WW1 Hooge Crater and Museum, Menin Road
A natural setting of Trenches and a fine WW1 Museum
The above photograph shows a beautiful lake in front of a fine building, but it hides a very different picture.
The Lake is in fact two enormous craters which are the result of Mines laid by the 175 Tunnelling Company during World War 1 in 1915 in their attempt to regain the position they had earlier lost. Nearly 100 years of natural evolution has changed what was a bare and muddy landscape into a haven for wildlife.
The building in the background is a Hotel which was constructed out of the Stables of the Chateau which once stood there.
But, turn the camera around and you see the view of the second photo down on the right. This was absolute front line trench warfare during WW1, not 100 years ago this was a scene of mayhem beyond belief.
Just to the north of the Site is a large flat earth area. This was where Hooge Chateau once stood, but never re-built after it was completely destroyed by shells. In fact. this area now marks the start of a huge FunFair and it's quite a mixture of thoughts when you see the trenches as they are to a background noise of Rollercoasters and kids screaming. But at least they are having a good time and this part of Hooge has been kept as a memorial to those who served there.
Hooge Village itself is just a few houses beside the Menin Road, about two miles east of Ypres. The WW1 Museum / Cafe is in an old converted Chapel and privately owned. Although it's a small museum, it's well worth the money to have a look round. WW1 memorabilia and artefacts still being found in the surrounding fields today and displayed here.
Menin Road looking toward Hellfire Corner, Ypres
Immediately opposite the Museum is Hooge Cemetery and offers a good view of the land leading accross to Hill 62 and beyond.
The Cemetery has over 5,900 Service People buried there. Sometimes these Cemeteries appear not very large, but by going around looking at the gravestones, you find that some can have up to 5 buried in them.
Hooge was always centre of heavy fighting, being only a short distance from 'Hellfire Corner' (now the roundabout you take to get onto the Menin Road).
On your way to Hooge and travelling along the Menin Road, if you look left you will see a small memorial at the top of a Hill next to 'Railway Wood'.
This is dedicated to the WW1 Tunnellers who lost their lives underground in that spot, the bodies never being found.
Just next to the Memorial and on the edge of the wood is another stone memorial dedicated to those who fell there from the Liverpool Scottish Regiment
Railway Wood is now private, but if you look through the entrance, you will note the ground is still laden with small craters.
It maybe small in scale, but the views all round are extensive and the sound of the wind blowing over the brow of the hill conjours up quite an emotional and thoughtful experience.
Most, if not all, Battlefield Tour Companies visit Hooge. It is well worth the visit - the food is good in the Restaurant. and the local ale is off the tap !