The Destruction of Ypres During The Great War

November 16, 2011   Filed under Europe Destination

For the duration of The Great War, the historic Belgium market town of Ypres was in a strategically critical position near to the British front lines and it is one of the most infamous parts of the Western Front from the awful fighting that happened here.

The city itself ended up being in the middle of the Ypres Salient, a piece of the front line protruding towards German lines. Historically, Ypres can certainly be traced back to the 12th century. In the face of decades of fighting and occupation, the town grew but with the outbreak of The First World War, it was under German occupation.

The 1st Battle of Ypres tin October and November 1914 saw Britain and her Allies capture the town from the German Army and irrespective of vicious fighting around Ypres until finally the war concluded in 1918, the Germans did not recapture Ypres.

Unfortunately, throughout the 4 years of The Great War, Ypres took a fearful toll as 4 major battles took place close to here. In the Second Battle of Ypres in April and May 1915, the Germans recaptured the high ground towards the east of Ypres. The zone contained the village of Passchendaele.

In 1917, certainly one of the fiercest battles of the war occurred. The Third Battle of Ypres or Passchendaele saw Britain and her Allies retake the high ground unfortunately for a terrible cost. Between July and November 1917, there was in excess of 500 thousand dead and injured on both sides and Ypres was nearly destroyed by German heavy guns.

The important Cloth Hall and most other buildings were destroyed and years of heritage were gone. In 1933, rebuilding began on the Cloth Hall and it was at long last completed in 1967 having been carefully reconstructed to bring back its heritage. Presently, the Cloth Hall in Ypres houses the In Flanders Fields Museum.

Throughout The First World War, the Menin Gate was simply an exit cut through the eastern ramparts of Ypres. A large number of soldiers would’ve marched via this exit along the way to the front lines. In 1927, the Menin Gate Memorial was unveiled. It commemorates the names of over 54,000 soldiers who sadly are still missing on the battlefields across the Ypres Salient and each night, the Last Post ceremony will take place here at 8pm by the grateful citizens of Ypres.

In the Great War, the Ypres Salient saw some of the worst fighting between 1914 & 1918.


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