• Ypres 1917

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Ypres and WWI

Small history of Ypres battlefields

Ypres was one of the martyred cities of world war one, which took place from 1914 to 1918.

The trenches were situated from North to South in a big curve around Ypres. In this infamous Ypres Salient no less than five bloody battles were fought.

*A few months after the German invasion in Belgium on August 4th 1914, the first battle, the front got stuck around the small medieval town Ypres. From October 1914 till October 1918 the battlefield was located only a few kilometres from the town centre.

*On April 22nd 1915, the second battle of Ypres started with the largest gas attack ever. The chlorine gas killed thousands of allied soldiers, especially French troops existing of a lot of North-Africans. It was the first time in history that mass destruction weapons were used. Afterwards in the war the Ypres Salient seemed to be an experimental battlefield: for the first time a flame-thrower was used in July 1915.
In July 1917 the terrible mustard gas has its turn, also known as ‘Ieperiet'.

*From July 31st till November 10th 1917 the third battle of ypres raged, although the final phase was defined as the ‘Battle of Passendale'. It was an unprecedented massacre. There are still discussions about the purpose of this offensive.

Almost half a million people died in the trenches and in No Man's Land between 1914 and 1918. Among them not only Germans, French, British and Belgians, but also Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Senegalese, Canadians, Australians, New-Zealanders, South-Africans, Chinese, Indians, Jamaicans and lots of other nationalities.

Ypres during world war oneDuring the four years long war the town in the heart of the Ypres Salient was literally flattened.
Begin May 1915 remaining inhabitants were obliged to evacuate.
From then on Ypres was a ghost town.

Begin 1919 the first inhabitants returned to their destroyed town and the reconstruction commenced gradually. The first few years the returnees and the new ‘Ieperlingen' lived in wooden shelter homes.
From 1921 the actual reconstruction started. In the nineteen twenties more than 150 military cemeteries were built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in and around the city and monuments were erected. Menin Gate being the most important.

These monuments and cemeteries, as well as the rebuilt houses, some of which were faithfully restored, still remind us today of the senselessness of war and of this most tragic period in the history of Ypres.