Thursday, 24 April 2014

Ypres - Part Three

A lot of places can be closed on a Monday (do check in advance!) so we decided to have quiet day in Ypres, enjoy it’s relaxed atmosphere and perhaps do a bit of shopping. We wandered along ramparts again and visited the Lille Gate and Ramparts War Museum.

Entrance via the ‘pub’. It’s set in mocked up ‘trenches’ with numerous display cases and notes in a variety of languages. Sorry about the dark pics – I wasn’t sure if flash photography was allowed so switched it off.

Not amazing but with an entrance fee of only 3 Euros, it’s worth a look if you have a spare half hour. Looks to be a friendly pub/bar too.

Then we strolled on in to town for a spot of lunch followed by some tourist shopping. My word but they do have some splendid chocolatier in Ypres!

The Cloth Hall belfry

The main square

Next day we went out and about; first to Polygon Wood Cemetery.

As always, meticulously cared for. Then across the road to Buttes New British Cemetery – which in fact contains a variety of British & Commonwealth graves.

The long man-made ‘hill’ used to be the Belgian Army’s rifle range. After it was captured by the Germans they fortified it significantly. As you can see in the picture below, it must have been a well known feature of the area.

Here’s a picture from the top of the Butte.

Here’s another taken from just beside the memorial to fallen NZ soldiers with no known grave.

Then we took a walk through part of the woods, it’s almost impossible to imagine it as the scene of so much hard-fought conflict.

Next we stopped at the Hooge Crater museum

This is very good (especially at only 4.50 euros entrance fee) plus it has a pleasant café! Note – coach tours like it as a stop too, so it can be busy. It has a variety of displays, some of which are literally packed with artefacts and information. Would be quite cramped on a busy day.

Then we crossed the road to the large Hooge Crater Cemetery (almost 6,000 graves).

An unusual sight here – we saw several engravers hard at work – not sure if they were repairing/replacing (as some of the headstones were clearly showing signs of erosion) or adding new details; skilled work indeed!

Next we walked about 100m along road to the open air crater ‘museum’. Lots of rusty junk amongst the trees but you can walk around the remains of what are actually four craters, detonated under German positions, with some damaged pillboxes and a few short sections of trench. Only 1 euro (via an honesty box) so worth a quick look.

In the afternoon we headed along to Sanctuary Wood cemetery.

Then on to the nearby Museum & café. We visited this about 17 years ago and seemed to recall that it was quite good. However it now seems a bit ‘tatty’ (i.e. shabby and dated). The museum contains a lot of what appears to be little more than ‘junk’ (including some that are clearly from the second world war!?) but has little or no associated information. At 10 euros each it’s expensive too and the coffee is awful. Outside there are some ‘re-created’ trenches – although they are really rather shallow with modern corrugated iron to shore up the sides.

To be honest there are much better sites elsewhere.

Further along the road is the Hill 62 memorial (Canadian). This was named as it was … 62m above sea level! It affords stunning views over the surrounding countryside – clearly why it was such an important feature in the Ypres sector.

Ypres (approx. 5 to 6 km away) is clearly visible from the summit.

We rounded off the day with a visit to the Hill 60 Memorial to the Australians – particularly their tunnelling companies.

This was originally a low rise that effectively became a hill after a railway cutting was made close by. It was another key position on the front line that was the scene of much fighting. As the tunnels beneath are effectively graves, the area has been preserved; the ground exhibiting the characteristic cratered appearance.

There are also the remains of ruined German pill boxes.


Moiterei_1984 said...

Looks like you had a great trip! Thanks for all the great places to visit if I should come to Ypres one day.

Lurkus Spleen said...

Another awesome post mate, some lovely pictures.

Cheers, Steve.

Rodger said...

Great post! Thanks for the wonderful photos!

Mark Hargreaves said...

Enjoying your reports, Matt. Will be making the trip to Ypres myself in May 2015. I aim stand as close as I can to the position of 12 London Regt (The Rangers) near Zonnebeke on 5th May... to mark the death, 100 years to the day, of Rifleman Mathews.

Matt said...

Thanks chaps!

@Mark - is he a relation? Hope you have a good visit.