth War Graves Commission):
- United Kingdom: 2258
- Canada: 155
- Australia: 143
- New Zealand: 28
- South Africa: 12
- Undivided India: 2
- Other Commonwealth: 6
- Entirely Unidentified: 10
- Total Commonwealth: 2614
- Other Nationalities: 1