Vimy Ridge – Canadian National Vimy Memorial

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge is one of the best WWI memorials. Three things make the memorial so memorable. First, the monument itself, like all of the Canadian monuments, is sober. It doesn’t celebrate victory, but morns loss, even though the battle for Vimy ridge itself was a great success. Two, the Canadian government bought the land around the battle field and left it as it was at the end of the war. It is one of the few untouched battlefields left. Finally, the battle for Vimy Ridge was marked with extensive use of tunnels. The tunnels remain and Canadian students lead tours through them that not only explain the tunnels, but what was happening in the battle. And as an added plus you’ll get a little dose of Canadian history. It is a site not to be missed.

Vimy: Looking from the Lens side

Vimy: Looking from the Lens side

Vimy: Detail of the Lens side

Vimy: Detail of the Lens side

Vimy: The mother mourning her son

Vimy: The mother mourning her son

Vimy: The mourning mother

Vimy: The mourning mother

Vimy: Detail of the statue in the center of the spires

Vimy: Detail of the statue in the center of the spires

Vimy: Detail of the right side looking from Lens

Vimy: Detail of the right side looking from Lens

Vimy: Looking towards Lens

Vimy: Looking towards Lens

Vimy: Detail of leftside of monument looking towards Lens

Vimy: Detail of leftside of monument looking towards Lens

Vimy: Detail of right side of monument looking towards Lens

Vimy: Detail of right side of monument looking towards Lens

Vimy: Looking towards Lens

Vimy: Looking towards Lens

Vimy: Trench line with sheep to mow the lawn

Vimy: Trench line with sheep to mow the lawn

Vimy: Shell craters

Vimy: Shell craters

Vimy: The battlefield is still full of live ammunition

Vimy: The battlefield is still full of live ammunition

Vimy: Parts of the original trenches were perserved with cement sand bags

Vimy: Parts of the original trenches were perserved with cement sand bags

Vimy: The Moroccan memorial

Vimy: The Moroccan memorial

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Ieper

Ieper, Belgium was completely destroyed during the war. It has been beautifully reconstructed, including a faithful reproduction of the Cloth Hall. The Cloth Hall houses the In Flanders Fields Museum the most pacifistic war museum I’ve every been in. First there is a constant ominous drone, a music that gives the museum an undercurrent of foreboding. Second, many of the displays are about the dehumanization of the military. When displaying an uniform, they note that when a civilian joins the military his identity is taken away and replaced with a conforming uniform. They shows children’s games that promote militarism along with propaganda from each side. And as you leave the museum there are banners listing every war since WWI. This is not a museum so much about the history of war, but the history of collective insanity. The museum along with the Passchendaele museum bring the horrors that were the four battles of Ieper into focus. I didn’t take too many photos here, but the few I have will give you an idea of what Ieper is like.

Ieper: The Cloth Hall

Ieper: The Cloth Hall

Ieper: Detail of the Cloth Hall. These might be from the original Cloth Hall and owe their disfigured shape to the war

Ieper: Detail of the Cloth Hall. These might be from the original Cloth Hall and owe their disfigured shape to the war

Ieper: The town hall reconstruction

Ieper: The town hall reconstruction

Ieper: German propaganda poster showing that in for over a 100 years they were the least war-like nation

Ieper: German propaganda poster showing that for over a 100 years they were the least war-like nation

Ieper: Children's book showing the glories of war

Ieper: Children’s book showing the heroic French deaths

Ieper: At the exit of the museum is a list of every war since the WWI

Ieper: At the exit of the museum is a list of every war since the WWI

Ieper: There is quite a bit of WWI tourism on display, especially given the 100th anniversary

Ieper: WWI chocolates. There is quite a bit of WWI tourism on display, especially given the 100th anniversary

Ieper – Tyne Cot Cemetery

The Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing near Passendale is the largest British military cemetery in the world with 11,954 burials. Along the walls of the inclosing arc are the names of another 35,000 missing for the years 1917-1918. The mud of the Passendale campaign particularly contributed number of missing. The area like most military cemeteries was the site of a battle that took place on October, 4 1917. There are three German bunkers in the cemetery, two are readily visible and the third is under the Cross of Sacrifice that is part of every Commonwealth Cemetery.

Given its size, importance, and proximity there were dozens of British tourists and several tour groups. It was quite a marked contrast from some of the remoter cemeteries that where wrapped in quiet. On the other hand, we did get to eavesdrop on the tour and learn a few things.

