Ypres Remembered; a tour of the Ypres battlefields
The Third Battle of Ypres, which began on 31 July 1917, was the most notorious British battle of World War 1. The battle saw some successes, but, the final stages developed into a quagmire of mud around the village of Passchendaele. Ypres saw the first gas attacks, which have been immortalised in the poetry of Wilfred Owen. Nearly 250,000 British soldiers were killed in the Ypres Salient during the First World War, almost a third of all of those killed in the war.
These are just five examples of sites which can be included in an Ypres tour; however, there are many more.
Hill 60 was fought over ferociously during World War 1, both sides exploding mines beneath the enemy’s trenches, and it is still the site of mine craters and the remains of concrete bunkers. British troops captured the hill in April 1915, only to lose it again the next month. The British captured the Hill again during The Battle of Messines, when 19 enormous mines were exploded between Hill 60 and Ploegsteert. The site was preserved immediately following the war and remains highly atmospheric.
The area around Hooge was the scene of ferocious fighting. It was here that the German army first used, the Flammenwerfer or Flamethrower, against the unsuspecting British troops in 1915 with devastating effect. The area saw much mining and there is still much evidence of this around Hooge and Railway Wood, where the Royal Engineers Memorial commemorates twelve tunnellers who still lie beneath the ground here. Hooge Crater Café museum contains superb displays while a short walk will take you to preserved trenches.
Driving from Hooge to Gheluvelt, you will follow the attack of the 29th Division during The Final Advance in Flanders in September 1918 and pass the “Tanks Graveyard” from The Third Battle of Ypres near ‘Clapham Junction’. On reaching Gheluvelt you will see the Chateau where the Worcesters famously charged the German troops during October1914 preventing a German breakthrough to the Channel Ports in The First Battle of Ypres. The Worcesters captured the village again during September 1918.
The enormous memorial and graveyard at Tyne Cot never fail to leave visitors with a sense of the enormity of World War 1. They stand on the site of The Battle of Broodseinde Ridge which was reached on 4 October 1917. The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 British and New Zealand soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient after 16 August 1917 and have no known grave. The cemetery contains nearly 12,000 graves; only 3605 of the casualties in these graves have been identified.
Ypres and the Menin Gate
No visit to the Ypres Salient would be complete without visiting the town of Ypres itself. The tower and facade of the magnificent Cloth Hall dominate the town square. Beautifully reconstructed following its destruction in World War 1, it is hard to believe that this is not the original historic Flemish town. There are many cafés and restaurants surrounding the square for lunch or dinner. The memorial at the Menin Gate is engraved with the names of 54,395 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient before 16 August 1917 and have no known grave. Each night at 8pm, the Last Post is sounded during the ceremony of remembrance at the Gate.