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

Meuse-Argonne – American Military Cemetery

The Meuse-Argonne American Military Cemetery is the largest American Cemetery outside the United States. While it is relatively close to Verdun, it is also in the middle of nowhere. The isolation gives the cemetery a tranquility that adds to the sense of peace you find there. It was the first cemetery that after ten minutes among the head stones I found the quiet heavy and at the same time beautiful.

This was the cleanest cemetery of all those we saw in the whole six days. While we were there the grounds keepers where mowing the lawn. One man had the job to walk around with a paint roller and clean any cross that had grass on it. As with the Montfaucon-d’Argonne monument, the grounds are extremely well cared for.

The entry into the Meuse-Argonne cemetery

The entry into the Meuse-Argonne cemetery

The Meuse-Argonne cemetery

The Meuse-Argonne cemetery

The fountain at the center of the cemetery

The fountain at the center of the cemetery

Fountain and the entrance

Fountain and the entrance

The visitor's center from the chapel

The visitor’s center from the chapel

Looking from the visitor's center towards the chapel

The chapel from the visitor’s center

Arch above the chapel

Arch above the chapel

Detail of the arch into the chapel

Detail of the arch into the chapel

Inside the chapel

Inside the chapel

Stained glass of the chapel 2

Stained glass of the chapel 1

Stained glass of the chapel 1

Stained glass of the chapel 2

Explanation of the stained glass of the chapel

Explanation of the stained glass of the chapel

Headstones 1

Headstones

Headstones 2

Headstones

Headstones 3

Headstones

Headstones 4

Headstones

Headstones 4

Headstones

An unknown soldier

An unknown soldier

A Medal of Honor Winner

A Medal of Honor Winner

Headstones

Headstones

Headstones

Headstones

Headstones

Headstones

The men who keep the cemetery spotless

The men who keep the cemetery spotless

Meuse-Argonne – American Memorial at Montfaucon-d’Argonne

We hadn’t planed on visiting the American Memorial at Montfaucon-d’Argonne. I didn’t even know it existed. When we started the drive for the Meuse-Argonne cemetery we began to see signs for an American monument. And once we drew close it was impossible to miss the tower on the hill. As a monument goes it is nice and gives a great view of the whole region, which is now just farm fields. It was the first of many days we spent following tractors.

The site of the monument is on the old town of Montfaucon-d’Argonne which was destroyed during the battle. After the war the town was moved down the hill and rebuilt.

The monument

The monument

Stairway to the Montfaucon-d'Argonne tower

Stairway to the Montfaucon-d’Argonne tower

American and French flags at the Montfaucon-d'Argonne monument

American and French flags at the Montfaucon-d’Argonne monument

Detail of the campaign

Detail of the campaign

How the battle happened

How the battle happened

Detail of the interior

Detail of the interior

The ruins of the old town church

The ruins of the old town church

Verdun – Other Parts of the Battlefield

All around Verdun are restatements of the war. The London Trench is a reinforced communication trench line about 500 yards behind Fort Douaumont. The 61ieme RAD monument is a quarter mile off the road to Fort Douaumont. the monument is in the middle of the forest that was planted at the end of the war which makes the area only that much more solitary.

London Trench

London Trench

61ieme RAD monument

61ieme RAD monument

Old trench line near 61ieme RAD

Old trench line near the 61ieme RAD monument