Tyne Cot: Roses and an unknown

Tyne Cot: Roses and an unknown

Tyne Cot: Rose with the names of the missing in the background

Tyne Cot: Rose with the names of the missing in the background

Tyne Cot: Names of the missing

Tyne Cot: Names of the missing

Tyne Cot:  the New Zealand missing

Tyne Cot: the New Zealand missing

Tyne Cot: Some of the missing

Tyne Cot: Some of the missing

Tyne Cot: The Cross of Sacrifice on top of the German bunker

Tyne Cot: The Cross of Sacrifice on top of the German bunker

Tyne Cot: A wreathe of poppies and crosses of remberance

Tyne Cot: A wreathe of poppies and crosses of remembrance

Tyne Cot: Crosses of remembrance at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice

Tyne Cot: Crosses of remembrance at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice

Tyne Cot: An Australian unknown soldier

Tyne Cot: An Australian unknown soldier

Tyne Cot:  Ieper is the two tall spires in the distance

Tyne Cot: Ieper is the two tall spires in the distance

Tyne Cot: Looking towards Ieper

Tyne Cot: Looking towards Ieper

Tyne Cot:

Tyne Cot:

Ieper – Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

The third battle of Ieper, commonly known as Passchendaele, was marked by its initial success through extensive use of mines and an incredible loss of life in the later stages as the mud and poor planing took their toll. Passchendaele was the last stage of the battle where close to 40,000 men disappeared into the Belgian mud. The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 recounts the history of this battle and the three others that took place in Ieper, which saw such dubious innovations in warfare as chemical weapons and flamethrowers. Don’t be fooled by the size of the museum building. This is a large museum, complete with dugouts and trenches, along with artifacts of war. When we paid our €7.50 I thought it was a little steep, but after winding through the all the displays I was pleasantly surprised how extensive it was. It was one of the best World War 1 museums I saw. Like many museums of the first world war (and as I think they should), the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 has an anti-war feel, though it is subtle. The continual tractor and agricultural traffic in the surrounding streets adds a sense of remote futility to place. So much to fighting for essentially farm fields.

The personnel memorial for a dead German soldier

The personnel memorial for a dead German soldier

An English-Flemish phrase book

An English-Flemish phrase book

One of the interactive displays. This one demos the weight of a pack

One of the interactive displays. This one demos the weight of a pack

Gas shells

Gas shells

The shell room

The shell room

Gas masks

Gas masks

German guide to the flamethrower

German guide to the flamethrower

Device for listening to digging in a tunnel

Device for listening to digging in a tunnel

Mining tools including stubs of candles

Mining tools including stubs of candles

A guide to mines and craters

A guide to trenches and craters

Music books

Music books

A Scotsman in his uniform

A Scotsman in his uniform

Reconstruction of a dugout barracks

Reconstruction of a dugout barracks

Reconstruction of a dugout toilet

Reconstruction of a dugout toilet

Reconstruction of a dugout officer's quarters

Reconstruction of a dugout officer’s quarters

A reconstruction of trenches

A reconstruction of trenches

Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917. Despite its size it is a large museum

Ieper – Odds and Ends

The following are some smaller sights we came across while driving around Ieper. They all have one thing in common: desolation. The Hooge crater is the site of a giant mine that the Germans blew up in 1915.

50th Northumbrian Division monument

50th Northumbrian Division monument

A cemetary

A cemetery

A cemetary

A cemetery

The Hooge crater

The Hooge crater

Shells at the Hooge crater

Shells at the Hooge crater

Ieper – Pond Farm

Pond Farm is a private museum in Langemarck, Belgium. Pond Farm is working farm and over the years, as in much of France and Belgium that constituted the front lines, the proprietor Stijn Butaye has collected artifacts from the fields. The museum is small but our visit was one of the most interesting of the trip. Stijn was unavailable that day but his mother gave us a guided tour of the museum which an in depth description of where the front lines were and what it is like to live with the remnants of the war. They still dig up live munitions which have to be disposed of. Their website proudly proclaims, “This Private Pondfarm Museum is controlled by the Federal Goverment Justice (foj), Police Ypres, DOVO and was approved on the security of weapons and ammunition.” A must see if you are in the area and have the time. You can find them on FaceBook also.

Pond Farm museum

Pond Farm museum

The poppy

The poppy

A patio table made of shells

A patio table made of shells

Where they put live shells. The shell on the cage might be live

Where they put live shells. The shell on the cage might be live

A roof tile made by Germany after the war as part of reparations. To find new titles they have to search e-bay

A roof tile made by Germany after the war as part of reparations. To find new titles they have to search e-bay

Rusted detonaters

Rusted detonaters

A shrapnel shell

A shrapnel shell

Three barbed wire posts in front of modern wire

Three barbed wire posts in front of modern wire

What remains of a German bunker. Parts of it have been destroyed by the farmers

What remains of a German bunker. Parts of it have been destroyed by the farmers

Some shells sitting by the barn door

Some shells sitting by the barn door

Rusted barbed wire

Rusted barbed wire

Parts of a tank

Parts of a tank

British and German bullets

British and German bullets

Shell fuses

Shell fuses

Gas shell and bottles for the gas

Gas shell and bottles for the gas

 

 

 

Ieper – St. Julien

The Brooding Solder at the Canadian monument at St. Julien is one of the best World War I monuments in terms of design. Like all Canadian monuments it does not celebrate the war, but instead, reflects on it. The monument is on the site of the first gas attack in history when the Germans released chlorine gas that caught the unsuspecting troops ill prepared.

 

Close up of the brooding soldier

Close up of the brooding soldier

The soldier

The soldier

The soldier

The soldier

An explanation of the attack

An explanation of the attack

The ubiquitous register

The ubiquitous register