So here, while the mad guns curse overhead, and tired men sigh, with mud for couch and floor, know that we fools, now with the foolish dead, died not for Flag, nor King, nor Emperor, but for a dream born in a herdsman’s shed, and for the sacred scripture of the poor.Tom Kettle
Every day at Ypres, just before 8 o’clock in the evening, the local police halt the traffic passing through the Menin Gate.
When World War I is commemorated, great attention is always paid to the ‘Westhoek’ (more or less the ‘Ypres Salient’),
But also the Belgian coast is full of beautiful World War One remembrance spots.
Other places of interest concerning the First World War in the province of West Flanders include, amongst others:
- Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, burial place of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, one of the biggest heroes of the Great War (Victoria Cross and bar), who is believed to be commemorated by more war memorials in the United Kingdom than any other individual.
- The Brooding Soldier at Saint Julien (Langemark-Poelkapelle), representing a soldier standing with ‘arms reversed’, and commemorating the Canadian First Division’s participation in the Second Battle of Ypres, which included the defence against the first poison gas attacks along the Western Front.
- Harlebeke New British Cemetery (close to Waregem and Courtrai), a secluded garden of delight.
- The impressive Yser Tower, along the Yser River at Diksmuide (Dixmude), symbolizing the demand for ‘Never Again War’, written on the tower in the four languages of the Allied fighting forces in this area during the First World War (Dutch, French, English and German).
- Island of Ireland Peace Park, also called Irish Peace Park or Irish Peace Tower at Mesen (Messines), close to the site for the Battle for the Messines Ridge (chosen because that battle was one of the few where Irishmen, regardless of religion, fought side by side against a common enemy).
- Langemark German Military Cemetery and the legend of ‘Deutschland, Deutschland über alles’, with the famous ‘Comrades’ Grave’ containing 24,917 German servicemen.
- John McCrae Site / Essex Farm. This is possibly the most famous World War One site in the Ypres Salient. It was in Essex Farm that Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ in May 1915.
- Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing. This is certainly one of the most impressive Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials for the missing soldiers of World War One. Since 7 June 1999, the ‘Comité du Mémorial de Ploegsteert’ has arranged for the Last Post to be played at the Memorial on the first Friday of each month.
- The ‘Pool of Peace’, the site of the largest of the mine explosions detonated to signal the start of the Messines phase of Third Ypres.
- Sanctuary Wood Museum and the famous Hill 62 at Zillebeke, Ypres.
- Saint George’s Memorial Church in the centre of Ypres.
- Talbot House, Poperinge. For three years, the ‘Tommy’ found here an alternative for the ‘debauched’ recreational life of the town. In 1917, approximately 250,000 soldiers were billeted in this region. Many of them visited Talbot House.
- Vladslo German Military Cemetery, with the famous statue ‘The Grieving Parents’ by Käthe Kollwitz.
- Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial at Waregem, visited by president Obama.